Consisting of modern day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and western Syria, Levant was at a crossroads in ancient times with Egypt to the south, Mesopotamia to the east, and Anatolia to the north, with access to the Mediterranean and Cyprus to the west. 


1. The British Museum, 2002.



10,000 BC        MESOLITHIC

First Farming villages date back to 10,000 BC. The so-called Natufian culture responded to climatic changes and settled in flimsy shelters of sticks and hides gave way to proper houses built of sun dried mud blocks.

Next 3000 years: small farming villages sprang up throughout the Levant.

Calcite Figurine, (c)

8500-4500                     NEOLITHIC

7200 Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Statue, (c)

Ain Ghazal Site in Wadi Zarga, on the outskirts of NE Amman in Jordan, excavated since 1982, joint American-Jordanian. They decided were four main phases 7200-5200, pottery being the last, during which settlement was in decline. The first: clay animal figurines, plastered human skulls, and limestone human statues. Settlement went from small hamlet to substantial town covering 14 hectares with large multi room houses.

7200 Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Plastered Skull, (c)

4500-3300        CHALCOLITHIC (Greek for ‘copper’)

Two major excavation sites: Teleilat Ghassul in the Jordan Valley and near Beersheba in the Negev

By end of 4th mil Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt developed literate urban civilizations and the Levant was positioned to enjoy increased trade. Populations gathered around natural resources, and these sites were to become major centers for the next 3000 yrs.

4th Millennium from Azor Pottery Ossuary, (c)
4th Millennium from Teleilat Ghassul Cups, (c) and figurines and pottery

3300-2400                     EARLY BRONZE AGE I-III

Beginnings often called Proto-Urban.

Due to pressure of trade: old village economy of subsistence dry farming and pastorialism gave way to productive agriculture. Egypt provided a large market for olive oil and wine. The new economy led to urbanization. Irrigation and other public building programs required organization (of labor/manpower) and administration which brought about bureaucracy and social differentiation.

By 2800Urbanization well advanced: villages had grown into towns, and then cities with well defined quarters of public and administrative buildings, temples and domestic dwellings.
With affluence came need for Defense Walls to be constructed around the city mounds.

Central Syria develops a unique cultural identity. Native Amorite population built large and powerful city states such as Ebla in the north and Hamath in the south. Due to trade with Mesopotamia, Syria did not suffer as the rest of the Levant did as will described in Early Bronze Age IV.

2400-2000                     EARLY BRONZE AGE IV

RECESSION – The collaspe of the Egyptian Old Kingdom removed most of the market for agriculture goods, and productive farming stops to a great extent. Many people starve and most others are forced to leave the cities to find better climates for dry-farming and semi sedentary pastorialism. Almost every site since Proto Urbanisms is abandoned, or at least experienced a radical reduction in population. In the north the trade contacts with Syria helped to offset the loss of trade with Egypt. A greater amount of urbanization remained up north.

Stone Jars and Lamps, (c)
The Jericho Tomb, (c)
Language - The Alphabet

2000-1550                     MIDDLE BRONZE AGE

Coincides with the Middle Kingdom in Egypt

1750 – Canaanites whom had reached the Delta a century earlier, seized control and established a local dynasty which for a brief time ruled the whole of Egypt with their capital at Avaris (Tell ed-Daba). These Canaanites were known as Hyksos.

At this time extensive trade with Egypt, Syria, Anatolia and Cyprus. Blending outside influences to create a sophisticated, distinctive style of art, architecture and craftsmanship.

Central Syria: Infiltration of non-Semitic northerners, the Hurrians brings about a confederation among the city states (see Early Bronze Age I-III) called, Mitanni.

This confederation stopped the advance of the Egyptians (now in the first dynasty of the New Kingdom, 18th) until Thutmose III defeated Mitanni at the Battle of Megiddo in 1453 BC. Then the Hittites from Anatolia moved into the vacuum.

2000-1550 Pottery from Deir 'Ain 'Abata, (c)
1750-1550 Wooden Juglet and Comb (c)
1750-1550 Decorative Inlay, (c)
1650-1550 Gold Jewelry from Tell el-'Ajjul, (c)

1550-1200                     LATE BRONZE AGE

Hyksos expelled from Egypt. Whole of Levant and parts of North Syria come under Egyptian control. Heavy burden of taxation. Did bring better security and international trade, including Mycenaean. Local culture continued to florish.

Reign of Rameses II (1304-1287) key cities such as Beth Shan in north and Gaza in the South were strenghtened while others were allowed to decline resulting in homelessness. Many migrated to the Judean Hill where they established small farming communities. These dispossessed Canannites were known to the Egyptians as Hapiru (Hebrews), and they became the basis of what was to become Israel.

Central Syria: 1453 BC The Battle of Megiddo – see above. Hittites control from North of Qatna, Egypt the area to the south.

Lachish or Tell ed-Duweir

Fortification system had been developed in the Middle Bronze Age. This fortification, the huge rampart and plastered slope fell into the ditch. Above this rubble a small temple was erected called the “Fosse Temple”

1550-1200 Pottery from the Fosse Temple, (c)
1400-1200 Necklaces from the Fosse Temple, (c)
1400-1200 Ivory and Bronze, (c)
1400-1200 Scrabs and Cylinder Seals, (c)

1200-539  IRON AGE

Eight year of Rameses III (1198-1166) the Egyptian Empire was invaded by league of peoples of Aegean or southern Anatoli origin known as the Sea People. One of six groups these peoples consisted of were called the Peleset or Philistines. Two battles: one fought in Canaan, one in the Delta. Rameses claimed victory but these people ended up on the Canannite coast and developed a distinctive local culture reflecting Aegean background. see more

1150 The Egyptians had withdrawn from Canaan leaving a tense and unstable situation: Canaanite cities in the lowlands, Israelites (Canannite pastoralists) living in the more barren hill country, and the Philistines in the coastal plain.

Israelites expand into Canaanite territory over next 100 years. Philistines attempt to expand eastward into Israelite hill country, but the tribes of Israelites unite first under Saul, then David.

1000 David captures Jerusalem and proclaimed king of Israelite nation. Later he defeats the Philistines and expands his territory. However they retain their coastal strip. Things florish under David’s son Solomon’s rule. Trade expands and the Temple is built. Solomon dies in 928 BC and the ‘United Monarchy’ splits into two kingdoms: Judah in the south with Jerusalem as the capital and Israel in the north with Samaria as the capital.

At this time the Aramaean Kingdoms controlled most of central and northern Syria.

The north coast – what is now Lebanon and Syria – became known as Phoenicia, from the Greek word for ‘purple’, due to extraction of dye from murex shells and the production of purple colored fabrics, which was one of the principle industries of that area.

The Phoenicians became great traders and seafarers due to a lack of farmable land. They sold their fine arts and crafts of ivories, glassware, metal work and jewelry all over the Near East.

Established colonies, the greatest of which was Carthage in Tunisia.

One of the principle port cities of Phoenicia: Sidon

Ninth and Eighth Century BC – Assyrians expanding their territory, and their armies advance into Syria, Pheonicia, Israel and Judah. Local kings must pay high tributes. In 722 BC Samaria falls to the Assyrians.

612 BC – Nabopolassar of Babylon overthrows the Assyrians and takes control of their lands including Judah.

597 BC – Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar raids Judah after a rebellion. Another revolt ten years later and Neb responds by destroying Jerusalem

539-332        PERSIAN AGE

5th Century BC Phoenician Coffin, (c)