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The Transition from Bronze to Iron in Canaan: Chronology, Technology, and Context

  • Naama Yahalom-Mack (a1) and Adi Eliyahu-Behar (a2)


In the framework of the European Research Council-funded project, “Reconstructing Ancient (Biblical) Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspective,” we carried out multiple analyses on iron and bronze objects from provenanced contexts in Israel, as well as on previously unidentified metallurgical remains from the production of both metals. In addition, we counted anew iron and bronze objects from well-stratified contexts and studied metalworking sequences at major sites, which included those that had undergone the bronze/iron transition. This enabled us to clarify some of the issues related to the bronze/iron transition in the southern Levant. Using this evidence, we showed that iron was not used for utilitarian purposes before the Iron I (late 12th century BCE) and that iron only became dominant concurrently with the beginning of its systematic production during the Iron IIA (10th–9th centuries BCE). A strong correlation between iron and bronze production suggests that during the Iron I local independent bronzesmiths adopted the new iron technology. Under local administrations that developed during the Iron IIA, workshops that previously produced bronze turned to iron production, although they continued to manufacture bronze items as a secondary venture. Significantly, at some of the major urban centers iron production was an independent industry that included the entire operational sequence, including the on-site smelting of the ore. This development appears to have been a major contributor to the transition to systematic production of iron.


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