The role of mycenaean pottery in the material culture of hazor

Mycenaean ceramic vessels and figurines are the only imports at Hazor of certain Aegean origin. In comparison with some large coastal centres in the southern Levant, imports which are archaeological-ly immediately recognisable are relatively scarce at Hazor.81 Nevertheless, Egyptian imports at Hazor constitute a varied repertoire of finds from various parts of the site: a number of scarabs,82 faience beads,83 and alabaster vessels84 have been found, as well as two ceramic bowls (possibly locally imitat-ed)86 and an Egyptian-style bottle with red slipped exterior.87 In addition, a bronze bowl containing two cymbals of the same material finds its best parallels at Aniba (site no. 287) in Nubia.87 Objects from Syria and Mesopotamia are more limited in their distribution and variety: a large number of cylinder seals have been found in the stratum 1A temple in area H, but these were clearly several centuries old.88 In stratum 1B of the same area a number of basalt statues were discovered, which appear to have been imported from Syria.89

The most numerous imports at Hazor were Cypriot ceramic vessels, which have been discovered in all areas and arrived from the MB II period onwards.90 A fair number of these finds are bowls, either in the White Slip or in the Base Ring tradition. Base Ring juglets, as well as a juglet in White Shaved

79 Yadin et al. 1960, 152 (tomb 8065); Yadin 1958, 138140 (cistern 9027).

80 Brown 1981, 29.

81 Bienkowski 1987, 51-52. It must be emphasised that research into the occurrence of regional imports employing scientific methods has not been carried out, to my knowledge.

82 For example: Yadin et al. 1958, Plate 86 no. 22 (area C) Plate 89 no. 19 (area C); 1960, 153 (area C); Goldwasser 1997 (areas A and F).

83 For example: Yadin et al. 1958, Plate 161 no. 12 (area

C), Plate 170 no. 12 (area D); Ben-Tor et al. 1997, 56-

84 For example: Yadin et al. 1960, 158 (area F), Plate 150; Ben-Tor et al. 1997, 68-69 Fig. II.25 no. 19 (area A). Area F in particular was rich in Egyptian alabaster finds.

88 Beck 1989a, 310-321.

89 Beck 1989b, 322-338.

ware (LB I) and a Cypriot zoomorphic vessel, have also been found.91 It may be of significance that, at least in domestic contexts, these Cypriot vessels have not often been found in direct association with Mycenaean vessels. In the investigated settlement contexts, Cypriot vessels never have been reported from the same rooms as the Mycenaean pots, although they were found in the same houses.92 In area BA a WS II bowl was found together with a Mycenaean stirrup jar (cat. no. 44) in a domestic con-text,93 while in area A a Mycenaean alabastron (cat. no. 39) was found together with WS II bowls on the pavement of a possible street. The spatial separation in domestic contexts of these two imported classes of ceramics seems to reflect the extent to which both classes were integrated in the local material culture: they are both found with local domestic pottery and utensils and were not set apart as imports. However, Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery have been discovered together in contexts of a special nature: in cistern 9017, and in all three Late Bronze Age tombs. This suggests that in specific occasions the foreign origin of these items could be emphasised by combining them with other imports and objects of a special significance.

It may be expected in a material environment in which imports were not very abundant, that objects from international exchange possessed some kind of social significance. A concentration of Mycenaean pottery has been observed in area F and, to a lesser extent, in area D. Such an unequal distribution pattern may be caused by social strategies resulting in unequal access to Mycenaean pottery by different social groups at Hazor. A number of observations have been made in this chapter suggesting that a differentiation within the general class of Late Helladic ceramics is necessary in this respect. The domestic contexts in area F mainly produced Mycenaean narrow-mouthed container vessels, while wide-mouthed containers in domestic contexts in area C were primarily associated with the activities of artisans. Because a similar distinction between areas C and F cannot be made for the locally manufactured pottery,94 it is possible that this disparity is caused by unequal access for various social groups to the Mycenaean vessel types. Late Helladic dinner vessels, often with patterned decoration, were not widely used in domestic contexts. However, they are the most frequent Mycenaean type in the monumental temple in area H, which suggests that such an institution had wide access to these vessels. Finally, Mycenaean pots from the first part of the Late Bronze Age are concentrated in area A, where a temple and palace were located. This suggests that the social groups associated with these structures had exclusive access to Mycenaean pottery during this period. The fact that in the later period various groups within the society of Hazor had unequal access to different parts of the Mycenaean repertoire indicates that the possession and use of these vessels was of social significance.

