The Professor Dan Barag Commentary

Professor Dan Barag of the Hebrew University, and longtime president and chairman of the Israel Numismatic Society, focused his research on the material culture of the southern Levant from the classical period on, with special interest in ancient glassmaking, as well as Jewish and Palestinian numismatics.

He wrote the following commentary for a previous Ancient & Oriental exhibition.

An Introduction to the Early Bronze Age of Palestine & Transjordan

A flourishing farming culture existed during the mid-fourth millennium B.C. along the valley of the river Jordan and in central Palestine. This Chalcolithic (‘Copper-Stone’) Age is well known from such extensive village sited as Teleilat Ghassul, close to the north-eastern shores of the Dead Sea and from many other sites. In the northern Negev thrived the Beer Sheba culture of framers and shepherds who also engaged themselves in copper mining and production of high quality cooper tools and ceremonial objects. The Beer Sheba culture and closely related Ghassulian culture collapsed around 3200 B.C., under the pressure of the earliest military campaigns of the newly founded First dynasty of Egypt, and waves of migration from the north.

Life in the northern valleys of Palestine seems to have developed without a cultural break between the Chalcolithic period to the Early Bronze Age. The new sttlers with remnants of the former population established at first a culture of many small villages, co-existing with nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoral groups.

The pottery of the Early Bronze Age I of the late fourth millennium B.C. is one of our major sources of information about the period. This pottery is band made, the potter’s wheel unknown in this culture. Characteristic shapes are cups with high looped handles, deep and shallow bowls, jars with different types of horizontal handles (‘ledge-handles’) and small pierced lug handles. Many pottery vessels are red slipped and burnished, revealing a desire to imitate polished copper vessels, and some of the shapes seem also to be influenced from their contemporary metal ware. Some groups, perhaps semi-nomadic tribes living in central and southern Palestine and Transjordan made the same types of pottery vessels, but decorated them with painted lines, usually diagonal criss-cross patterns similar to basket ware.

Toward the ends of the fourth millennium and early third millennium B.C. some villages turned into large fortified urban centers. The danger posed by the Asiatic campaigns of the king’s of Egypt’s Old kingdom and inner strife led to the establishment of the Early Bronze Age I, although numerous new shapes were added to the repertory and others abandoned. Some types like the so-called Abydos jugs and ledge handled jars were exported as olive oil containers to Egypt, and were discovered in the tombs of the kings and nobility of the Old kingdom.

Prof. Dan Barag