You are here

Dan III: Avraham Biran Excavations 1966–1999. The Late Bronze Age

Dan III: Avraham Biran Excavations 1966–1999. The Late Bronze Age

Edited by Rachel Ben-Dov. Pp. 398, figs. 224, color pls. 4, tables 13. Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology, Jerusalem 2011. $75. ISBN 978-0-87820-309-3 (cloth).

Reviewed by

The book under review is the third volume on the Avraham Biran excavations at Tel Dan that were conducted from 1966 until 1999 on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums (1966–1973) and the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology of the Hebrew Union College (1974–1999). While the first volume of the final reports of the Biran excavations concentrated on the Pottery Neolithic and the Early and Middle Bronze Age tombs (A. Biran, D. Ilan, and R. Greenberg, Dan I: A Chronicle of the Excavations, the Pottery Neolithic, the Early Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze Age Tombs [Jerusalem 1996]), and the second volume presented only the Late Bronze Age “Mycenaean tomb” (A. Biran and R. Ben-Dov, Dan II: A Chronicle of the Excavations and the Late Bronze Age Mycenaean” Tomb [Jerusalem 2002]), the present volume deals with the evidence of the Late Bronze Age for all excavated areas.

Although the site of Tel Dan is only rarely mentioned in the Egyptian sources (e.g., the execration texts and the annals of Thutmose III) and completely absent from the Amarna correspondence, it can be considered as a regional center, as is shown by the wide range of imported material comprising pottery from Cyprus, Egypt, the Aegean, and the Lebanese coast (chs. 3, 4). Therefore, the publication of the Late Bronze Age archaeological remains is of considerable importance to assess the interregional integration and interaction of second-order sites for which we often lack historical data. Because of the abundance of imported material, it might serve as a key site to link Aegean, Cypriot, Levantine, and Egyptian chronology.

The book is arranged in a very clear way, first presenting the stratigraphy and architecture of the various excavated areas (ch. 1), then discussing the pottery typology of the site (ch. 2). Cypriot, Mycenaean, and Egyptian imports are discussed in chapters 3 and 4, and various contributions on small finds, such as zoomorphic vessels, beads and buttons, stone vessels, and glyptics are presented in chapters 5–8, followed by sections on metallurgical activities (chs. 9, 10), while the last part is devoted to summary and conclusions (ch. 11).

The description of stratigraphy and architecture is very detailed and extensive and is illustrated by a vast amount of plans, photographs, and section drawings. Each area of excavation is discussed separately, followed by illustrations of the respective finds accompanied by tables with further information, such as locus and registration numbers, general descriptions, and comparisons from other sites. Unfortunately, the volume lacks indices for locus and registration numbers. Likewise, the tables and figures do not consistently record to which stratum the respective object belongs. This makes the book a bit difficult to use if the reader wants to check which kind of object appears in which stratum.

The overall stratigraphy of Tel Dan is clearly laid out in table 1, ranging from stratum XVI (Pottery Neolithic) down to stratum I (Iron Age II). The Late Bronze Age, covering strata VIII and VII, is dated in absolute terms to the 16th–15th (stratum VIII, Late Bronze I) and the 14th–13th centuries B.C.E. (stratum VII, Late Bronze II). However, these calendar dates should be treated with caution. First, these dates are not consistent throughout the book: in table 13 in the summary and conclusions, stratum VIII is dated to the 15th century B.C.E. only, and the end of stratum VII is moved to the 12th century B.C.E. Second, these dates can only give a rough estimate. No radiocarbon dates are published from the site of Tel Dan (neither in this volume nor in any other contributions known to the author), and chronological links with Egypt are by far not precise enough to offer a detailed synchronization with the historical chronology of the Nile Valley. It is further somewhat disturbing to learn that absolute dates are sometimes based on Aegean chronology, as can be seen in the chapter on Mycenaean pottery, where it is stated that stratum VIIB “dates from the second half of the 14th to the mid-13th century B.C.E., judging mainly by its imported Myc IIIA2–Myc IIIB ware” (294). Using Aegean chronology as a reference for dating Levantine contexts is a circular argument because it is in itself dependent on Egyptian and Near Eastern chronology (P. Warren and V. Hankey, Aegean Bronze Age Chronology [Bristol 1989]; F. Höflmayer, Die Synchronisierung der minoischen Alt- und Neupalastzeit mit der ägyptischen Chronologie [Vienna 2012]).

Chapters 2–4 deal with locally produced and imported pottery (Aegean, Cypriot, and Egyptian). The chapter on Egyptian imports is of considerable interest. The Egyptian material was published a few years ago (M. Martin and R. Ben-Dov, “Egyptian and Egyptian-Style Pottery at Tel Dan,” Ägypten und Levante 17 [2007] 191–203) and can now be assessed in comparison with other sites with Egyptian-type pottery of the Late Bronze Age thanks to the recent publication of Martin (Egyptian-Type Pottery in the Late Bronze Age Southern Levant [Vienna 2011]). Concerning the occurrence of carinated jars in the southern Levant (314–15), one should also add the site of Jaffa, from where a considerable amount not only of Egyptian pottery but also of carinated jars are known (A. Burke and K. Lords, “Egyptians in Jaffa: A Portrait of Egyptian Presence in Jaffa During the Late Bronze Age,” NEA 73 [2010] 2–30).

The authors argued correctly that Late Bronze Age Dan was obviously no center of Egyptian power and administration (315–16), whereas the next sites with considerable Egyptian influence seem to be Beth Shean in the south and Kamid el-Loz in the Bekaa Valley to the north. Tel Dan also seems to be connected to the north, as most of the Egyptian-style vessels of Dan come from the Lebanese coast based on petrography (Fabric Group 1 [312]). Therefore, a synchronization with Kamid el-Loz would have been desirable in the concluding part of the book (as with Hazor and Beth Shan [table 13]). A comprehensive account of the Late Bronze Age pottery of Kamid el-Loz was published a few years ago by Penner (Kamid el-Loz 19: Die Keramik der Spätbronzezeit [Bonn 2006]).

Despite these minor drawbacks, this book is a solid publication of the Late Bronze Age remains at Tel Dan and should not be missed in archaeological libraries.

Felix Höflmayer
German Archaeological Institute
Podbielskiallee 69–71
14195 Berlin

Book Review of Dan III: Avraham Biran Excavations 1966–1999. The Late Bronze Age, edited by Rachel Ben-Dov

Reviewed by Felix Höflmayer

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 117, No. 2 (April 2013)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1172.Hoflmayer2

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Click "Save" to submit your comment. Please allow some time for your post to be moderated.