Toward a quantitative history of ancient Israel: Burials as a test case

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The southern Levant is probably the most excavated and surveyed part of the world. While many past studies have attempted to use this wealth of information, they usually focused on certain phenomena and, moreover, the data was not systematically quantified. This study presents a new, quantitative, approach to the data. We rely on two datasets: (1) the published results of salvage excavations, carried out mainly in small sites; (2) the excavations published in the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, which includes mainly central sites. These databases not only cover both large-scale excavations of major sites and salvage excavations in the countryside, but also enable a quantitative analysis which has a potential to transform our understanding of past social and demographic phenomena. To exemplify this potential, we study the proportion of burials within the different sub-sets of the databases. This broad overview reveals some drastic changes over time, including periods from which very few burials were identified (Early Bronze Age II-III, Iron Age, Middle Ages), and others in which burials comprised around half of the finds (Intermediate Bronze Age, Roman period). The paper analyzes these phenomena and highlights the potential of the data to illuminate other questions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101374
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Prof. Yosef Ashkenazy, of Ben-Gurion University, for his substantial help with the statistics, and to the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments and insights. In preparation of the databases we were assisted by Rona Avisar Lewis and Shira Gur-Arieh, and we would like to thank them for their work. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or non- profit sectors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Burials
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Quantitative History
  • Salvage Excavations
  • Settlement History
  • Southern Levant
  • “Burial Proportion”


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