The Elite Estate at Tel Ifshar: A New Perspective on Late 15th-century B.C. Canaanite Socio-Political Organization
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Current scholarship of the LB in Canaan is generally focused on the LB II for which there is more considerable textual and archaeological evidence. While the LB, in general, is seen as a recession from the great city-states of the MB II, the LB I, in particular, is seen as particularly desolate. However, the concept of a vertical power structure where a defined territory is ruled from a capital city persists. Newly analyzed evidence from Tel Ifshar on the Sharon Coastal Plain of Israel shows that this assumption needs adjustment. Tel Ifshar Stratum 10 contained a large pottery concentration sealed by a destruction layer and represents the only well-stratified LB I domestic remains in the Sharon. The ceramics in the Tel Ifshar collection and the faunal evidence of hunting show a distinct characteristic of the behavior of elite feasting. These factors help contextualize poorly preserved or poorly stratified remains at other sites in the Sharon, such as Tel Michal, Tel Aphek, Tel Zeror, and Jatt (the purported capital of the region). The remains, when view through the evidence of Tel Ifshar shows more of a horizontal power structure in the Sharon than had previously been assumed.Thus, the power relations within Canaan need to be reexamined. It seems that many of the sites taken to be small towns and villages perhaps would be better understood as an elite estate. This new perspective has implications for how power was negotiated in Canaan, and many of the models that have been used to reconstruct Canaanite socio-political structure do not match the available evidence. While many models or analogies have been proposed, the one that best fits the available evidence is the model of patronage. According to this model, power is negotiated through personal relationships in which face to face contact and ritualized expressions of devotion were vital. Feasting and hunting are both behaviors that can be defined as elite competitive recreation, a perfect mechanism for negotiating personal power. The collection from Tel Ifshar, a medium-sized mound alongside a branch of the coastal road of Canaan, reframes the way socio-political power was negotiated in South Canaan in the LB I.