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The Iron I/IIA Transition in the Levant: A Reply to Mazar and Bronk Ramsey and a New Perspective

  • Israel Finkelstein (a1) and Eli Piasetzky (a2)

Abstract

Mazar and Bronk Ramsey (2008) recently proposed that the Iron I/IIA transition in the Levant took place during the first half of the 10th century. In the first part of this article, we challenge their method and conclusions. We argue against the inclusion of charcoal in their model, which could lead to an “old wood effect.” We also argue that in dealing with a transition date, all available data must be taken into consideration. In the second part of the article, we propose Bayesian Model I for the Iron I/IIA transition, which is based on 2 sets of data—for the periods immediately before and after this transition. Our model, along with the other 11 published Bayesian models for this transition that used only short-lived samples, agrees with the Low Chronology system for the Iron Age strata in the Levant and negates all other proposals, including Mazar's Modified Conventional Chronology. The Iron I/IIA transition occurred during the second half of the 10th century. In the third part of the article, we present a new insight on the Iron I/IIA transition. We propose that the late Iron I cities came to an end in a gradual process and interpret this proposal with Bayesian Model II.

Mazar and Bronk Ramsey (2008) recently challenged Sharon et al. (2007; also Boaretto et al. 2005) and us (e.g. Finkelstein and Piasetzky 2003, 2007a,b) regarding the date of transition from the Iron I to the Iron IIA in the Levant. While we and Sharon et al. placed this transition in the second half of the 10th century BCE, Mazar and Bronk Ramsey positioned it “during the first half of the 10th century BCE” and argued that “the second half of the 10th century BCE should be included in the Iron IIA” (Mazar and Bronk Ramsey 2008:178). We discuss some problems in the methodology of Mazar and Bronk Ramsey that may have influenced their results. In particular, we discuss 1) the exclusion of data; 2) the inclusion of data (charcoal samples); and 3) show that even according to Mazar and Bronk Ramsey, excluding these samples position the late Iron I/IIA transition in the late 10th century. Finally, we present our own 2 Bayesian models for the Iron I/IIA transition.

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