Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Iron Age Revival of the State, XXIV: Revelations of St. John of the Cross

My employer is serving fresh, hot turnover again, so if you tuned in this week to hear about the prehistory of the cubicle, I'm sorry. That would take too much organising time. Instead, we're going to go up on Mount Carmel and receive a revelation from St. John. Not the author of Revelations, notwithstanding my link, the other one. St/ John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila's disciple in the  Camelites Without Hats movement. Okay, okay, "Discalced Carmelites," which turns out to be a reference to footwear, hence "barefoot at the head," for those into New Wave science fiction. 

The story, as I have it, is that the Carmelites were one of a number of mendicant orders founded in obscurity in the 1100s, or, more likely, early 1200s. Claiming to be descended from eremitical monks living in isolation on Mount Carmel and preserving pre-Christian traditions going back to the Prophet Elijah, they plugged into a line of thinking in Christian natural philosophy that traced Plato back through the Seven Sages, some of whom studied in "the East," taken for these purposes to be Mount Carmel, and linking Greek philosophy -okay, okay, Neo-Platonism-- to the wisdom passed down from God to Adam and so on through the Hebrew tradition.

Hardly content within themselves as between raging debates over how much masochism to allow in the order, the Carmelites were thus possessed of one the weaker and more outrageous origin stories of a major Catholic institution in the age of intense controversy that followed on Luther. Cesare Baroni, one of the great names in ecclesiastical history, ruthlessly cut the cord, freeing Catholic apologists of the liability of defending the Carmelite account, at the expense of leaving the order without a history, and natural philosophy short one Christianity-friendly epistemology in the bargain.  He also, unintentionally, engaged the ongoing dispute within the community. The upshot is that a Calched Carmelite named Paolo Foscarini took indirect aim at Baroni via his colleague, Roberto Bellarmino, in an arcane, ostensibly natural philosophical debate over the nature of the solar system, but, in fact, about possession of a Carmelite church in Rome, and a clause in the Tridentine reforms pertaining to the amount of plate a church was allowed to have. The dispute then drew in a Tuscan courtier, himself no stranger to artfully fanned pseudo-controversies bridging politics, Holy Writ, and natural philosophy, named Galileo Galilei, which is where yours truly, wearing his old historian of science, came on the scene, arriving via Biagioli's Galileo, Courtier, on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the 525m high, 39km-long, 7km wide "mountain range"  along the north coast of Israel, cradling the city of Haifa and also the archaic site of Tel Dor.

It is worthwhile here to stop here for a second and meditate on what a strange document the Kurkh Monolith was. Stele did not take a lot of invention, and exist around the world, from every period. It is safe, however, to say that they were a particularly big thing in the Early Iron Age. Archaeologists working all over the Western Mediterranean are trying use steles to penetrate the mind of ill-documented early Iron Age cultures with debatable connections on what came after in Roman times. ("Gauls! Etruscans! Drink!") (download).

Unlike those other stele-erectors, who, I don't know, were maybe imitating them, the Assyrians had both writing and a literary tradition. So the Kurkh monuments have annals of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III inscribed. Or, sort of annals, since it isn't safe or safe to assume that their motives are so transparent and Marc van der Mierop cautions us that royal proclamations on statues (and presumably steles) are at the root of more than one literary genre. The location of the Kurkh Steles (879, 853), on a prepared site at a  river junction out in the boonies of the upper Tigris, would probably tell us a great deal more about the thinking behind the steles if we only had enough of them to have some kind of typology. The problem is that we can equally well assume that any erected in busier places  have long since fallen victim to abuse. 

No stele survive from the abandoned capital cities that the Neo-Assyrian kings littered across the landscape. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, of equal importance to Biblical archaeology as the Kurkh steles, for a slightly later period (824)was erected in the main square of Nimrud, "during a time of civil war," as the phrase has it, because this is probably a clue to reading it more closely, although me no Assyriologist and I have no idea what it might mean, and no febrile theories, either.  

Biblically, we're left with two problems. Ahab is described in the Kurkh Monolith as King of Israel, but not as a member of the House of Omri, while Jehu, his successor, is, in spite of being described in the Deuteronomic History as the annihilator of the line of Omri. Explanations vary from typo to the maximally contrarian position that puts Omri, somehow, between Ahab and Jehu, contradicting the Deuteronomists and revealing their secret agenda. Let's not care about that today, and instead try to make something of Qarqar and Carmel. 

The clues we have to go on in in the Kurkh Monument is the list of the Twelve Kings of Qarqar, which wouldn't be much if the list was entirely of the usual suspects. It is not, however. Either Hadadezer's chancery had a very eclectic approach to alliance building, or the coalition was much larger, and the Assyrian scribes selected their eleven names to some criteria.  One thing is for sure, the Biblical focus is using all the oxygen in the room. 

