In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Levantine Archaeology

  • Introduction
  • Overviews
  • Journals
  • Intellectual History and Historiography
  • Levantine Philology
  • Major Settlements
  • Agriculture and Food Economies
  • Craft and Technology
  • Hydrology
  • Maritime Archaeology
  • Archaeology of Religion and Ritual
  • Mortuary Archaeology
  • Levantine Cultural Heritage in Crisis

Anthropology Levantine Archaeology
Benjamin Porter
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0297


Levantine archaeology investigates the societies that lived along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea between the Amanus Mountains of Turkey and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The Levant’s geographic scope has shifted over the centuries in the minds of European audiences. Today’s definition includes all or parts of the modern nation-states that make up the Arabic toponym bilad al-sham, the “land of Damascus”: southeast Turkey, western Syria, Lebanon, the State of Israel and Palestine, and western Jordan. Scholars often make an artificial division between the Northern Levant (Syria, Turkey, Lebanon) and the Southern Levant (Israel, Jordan, Palestine) to narrow the geographic scope. The field of Levantine archaeology sits at the interstice of Middle (or Near) Eastern archaeology and Mediterranean archaeology. The earliest human ancestors entered the Levant 1.5 million years ago and have continuously occupied the region up to today, making the region one of the world’s oldest and continuously occupied locations on Earth. The Levant’s prehistoric Neolithic and Chalcolithic–era communities adopted sedentary lifestyles, a food economy largely based on domesticated plants and animals, and sparked new craft technologies based on stone, ceramic, and metal materials. The third through first millennia BCE, the Bronze and Iron Ages, saw the establishment of territorial polities, the advancement of bronze and iron technologies, long-distance international trade, and the creation of the first administrative and literary written records in the region. Levantine societies fell under the sway of first Greek Hellenism, and later Roman imperialism and Byzantine Christianity between the fourth century BCE and the sixth century CE. The seventh century CE saw the arrival of Islam in the Levant, followed by the successive wave of Islamic dynasties—the Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman Empires—save an uneven two-century interlude of control by the European Crusaders. Levantine archaeology ends with the Ottoman Empire’s collapse following World War I, although this time horizon will likely extend deeper into the twentieth century as the field evolves. Due to this chronological depth in human occupation, the Levant offers a productive venue for examining the origins and development of agriculture, animal husbandry, craft production, religious and political organization, mortuary practices, hydrology, and maritime and terrestrial economies, all topics that will be explored in this bibliography. The discipline’s scholarship has appeared and continues to appear in multiple European (e.g., French, German, Italian, and Spanish) and Middle Eastern languages (e.g., Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish). Scholarship written in English is prioritized in this bibliography for the sake of consistency.


Collections offering a comprehensive overview of Levantine history and archaeology are unfortunately lacking. Instead, scholarship is often curated according to region and time period. These patterns are partly due to the fact that the region is partitioned by political borders that at times restrict knowledge about the past to modern Levantine nation-states. Another reason for these patterns is that two chronological thresholds structure accounts of premodern Levantine societies, the first in the late fourth century BCE with the beginning of Alexander the Great’s campaigns and the introduction of Hellenism, and the second by the beginning of Islam in the seventh century CE. Steiner and Killebrew 2014 is a recommended first stop, followed by Yasur-Landau, et al. 2018 for its thematic chapters. Adams 2008 focuses on the archaeology of Jordan, while Akkermans and Schwartz 2003 reviews the evidence from Syria. Levy 1995, Mazar 1990, and Stern and Lewinson-Gilboa 1993 focus primarily on the archaeological evidence from Israel and Palestine, although all three volumes are now dated. Rosen 2007 is a useful introduction to the region through the environmental evidence. Consult the Islamic and European Crusader Eras section for overviews of these times periods. Supplement the readings below with more in-depth treatments using the sources found in the Chronological Periods section.

  • Adams, Russell, ed. 2008. Jordan: An archaeological reader. London: Equinox.

    An edited volume with chapters spanning the Paleolithic era to the Ottoman period in Jordan. Each chapter focuses on the historical sources and archaeological evidence for each time period. Chapter 1 is an overview of research, while chapter 2 focuses on the landscapes and environments of Jordan. A useful introduction to the long-term history and archaeology of Jordan.

  • Akkermans, Peter, and Glenn Schwartz. 2003. The archaeology of Syria: From complex hunter-gatherers to early urban societies (ca. 16,000—300 BCE). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    An extensive treatment of ancient Syria from the first human settlements to the arrival of Hellenism. Themes include early agriculture and animal domestication in the Neolithic era followed by Bronze and Iron Age urbanism in the later chapters. Syria’s relationship with Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Southern Levant are emphasized. Architecture and objects from specific time periods are reviewed in detail.

  • Levy, Thomas E., ed. 1995. The archaeology of society in the Holy Land. New York: Facts on File.

    An edited volume with chapters spanning the Paleolithic to the Islamic eras in the Southern Levant. One of the first publications to synthesize the history of the Levant from the Paleolithic through Islamic eras. Political and social evolution are key themes for many chapters.

  • Mazar, Amihai. 1990. Archaeology of the land of the Bible. New York: Doubleday.

    A now-dated introduction to the archaeological evidence for the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Southern Levant. Architecture and artifacts from key settlements are presented alongside basic summaries of scholarly debates about each time period. The volume remains a useful introduction for beginning students, although it must be supplemented with readings from more recent scholarship, such as Steiner and Killebrew 2014.

  • Rosen, Arlene M. 2007. Civilizing climate: Social responses to climate change in the ancient Near East. Lanham, MD: Altamira.

    An environmental history of the ancient Middle East in which evidence from the Levant features prominently. Begins with introductory chapters about tools and methods used in paleoenvironmental research. Explores the environmental history of the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras followed by the Bronze and Iron Ages, concluding with the Classical era. Applies methods from the environmental sciences such as geoarchaeology and palynology.

  • Steiner, Margreet, and Ann Killebrew, eds. 2014. The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of the Levant, c. 8000–332 BCE. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An important reference volume with chapters written by multiple authors, spanning the Neolithic era through the Iron Age. Each time period is summarized in a thoughtful introduction before divided into geographic regions. Notable for its balanced treatment of evidence from the Northern and Southern Levant, including the island of Cyprus. Each chapter concludes with a helpful bibliography for further reading.

  • Stern, Ephraim, and Ayelet Lewinson-Gilboa. 1993. The New encyclopedia of archaeological excavations in the Holy Land. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

    A now out-of-date but still important multivolume reference organized by archaeological site. The encyclopedia covers the Southern Levant and entries are often written by scholars closely associated with research at specific sites. Entries are often detailed, illustrated with images, tables, and drawings, and end with bibliographies for further research.

  • Yasur-Landau, Assaf, Eric Cline, and Yorke Rowan, eds. 2018. The social archaeology of the Levant: From prehistory to the present. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    An edited volume whose thematic chapters focus on issues concerning social archaeology such as religion, kinship, gender, and political organization. The volume’s chronological scope spans the region’s prehistory to modern eras.

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