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The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem.

The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem. By ODED LIPSCHITS. Winona Lake, Indiana: EISENBRAUNS, 2005. Pp. xiv + 474, maps. $47.50.

The goal of this impressive dissertation is to understand the history of the Babylonian period in Judah. Toward that end it discusses all material relevant to the history of Judah from the fall of Assyria and the rise of Babylon (ca. 616 B.C.E.) until the time of the return of the Babylonian exiles in 538. By "all," I mean "all"--Akkadian and Babylonian documents, seals and seal impressions, pottery forms, and, of course, the archaeological and biblical data. This approach should be the standard for historical research in general, but it sets a high bar, demanding knowledge and control of so many aspects of so many fields.

Lipschits' primary conclusion is that although Jerusalem had been destroyed and its elite deported, most of its population was able to escape to the area of Benjamin which, because it had not resisted Babylonian rule, had not been destroyed. Even after the assassination of Gedatiah, settlement in the areas of Benjamin and the Judean highlands north of Beth-Zur continued unaffected as a Babylonian province. Population decreased only with the advent of the returnees and the revival of Jerusalem in the Persian period (p. 196). Lipschits' book is thus a strong argument against the so-called "myth of the empty land."

Lipschits' conclusions are based primarily on the pottery assigned to the sixth century, even though he admits (p. 196) that there is no clear-cut definition of it. This makes it difficult to distinguish sixth-century pottery from that of the Iron Age and Persian periods. In lieu of identifying sixth-century pottery, therefore, Lipschits infers its existence from the continuity in pottery forms across the Iron II (e.g., Stratum II at Lachish) and fifth-century Persian (e.g., Stratum I at Lachish) periods. Lipschits assumes that this continuity implies uninterrupted occupation across the intervening years. I don't understand this reasoning. Lipschits points, for example (p. 198), to the similar shapes of large "thick ring-rimmed" bowls across Stratum III, Stratum II, and Stratum I at Lachish. How would this continuity in pottery forms demonstrate continuous occupation at the site, when we know for certain that the population of Lachish III was forcibly removed?

Lipschits defends his thesis of continuity in pottery assemblages and therefore in continuity of population from Iron Age to Persian by referring to several specific pottery types (pp. 192-203). He concludes that an intermediate type of pottery--one indicating sixth-century occupation--can be found in the excavations of four central sites in the area of Benjamin (Tell el-Ful, Beitin, Tell el-Jib, and Tell en-Nasbeh), as well as in Judean tombs at Ketef Hinom, Mamila, Ain Shems, and Lachish (pp. 203-6).

Lipschits' primary indicator of this "'intermediate" pottery type is from Period IIIb at Tell el Ful. He points to exemplars from this site when discussing sixth-century "hole-mouth jars" (pp. 198-99). "store jars" (p. 199). "large pilgrim flasks" (p. 199), "jugs" (p. 200), and "dipper juglets" (pp. 200-201). The determination of occupation at other sites during the sixth century has also been based on comparison to this pottery. In fact. Stratum IIIb at Tell el-Ful has become the universal standard for sixth-century pottery, as Lipschits recognizes (p. 204).

A discussion of this site is therefore warranted. Based on the absence of destruction over the entire site, the excavators (P. Lapp 1965; N. Lapp 1981, 1993, 1997) conclude that the fortress at the site had been destroyed in 587 by Nebuchadnezzar, but that occupation continued afterwards until the end of the sixth century in the unwalled city. According to N. Lapp (1981: 39-40), the site was abandoned only in 538 when occupants from Tell el-Ful joined the returnees and moved to Jerusalem. They label this occupation Period IIIb. Due to the absence of clear occupational strata, P. Lapp (1965) assumes occupation in Period 11 lb based on a cistern in the northwest corner of the tell in which he found a large number of sherds with YHD stamp impressions. These impressions confirmed for him settlement in the Persian period. He surmised therefore that pottery from the bottom of the cistern must date earlier than this, and so estimated a post 587--i.e., a mid-sixth-century--date for the designated period, Period 11 lb. An additional area of "crushed pottery" outside the cistern under a late-Hellenistic fence was also judged sixth century (Lapp 1981: 46, 75). These two loci of homogenous Period IIIb pottery contributed the pottery that was used to date the site.

