The Architecture of Defense: Fortified Settlements of the Levant During the Middle Bronze Age

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Division of the Humanities in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

By Aaron Alexander Burke

© 2004 All Rights Reserved
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
Committee: David Schloen


This study comprises the first comprehensive examination of the archaeological and historical aspects of the development of the fortification strategies of Middle Bronze Age Levantine settlements (ca. 2000-1550 B.C.), which were predominantly characterized by massive earthen ramparts. By considering the evidence for the defenses of more than 110 settlements from northern Mesopotamia to the Nile Delta, technological developments in warfare, and the endogenous and exogenous threats to stability throughout this period, a number of factors responsible for the adoption of these defensive strategies have been identified. Though earlier scholarship considered the origin of earthen rampart fortifications only in broad terms, the present analysis has revealed that the new defensive strategies of this period owed their development almost entirely to trends in warfare which were already present in the northern Levant during the second half of the Early Bronze Age.

Through the identification of four major phases in the development of fortification strategies from the Early through the Middle Bronze Ages, this study has also shed new light on the political organization of the Levant in the Middle Bronze Age. It has, for instance, provided a basis for the recognition of the Amorite kingdom of Ashkelon in the southern Levant, its boundaries and settlements, based in part upon the identification of a shared defensive strategy. The social implications of large fortification construction projects like those undertaken for Middle Bronze Age fortifications have also been considered. This has revealed that, despite the enormous size of Middle Bronze Age fortifications, the construction of these features was significantly less costly in terms of human and material resources than has previously been suggested. Finally, a catalogue of Early and Middle Bronze Age fortifications in the Levant which was compiled for this study is provided as a resource for future research on this topic.

Now published as: Aaron A. Burke. Walled Up to Heaven. The Evolution of Middle Bronze Age Fortification Strategies in the Levant. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant 4. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2008.

Aaron Burke ©2004
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations