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Enemy at the Gates: The Phenomenon of Fortifications in Israel Reexamined 1

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Abstract This article addresses the phenomenon of fortifications in Iron Age Israel and tries to portray the specific historical background behind their construction by integrating the archaeological data, the extra-biblical sources and the analysis of the biblical text. Of the two clear stratigraphical phases of fortifications noticed in several Iron Age cities, the latter is more massive and elaborated compared with its predecessor. We propose that the developed phase of fortifications in Israel was created under the Omrides, in a time of economic and political strength, as a response to the expansion policy of Aram Damascus. This analysis offers an explanation to the intriguing absence of any biblical reference to the Assyrians prior to Tiglath-pileser III, and casts a fresh look upon the current debate on the chronology of the Iron Age II. If the elaborate fortification systems were initiated during the first half of the ninth century, the initial phase of the urbanization process, which preceded this developed stage, must have begun in the days prior to the Omride dynasty, namely in the tenth century.


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