The Material Culture of the Northern Sea Peoples in Israel.

Author:Cline, Eric H.
Position:Book review

The Material Culture of the Northern Sea Peoples in Israel. By Ephraim Stern. Harvard Semitic Museum Publications, Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant, vol. 5. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Pp. ix + 74, illus. $29.50.

Ephraim Stem, who directed the excavations at Tel Dor for more than two decades (1980-2000), has written this very short monograph (just seventy-four pages, including bibliography) to make a single point: He believes that he has identified an assemblage consisting of monochrome painted pottery and assorted additional objects, including knives and notched scapulae, that belonged to the material culture of the so-called "Northern Sea Peoples." These he identifies as the non-Philistine Sea Peoples, especially the Sikils and the Sherden. Stem notes in his preface that the culture "is entirely of Cypriot origin," but he identifies its artifacts as "locally produced, including vessels whose production had virtually ceased in Cyprus" and concludes that their culture was "in part, identical or similar to that of the Philistines, and in part distinct and unique."

He sees these Northern Sea Peoples as having inhabited a limited region in what is today northern Israel, with its southern border at the Yarkon River by modern Tel Aviv and reaching as far north as the Plain of 'Akko. He also sees their culture as having existed for only a limited period of time--probably about a century and certainly no longer than about 130 years. This is not the first time that Stern has presented such a hypothesis and, indeed, this manuscript is a continuation of the arguments that he has published during the past twenty or more years, including in a contribution to a volume on the Sea Peoples edited by Eliezer Oren that was published in 2000 and an even more recent contribution to a conference volume published in 2012.

In fact, the first third of this book (chapters 1 and 2) has also just been published as "Archaeological Remains of the Northern Sea Peoples along the Sharon and Carmel Coasts and Akko and Jezreel Valleys," in The Ancient Near East in the 12th-10th Centuries BCE: Culture and History. Proceedings of the International Conference held at the University of Haifa, 2-5 May, 2010, ed. Gershon Galil, Ayelet Gilboa, Aren M. Maeir, and Dan'el Kahn (Munster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2012), 473-507. The text and illustrations are identical, or very nearly identical, in both places; it is only the additional material evidence presented...

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