The Bounded Landscape

Archaeology, Language, Texts and the Israelite Perception of Space


  • Avraham Faust Bar-Ilan University



boundary walls, culture, nature, Iron Age, Israelite society, landscape


While massive defensive walls were characteristic of many central sites in antiquity, small rural settlements were typically unfortified. In the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel and Judah, however, all types of settlements were usually surrounded by walls, separating the nucleated settlements from their surroundings. These Iron Age villages differed from most Bronze Age villages in the region, and from contemporaneous villages in neighboring cultures. While the existence of boundary walls is indicative of community organization and social relations, this study asks why the Israelites created bounded landscapes, and so made such a clear dichotomy between inside and outside, between places of human habitation and the surrounding areas, between culture and nature? A sharp dichotomy between places of human habitation and the countryside is also reflected in the (biblical) Hebrew language and in various texts, as well as in a structural analysis of other material cultural traits, providing additional insights into ancient Israel’s perceptions of space. This study also exemplifies how patterns observed in the archaeological record of historical periods can be combined with an examination of that society’s spoken language, and along with indirect information obtained from the period’s documentary sources may provide a fuller understanding of the worldviews of the ancients.

Author Biography

Avraham Faust, Bar-Ilan University

Avraham Faust is Professor of Archaeology at the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University (Israel). He specializes in the archaeology of ancient Israel during the Bronze and Iron Ages, especially from an anthropological perspective. He has published six books (as author) and well over 100 articles on these issues. He has excavated at a number of sites, and is currently directing the excavations at Tel ‘Eton in the southeastern Shephelah (lowlands), Israel, and conducting a survey in its surroundings.



How to Cite

Faust, A. (2017). The Bounded Landscape: Archaeology, Language, Texts and the Israelite Perception of Space. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 30(1), 3–32.