This book concerns the highlands of Palestine, north of Jerusalem, in the 11th and 10th centuries BC. The basic archaeological fact about that place and time is that small villagers of farmers appeared, in large numbers, suddenly - the area was before that used only by nomadic herders. If you look at a map of the locations of these villages, you can more or less spot five clusters. This book applies statistical techniques to the village locations, and the main claim is that these five clusters really exist and were probably more or less independant. The pattern of large and small villages corresponds well to what is called a complex chieftancy. In a complex chieftancy, there is at any time a paramount chief and several sub-chiefs. Food is carried in from the whole chieftancy to the chief, who redistributes it. The fit of the data to this model seems very good to me.
We can try to compare this archaeological discovery to written sources, which for this period means only the Bible. This would be the period of Judges. So the first question is, what in the Bible corresponds to the paramount chief of the complex chieftaincy model? There is one title held by people who do many of the things that a chieftan would do, and that is "Judge", or in Hebrew "Sophet." But to see the Sophet as a chieftan changes the way we see Judges, or the way we see chieftans, or both. This is not really explored in the book.
So the book is of most value as providing solid detailed geographical information for further studies. But the information is not accessible, because there isn't a good map. I would like to know the archaeologically determined boundries of these five chieftaincies, for further research, but no useable map is provided.
- David Nunes da Silva
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