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The Architecture of Ancient Israel from the Prehistoric to the Persian Periods.

This volume, in memory of the late Israeli archaeological architect Immanuel ("Munya") Dunayevsky, is a revised and expanded version of the Hebrew edition of 1987, inaccessible to most scholars.

The book starts with four general chapters on building methods and materials and the beginnings of architecture in prehistory. The succeeding twenty-four chapters, each by a well-known Israeli archaeologist, treat successive periods, down through the Persian era. Each chapter is a review of the characteristic architectural types of the period and their development, copiously illustrated by line-drawings and photographs. Some of the examples are familiar, but many of the line-drawings of individual buildings and town-plans have been especially prepared for this volume and are not available elsewhere. Thus the volume will be invaluable not only to Near Eastern archaeologists, but also to ancient Near Eastern scholars generally, to historians of technology and architecture, to Biblical scholars, and to many others for whom this will become the essential Handbuch. Indeed, there is nothing else comparable, except perhaps G. R. H. Wright's rather idiosyncratic Ancient Building in South Syria and Palestine (Leiden-Koln, 1985), magisterial, but more an attempt to penetrate the "philosophy" of ancient buildings than a history of Levantine architecture per se.

In a brief review it is impossible either to single out the most admirable features of this work or to point out flawed or controversial interpretations. While the overall comprehensiveness and quality of this work are admirable, there are a number of omissions that betray a provincialism that is unworthy of modern Israeli archaeology. Although the title reads "Architecture of Ancient Israel" (for obvious reasons), "Palestine" should clearly have been the focus. But almost nowhere is the closely related architecture of Transjordan even alluded to. Furthermore, the work of non-Israeli scholars is short-changed. Thus this writer's singular treatment of EB IV village-planning (Eretz-Israel 18 |1985~: 18*-28*) is not cited; nor is the publication of the only Middle Bronze II citadel area comparable to Syria (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 216 |1974~: 31-52). Similarly, J. S. Holladay's exhaustive treatment of the so-called Iron Age "stables" is not cited ("The Stables of Ancient Israel," in The Archaeology of Jordan and Other Studies, edited by Lawrence T. Geraty and Larry G. Herr, |Berrien Springs: Andrews University, 1986~, 103-65). Our excavations at Gezer--surely one of the three or four most important sites of the Solomonic era and the best excavated and published--are scarcely mentioned in Herzog's chapter on town-planning and fortifications in the Iron Age. As an American who has excavated in Israel for thirty years now, I must ask: How long does it take to get the attention of Israeli archaeologists? Perhaps the most authoritative chapters are those of A. Kempinski on Early Bronze Age town-planning, fortifications, and public buildings (chapter 8); E. Oren on Middle-Late Bronze Age places and patrician dwellings (chapter 13); A. Mazar on Middle Bronze-Iron Age temples; and E. Netzer on Iron Age domestic architecture (chapter 21).

In sum, this volume, despite somewhat uneven coverage, bibliographic omissions, and an unfortunate tendency toward parochialism where important and controversial areas of interpretation are involved, will certainly become the standard reference work. Useful though it may be, however, it is no substitute for detailed, critical analysis of all the data and bibliography where individual problems are concerned.


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Author:Dever, William G.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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