Decorated Pottery Styles in the Northern Levant during the Early Iron Age and their Relationship with Cyprus and the Aegean

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The transition from Late Bronze Age to Iron Age in the Levant is often understood as the beginning of a “Dark Age” initiated by large scale destructions and characterized by devastating ethnic changes with Sea Peoples and Aramaeans as key factors. The reality may have been less dramatic, more gradual and maybe less determined by ethnic movements. Recent research and excavations in the northern Levant point to a political crisis and to a reduced scale of urbanism with cultural changes such as the abandonment of cuneiform writing. But there is apparently also a relevant degree of continuity (Mazzoni 2000, 31–32). With the exception of the three destroyed centers Ugarit, Alalakh and Emar, most of the larger and smaller towns soon recovered and created new territorial polities. With the old empires gone, their remnants Karkemish, the Neo-Hittite states in southeast Anatolia or Hama and Patasatini in Syria created new political and social systems. This texture of changes and continuities constitutes a major challenge for Levantine archaeology. Among the new elements appearing during the Iron Age in the Levant are decorated ceramics of the Late Helladic IIIC (LH IIIC) tradition. Mycenaean pottery (LH IIIA and IIIB) was imported already during the Late Bronze Age to Syria, but the LH IIIC styles of the early Iron Age were mostly locally produced and had a wider distribution, appearing even in smaller, rural sites. In this paper the various ceramics found in the northern Levant that reflect Late Helladic IIIC traditions—or are stylistically related to them—are labeled “Aegeanizing” ceramics. Recent archaeological research has significantly increased the amount and the variety of Aegeanizing pottery styles in the northern Levant. The paper aims at demonstrating that Late Helladic IIIC style ceramics are an integral and frequent part of the decorated early Iron Age pottery of the northern Levant indicating close and continuous contacts during the 12th and 11th century BCE between Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Cilicia and the Aegean.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-550
StatePublished - 2007


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