To begin with, the coalition looks like obvious alliance-building. Damascus and Hamath on the Orontes are obvious candidates for leading a coalition aiming at stopping an Assyrian royal expedition from rampaging through the trans-Euphrates territories. Ahab of Israel doesn't seem in the same league, but the 2000 chariots he sends, suggests a substantial regional power. Quwe/Cilicia is a substantial geographic area, a frequent member in anti-Assyrian coalitions, and the source of Solomon's horses, per the Deuteronomic historian (and so more likely a window into the mid 600s than the early 800s), notwithstanding its small military contribution of infantry. History's first recorded "king of the Arabs," and the King of Ammon, modern Amman, round out the roster of western great powers to rally to the Damascene banner. 

Then things start getting strange. The Wikipedia article identifies "Masura, which is the outlet of the Dueden River," as the source of 1000 troops. This is conveniently linked, but the linked article turns out to be from one of those pristine strata of Nineteenth Century sources that you occasionally still encounter in the quiet corners of Wikipedia. William Smith (ed.)  is aware of the "Duden" as a cataract of Pamphylia, but is a bit vague about its inland geography. Who in his right mind wanders the bandit-ridden uplands of the Ottoman Empire? "Your pathetic William IV can't save you now, Englishman!" Fortunately, it turns out that there has been some more recent attention, perhaps related to the fact that it is in the middle of the Turkish Riviera. The town below the cliffs where the Dueden Su throws itself into the sea turns out to be Antalya,  established in 200BC by the "Attalid dynasty of Pergamon." Although the location's earlier history is obscure, it was probably not impossible to notice the handy port and beaches sheltered under the cliffs even before they were crammed with vacationers from Istanbul. 

Irqanata, which sent 10 chariots and 10,000 soldiers, is Arqa, a Lebanese village in the far north of Lebanon, "near the coast," and the site of a Crusader castle as well as the birthplace of Alexander Severus. It is also a double Catholic titular see, which no doubt means it is worth two victory points in some historically-themed Euro-game. The ruler of Arqa sent a letter to Pharaoh that survives in the Amarna archive, so the city existed in the Late Bronze Age as the "last hold-out against the (H)Apiru invasion." (What the ((H))apiru might have to do with the Hebrews is an excellent question, and maybe I should have used three parentheses.) It appears to be on a ridge line overlooking some coastal lowlands, and either my eyes are being misled by the haze, or it has a distant sea view. 

King Matinu Baal sent 200 soldiers from Arwad, moderately famous as the only Mediterranean island town of Syria, 3 km from the busy port city of Tartus (ancient Tortosa). It is somewhat isolated from the rest of the country and from inland weather by the Syrian Coastal Mountain Range, an eminence somewhat similar to Carmel, albeit with a substantially higher summit. Arwad is known from the Annals of Thutmose III, when it was at its peak of influence, and pops up in the Bible as well as later Assyrian annals as a micro-state that did its best to keep its head down. 

"The land of Usannata," which is apparently in the vicinity of Mount Lebanon, sent 200 soldiers. I say "apparently" because I am not seeing a source that supports this identification. I am going to go with the assumption that it exists, but this is one of those bucket brigade references where everyone quotes each other. In any case, it is somewhere up on Mount Lebanon, although if "Usannata" was linked with "Mount Lebanon" early enough, this would be the whole of Lebanon, and not just the mountain range proper.

King Adunu Baal of Ushnatu, a polity in the Syrian Coastal Mountain Range, sent an unknown number of troops.

Exactly what we're to make of this list of obscure city states, mostly lodged on eminences above the Mediterranean Sea, isn't obvious. Is it an actual list of allies, or names singled out by the Assyrian scribes for some reason? Even the similarity in location isn't as firm as I would like, due to the obscurity of Usannata. Google Books, frustratingly, links the place to one modern piece of scholarship that isn't about the Battle of Qarqar, Guy Bunnens, et al., A New Luwian Stele and Cult of the Storm God, a detailed explication of an early-eighth century stele dedicated to Tarhunza of the Army by Shamshi-illu, a neo-Assyrian dignitary of the reigns of  Adad-Nirari III and Shalmaneser IV, who might have been descended from the pre-Assyrian local dynasty, and in any case wanted to establish a new cult to the Luwian storm god/god of victory on a location where the road approached the banks of the upper Euphrates near Carchemish. It's certainly interesting to hear a warlord of the 780s explaining how he received a divine message from a prophet to establish a cult of Tarhunza in the name of a long list of gods, but it would be even more interesting to know what it has to do with Usannata. 

