The Bounded Landscape
Archaeology, Language, Texts and the Israelite Perception of Space
Keywords: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.
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