Unfortunately, neither Lipschits nor other excavators have discussed the fact that N. Lapp describes this pottery, which she considers exilic, as similar to Persian period pottery elsewhere. She finds (1981: 84) that an elongated bottle appearing in the homogenous Period IIIb deposit at Tell el-Ful is dated to the sixth-fourth centuries at 'Ain Shems (Beit Shemesh, Tomb 14). Lamps from Period IIIb at Tell el Ful are found to be similar to lamps from that tomb dated by those excavators to the fifth-fourth century (N. Lapp 1981: 84). Bulbous jars recovered from Period IIIb loci at Tell el-Ful are found similar to Stratum V storage jars at Balatah (ibid., p. 85), and firmly dated between 525-475 by the presence of sherds of imported Greek vases there (ibid., p. 87). Two small bottles dated to the end of the sixth century by the excavators at Beth-Zur are found similar to Period IIIb bottles at Tell el-Fu and to the Ain Shems Tomb 14 (ibid., p. 86). Very large, wide-mouth jugs from Period IIIb at Tell el-Ful are judged similar to a jug from Hazor II, considered by the excavators there to be late Persian (ibid., p. 90). Three flasks from Period IIIb at Tell el-Ful are found similar to one from En-Gedi dated there to the end of the fifth century (ibid., p. 91). Juglets from Period IIIb at Tell el-Ful are judged similar to those from mixed Persian and Iron II contexts at En-Gedi and Ramat Rahel (ibid., p. 92). A parallel to a globular juglet from Period IIIb at Tell el-Ful is found in a building at En Gedi, dated to the end of the fifth century and to a similar juglet judged to belong to the end of the Persian period from Wadi ed-Daliyeh (ibid., p. 92). Painted bottles similar to those from Period IIIb at Tell el-Ful were found in a refuse pit at Hazor along with large quantities of Persian period sherds (ibid., p. 92). The closest parallel to a Period IIIb fairly heavy deep rounded bowl comes from a Ramat Rahel refuse pit containing late sixth-century and Persian-period material (ibid., p. 94). Moreover, bowls labeled by Lapp as "characteristic of Persian typology" were found in the homogenous Period IIIb deposit at the bottom of Cistern I and are now dated "exilic" (ibid., p. 94). Many further examples could be supplied. Pottery judged Persian elsewhere is now labeled Exilic at Tell el-Ful.

This suggests to me that the material found under the Persian period YHD stamp impressions in the cistern at Tell el-Ful is also Persian, not "exilic" as supposed. Rather than assuming that occupation continued in the unwalled city, there was likely a settlement gap after the destruction of 586. Contrary to the Lapps' assumption, the inhabitants very likely abandoned the site even though it was not totally destroyed. Rather than abandonment in 538 as Lapp supposes, the abundance of Persian material indicates that Tell el-Ful began to revive again at the end of the sixth century, at the beginning of the Persian period. The reliance on pottery from Tell el-Ful to identify Babylonian occupation in Benjamin seems incautious without a thorough reevaluation of the pottery coming from the deposit at the bottom of Cistern I. As argued, I suspect that this pottery is Persian, and that there was an occupation gap at Tell el-Ful after Nebuchadnezzar's attack. This has strong implications for other sites judged to reveal sixth-century occupation by comparison of their pottery to that at Tell el-Ful.

In fact, survey data confirm an absence of sixth-century occupation even in Benjamin. According to Magen and Finkelstein's 1993 survey, habitation at sites in Benjamin did not continue after 586. All were abandoned. Lipschits argues (p. 246) that their survey lumps pottery from the sixth century with the rest of the Iron Age material, so that the surveyors would not have realized that it was only after the sixth century that the sites were deserted. According to Magen and Finkelstein (1993: 27) however, a severe crisis beset settlement in the Benjamin region at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, the picture being even more grim than the survey reflects. They argue that recovery occurred only in the fifth and fourth centuries.

Lipschits' review of the biblical, Babylonian, and local epigraphic material is strong, and is recommended reading for a thorough review of the issues and the data upon which a settlement of these issues must be based. However. I would caution against acceptance of his conclusions and interpretations until a critical and comprehensive study of the pottery at Tell el-Ful has been conducted.




Lapp, N. L. 1981. The Third Campaign at Tel el-Ful: The Excavations of 1964. Cambridge, Mass.: American Schools of Oriental Research.

--. 1993. "Tell el-Ful." In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. Ephraim Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Vol. 2, pp. 445-48.

--. 1997. "Tell el-Ful." In Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, ed. Eric M. Myers. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Vol. 2. pp. 346-47.

Lapp. P. W. 1965. "Tell el-Ful." Biblical Archaeologist 28: 2-10.

Magen. Y., and 1. Finkelstein. 1993. Archaeological Survey of the Hill Country of Benjamin. Jerusalem. (Hebrew)
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Author:Fried, Lisbeth S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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