Taking Usannata as a highland site, because why not, I'll move on to "Ahab of Israel." This is the second historically dated usage of "Israel," and I barely need to dip my toes into Bible scholarship to establish that the word is etymologically obscure and tied to a raging debate about the origins of the Jewish religion, specifically a debate as between the primacy of "El," and YHWH, at which point, if you're like me, you're channeling Watchtower missionaries of days of yore. I back away slowly to the one other Google association with Usannata that isn't drawn from the Battle of Qarqar, a long but very helpful, although very Geocities-y exegesis of 2 Kings 22, which discusses Ahab's last war, a failed expedition against Damascus. Most of the narrative is spent on the Prophet Micaiah, owning King Ahab. Ahab and his ally, Jehosaphat of Juda, have assembled a congress of prophets on a "threshing floor" in Samaria to divine the outcome of the war. In good, Neo-Assyrian fashion, the allied kings gather the prophets of all the rival gods and set their divinations against each other. Micaiah is the sole voice of YHWH and the sole dissenter of the congress, correctly predicting Ahab's death. So good on him!

Micaiah is the disciple of Elisha, who is the disciple of Elijah, making him one of the "sons of Elijah," that titanic figure of early Israel who called fires from heaven down to light a sacrificial pyre on Mount Carmel; prophesied, and ended a terrible drought; oversaw the massacre of 400 prophets of Baal by the people of Israel; and had his dignity avenged when YHWH sent a bear to maul some children who teased him for being bald. Elijah's little stunts on the high places represent one of the strongest arguments for JHWH being a storm/sea/fertility/sea-serpent-fighting/war god, akin to Tarhunza, which is, I understand, a somewhat controversial point bearing on who the LORD of early Kings actually is, and, for that matter, who the "serpent" might be who is sent to, uhm, mislead(?) various people, possibly including Ahab. 

Backing away slowly from an ongoing debate over whether God deliberately lied to Ahab, and, if so, what that means about God, I turn to a point slightly earlier in the narrative, when Ahab summons his hosts on Mount Carmel. I blithely assume that this represents a stratum of the narrative that predates the foundation of Samaria and re-centres the 'kingdom of Israel" on the sanctuary on the high  place of Carmel, in which case "Ahab of Israel" is a closer parallel to the "weird" western rulers of the Qarqar list, as being associated with a coastal eminence, specifically, the location of the later Carmelite shrine of Mary Star-of-the-Sea. That is, a lighthouse, kind of.

I don't know about this. It feels pretty sus, but I had to get back to Mary Star-of-the-Sea somehow, so I could talk about the pyres of Mount Carmel. Ilan Sharon and Ayelet Gilboa, "The SKL Town: Dor in the Early Iron Age," (393--468) in The Philistines and Other "Sea Peoples" in Text and Archaeology, eds. Ann E. Killebrew and Gunnar Lehman. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature 2013. I find it a vague relief that the Society, even though based in the (New) South, would give the editorial reins to Killebrew, an inveterate foe of the "Sea Peoples Are Real, Therefore = [kinda] Palestinians" argument, or "argument." Sharon and Gilboa's exhaustive recapitulation of twenty years of archaeology at Tel Dor is similarly skeptical. 

It is unfortunate that careful archaeology militates against easy summary. Good thing that blogging is all about facile summaries and leaps of logic! Tel Dor was a Bronze Age foundation, and, in fact, the "SKL" identifier assigns it in Egyptian literature to a number of references that would secure it as one of the places to which the victorious Egyptians sent the defeated Sea Peoples. The identification requires a number of commitments to controversial positions in Egyptology, notably the dating of the Wennamun narrative. Biblical archaeology clings to a Late Bronze Age assignment, with Ad Thjis shifting even that forward by decades with indomitable scholarship, and wonderful Dutch name. Egyptology, at least per Ben Sasse, here, has no time for Wenamum being a contemporary report, with Sasse placing his narrative forthrightly in a political context, being written as part of the background of "Sheshonq's Palestinian campaign."  This isn't exactly unproblematic, either. Shoshenq's own account of his Canaan campaign omits Jerusalem from a list of conquests, and does not mention the Israelite and Judahite kings he is said by the Deuteronomists to have defeated. This either reinforces the unreliability of the early Deutoronomic history, or forces us to look for a different Shoshenq. 

