The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II. By AVRAHAM FAUST. Translated by Ruth Ludlum. Winona Lake: EISENBRAUNS, 2012. Pp. xviii + 328, illus. $49.50.
Reconstructions of the monarchic period usually deal with social as well as political issues but rarely use archaeological data. Archaeological publications typically focus on issues of artifact typology that inform the dating and political history of sites but seldom consider the kinds of societies that inhabited them. Faust's book is an ambitious and innovative attempt to rectify these shortcomings of traditional scholarship through a large-scale and systematic study of selected archaeological data from all settlement types. These data are analyzed using methods and theories drawn from the social sciences. Biblical information is not ignored but rather appears when it might clarify the issues or help interpret archaeological materials.
The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II is a translation and update of Faust's 2005 Hebrew book (with a slightly different title), itself an updated version of his 2000 PhD dissertation. The title notwithstanding, it is not a comprehensive study of Israelite society; rather, it aims to understand certain societal characteristics at the macro and meso levels: social stratification, community organization, ethnicity, and cognitive aspects. Nor does it consider the entire Iron II period (tenth to sixth centuries B.c.E.); it focuses mainly on the eighth and seventh centuries, which are best represented in the archaeological record and epigraphic remains and which also receive considerable biblical attention, assuming as Faust does that biblical texts attest to the existence and character of the monarchic states of Israel and Judah.
The first three chapters are introductory. The introduction outlines the nature and scope of the book. Chapter 1 gives a brief overview of the existing literature on social organization and stratification during the period of the monarchy. Chapter 2 provides examples of studies, based largely on archaeological remains, of limited aspects of Iron II Israelite society.
Chapters 3 and 4, which present and interpret differentials in dwelling size and construction, constitute the core of the book in terms of length--together they are longer than the rest of the chapters combined--and content. Chapter 3 deals with "urban society" by examining three data sets: eighth-century strata at five Israelite sites...