University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Benjamin Porter

The Archaeology of Community in Iron I Central Jordan (Department of Anthropology)

Scholars have characterized social life during the Iron I period (1200–1000 BCE) in the Southern Levant using problematic historical sources as well as Middle Eastern ethnographic and environmental models. These models have unfortunately resulted in static and homogeneous explanations of Iron I social life. This dissertation therefore investigates Iron I social life using a community framework that both draws from and improves upon previous anthropological and archaeological research. This model is tested against the historical record as well as the physical evidence for architectural, agricultural, and food production from several Iron I settlements in Central Jordan. Additionally, the organization of ceramic vessel production is investigated using two materials sciences techniques, Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis, and Laser Ablated - Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry. The results of this investigation indicate that production practices were organized both at the household and the community level. While the construction of family residences, the storage of agricultural surplus, and daily food production fell to the responsibility of individual households, other production practices such as fodder storage, the construction of agricultural infrastructure (e.g. terraces and dams), and the production of ceramic vessels were routines broadly shared across the community. Furthermore, disproportional residence size, storage installations, and food production centers indicate asymmetries in wealth and the emergence of social inequalities. This investigation concludes that community models help overcome static and homogenous depictions of Iron I society and are appropriate for investigating social life not only in Central Jordan, but throughout the Southern Levant. Furthermore, this investigation concludes that archaeological investigations of community challenge several assumptions about social complexity in historically remote, preindustrial societies.

 Print  Email