Assuming that the early Deutoronomic history is a hot mess, and Shoshenq is Shoshenq, the Wenamun question is whether that text sheds light on Tel Dor in the Late Bronze Age, and at this point the answer is that it obviously doesn't. There is, however, the possibility that it sheds light on Tel Dor circa 925, and rereading this sentence moments later is a good reminder of the value of actually reading what you're commenting on (not that I am going to embrace any so crazy a policy on this blog!), as Sasse goes on to address this specific question, p. 252.   Wenamun's account may fit both the Dor of 1075BCE and 925, on account of nothing having changed very much. This is controversial from the point of view that it excludes any architectural or social intervention by the nonexistent Early Monarchy of Solomon and David, but is otherwise plausible, albeit ducking the issues of just when, it exactly, Dor's monumental Iron Age walls and citadel were erected.

It bears emphasising that the massive harbour-area walls excavated at Dor, and, above all the Monumental Stone Building excavated there, are "within the group of the largest Iron Age public buildings in this country . . . It certainly ranks among the most massive Iron I structures known around the Mediterranean." The wall seems to be a boundary between a now-collapsed tell which might have supported a Bronze age built-up area, and the Iron Age settlement on  what was, then, a sandy beach. A brick structure within this monumental area yielded the 8.5kg silver bullion Dor hoard which has been used in isotopic analysis to tentatively confirm the Iberian, Anatolian, and Cypriot origin of the silver presumably flowing through this port of trade. 

The keynote here, not to protract further fascinating discussion of the recent excavations at Dor, is the Cypriot, as well as Phoenician connections to which stylistic, and, more importantly, petrographic analysis of pottery fragments, point. Far from being a "Sea Peoples," or Philistine outpost, Dor testifies to the central importance of Cyprus in the Levantine Iron Age I and II. Cyprus is, in fact, the centre of the arc of Ben Hadad's alliance, and it is Cypriot shipping that the light of the pyre of Carmel, beckons. At a point arbitrarily defined by the expedition as the IR1a/b transition, structures on the presumptive east side of the Bronze Age settlement were levelled in a "massive destruction," and the foundations of the new city, or at least monumental area, were laid. Carbon-dating establishes this transition as 1000BCE, and various clues to a continuity of settlement and material culture suggest urban renewal rather than destruction, conquest and resettlement.  

Wood and Bell's isotopic analysis concludes with a tentative technological explanation for the composition of the Tel Dor hoard. Silver cupellation developed on Cyprus and spread from there. This points the way to a technologically determinative explanation for the Dor redevelopment. Cypriot trade gained a new valence at the 1000BCE transition due to metallurgical developments in the homeland. This leads us back to "iron was invented on Cyprus," obviously as much of an overstatement as that silver cupellation was invented there, but plausible in the sense that its metal industries were the sources of the skilled workers who spread these new technologies. Gilboa and Sharon either participate in, or perhaps, given timing, precipitate this new view out to sea and to the Cypriot shore. Here, Gilboa uses timing and trends of exports of Cypriot "drinking apparatus" to establish a Cypriot emigration to Phoenicia after the "final collapse of the Cypriot administrative apparatus" during what I think is the LBA crisis, although he uses a more technical Aegean stratigraphic sequence that isn't exactly intuitive to me. 

If the larger associations are well drawn, these new places overlooking the Cyptiot trade are the homes of not just the Iron Age technological transition, but to a new intellectual era. Dor, and its Monumental Stone Building, is as good as any a place to look for the first urban sanctuary, and the place where  the marketplace prophecy/sacrificial feast/distribution of hams became the central economic transaction of a new order. It might be wished that we had similar excavations at Tyre and Sidon, but, for many reasons, this does not seem possible. For what it is worth, the less developed site of Byblos has a substantial set of Neolithic/Early Bronze Age temples on a rise just outside the old village, but no urban sanctuary, and the interesting alternative approach of assessing the comparative quantities of so-called "Philistine Bichrome" pottery exports in Cyprus suggests that the Carmel area is the main source of these exports in the Early Iron Age. This doesn't get us any closer to knowing what was exported in these small flasks, but at least we know that Dor was an important participant in a major trade that developed quickly during the early Iron Age. That the Carmel area was exporting large quantities of pottery may imply a significant local excess of fuel mass; I doubt that the Roman-era link between olive oil and pottery exports is coincidental, but that is emphatically not to say that I am speculating that Dor was pressing oil, burning the spent oils to fire kilns, and exporting the oil in the containers made in the kilns, as might be the case with some African Red Burnished Ware of the late empire. 

Here are some selected distribution maps of Bichrome and Black-on-Red pottery pieces from Nicola Schreiber, The Cypro-Phoenician Pottery of the Iron Age (Leiden: Brill, 2003)

So there you go. On the distribution patterns, the absence of Judah from the Qarqar coalition does seem to be suspicious, in that the region clearly played an important role in Early Iron Age exchange networks. One is almost tempted to conclude that the Early Deuteronomic History is inaccurate. No, wait, I think I said that already. 

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