There are several other indications that Mycenaean pottery possessed a certain value at Hazor. Its occurrence in contexts with clear ritual associations, such as the temple in area H, shows that it was considered suitable to serve in ceremonies of a highly symbolical nature. Moreover, the varied repertoire of Mycenaean pots present in the three Late Bronze Age tombs suggests that these vessels, in association with other imports, were used in strategies of funerary display. In a few cases Mycenaean pottery has been discovered in atypical contexts, such as cistern 9017 in area D and house 8139 in area F, showing that this material could be associated with objects of special significance. At the same time, the wide distribution of Mycenaean ceramics, both on the site as a whole as within single struc-

92 Yadin et al. 1958, 80, 106, 109; 1960, 109-110, 151153; 1989, 22, 25.

94 Compare Tables 4.4-4.8 (area C) with Table 4.9 (area

F) given by Daviau (1993). In both areas there is a strong predominance of local bowls, while kraters, pithoi, narrow-necked jars, jugs and juglets arealso common.

tures, suggests that this class of material was an integral part of the material culture at Hazor during the second phase of the Late Bronze Age.

In view of its apparent value at Hazor and also in comparison with other sites in the Levant, it is remarkable that no obvious imitations of Mycenaean pottery of Syro-Palestine manufacture have been reported from Hazor.95 Elsewhere, such Levantine derivatives of Aegean pottery do occur, mostly produced at the end of the 13th and in the 12th centuries BC.96 Such Aegean style pottery made in the Levant also seems to have circulated in systems of regional exchange, and its absence at Hazor may indicate that the city was not heavily involved in such trade.97

The final question to be addressed in this chapter concerns the social groups within the society of Hazor that made use of the Mycenaean pottery. The abundance of this material in area A, where a palace and monumental temple were situated during the Late Bronze Age, indicates that the royal court, the existence of which is certain from the Amarna tablets, made use of these ceramics.98 At the very least the Mycenaean finds in this area attest to the use of Mycenaean pottery in official contexts. Indeed, Mycenaean vessels from the first part of the Late Bronze Age may have been monopolised by high-level social groups. Mycenaean pottery, in particular dinner vessels, is also associated with groups involved in the performance of religious rites in the monumental temple H. The evidence from areas C and D indicates that artisans working in the city used Mycenaean storage vessels in their daily life, while the frequency of this material in area F testifies that it also occurred in habitation structures. It therefore seems that Mycenaean pottery was available to all social groups at Hazor, even though access to specific vessel types appears not to have been equal.

The extent of the territory controlled by Hazor is uncertain. A survey of the upper Jordan valley revealed no Late Bronze Age settlements in the central and northern parts of the region and only six sites in the southern part.99 No Mycenaean pottery was reported from any of these sites. The nearest site where such material has been found is Kinneret (site no. 172) on the north-western coast of Lake Tiberias (Map 6).100 This site possessed its own defences during the Late Bronze Age and appears to have been the focal point for a rebellion against Egyptian rule in the seventh year of pharaoh Amenophis II.101 The relationship of Kinneret with Hazor is unclear. To the north, Tell Dan (site no. 170) has produced substantial amounts of Mycenaean pottery. This site, ancient Laish, is mentioned separately in the Egyptian list of cities destroyed by Thutmosis III and was most likely independent of Hazor.102 At Tell Dan, Mycenaean pottery has been found in domestic, as well as in funerary contexts.103 Beyond Tell Dan, Mycenaean finds have been reported from Khan Selim (site no. 169).104

95 The absence of scientific investigations of the fabrics argues for caution in this respect. The description of the fabrics accompanying the drawings are, however, fairly homogeneous: yellow to pink levigated, well-fired clay.

96 Leonard et al. 1993, 106; Killebrew 1998.

97 Killebrew 1998. Since the Aegean style pottery manufactured in the Levant seems to have circulated mainly at the very end of the 13 th and in the 12 th centuries BC, its absence at Hazor may be a chronological phe-


98 No Mycenaean pottery has been reported from the small section of the palace (building 389) excavated by

Yadin and his team, see Yadin et al. 1989, 23-24. BenTor (1998, 462) mentions that a handful of Mycenaean (and Cypriot) finds have been made in this area during the most recent excavations.

99 Epstein & Goodman 1972, 244-250; Bienkowski 1987, 54.

100 A single Mycenaean pot has been reported from this site by Hankey & Leonard (1989). The site is absent from Leonard's (1994) gazetteer of sites in the Levant with Mycenaean pottery.

101 Gonen 1984, 65; Bienkowski 1987, 54 (with references).

102 Gonen 1984, 68; Ilan 1996, 108.

Even further to the north, in the Beqaa valley, large quantities of Mycenaean pottery have been found at Kamid el-Loz (site no. 168).105 Egyptian influences at this site are stronger than at Hazor and the possibility of an Egyptian garrison at Kamid el-Loz has been raised.106

The emerging picture is that Mycenaean pottery in the northern Jordan valley was used primarily by people living in urban communities. Within the city of Hazor this pottery was used by all social strata in the society. The unequal access by different population groups to specific Mycenaean vessel types shows the socially active role of this class of imports for various groups among the urban population.

103 Biran 1993, 326; Biran 1994a, 105-123; 1994b, 8. 25-43; Echt 1984; Marfoe 1995, 131, 137, 140, 141,

104 Gregori & Palumbo 1986, 383: site no. 35. 147, 151, 156.

105 Hachmann & Kuschke 1966, 56-58; Hachmann 1970, 106 Echt 1984; Bienkowski 1987, 59.

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