University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Near East Section Research at the Penn Museum

Tel Yaqush is an Early Bronze Age village located in the Jordan Valley (Israel). The village was occupied from ca. 3700-2500 BCE, offering the opportunity to explore major social and political changes in the region, especially relating to urbanism and migration.


When

The ancient settlement at Tel Yaqush existed throughout the entire Early Bronze Age (3700-2500 BCE). The excavation focuses on the different phases of this period (namely Early Bronze Age I-III), which were exposed in various parts of the site.

Where

Tel Yaqush is situated in the Jordan Valley (Israel), about seven miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The site is located next to the outlet of the Tabor stream into the Jordan River, facing the Jordan River to its east and backed by the dominating heights of the eastern Lower Galilee mountains to its west. It is easily accessed by a short dirt road, which exits off the main north-south road, Route 90, next to the modern Kibbutz Gesher.

Researchers

  • Prof. Mitchell Rothman, Consulting Scholar, Penn Museum
  • Dr. Yael Rotem, Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Near East Section, Penn Museum
  • Dr. Mark Iserlis, Post-Doctoral Researcher, German Archaeological Institute, Berlin.

Project Summary

Tel Yaqush was occupied during one of the most dynamic millennia in world history, when the first states were evolving in neighboring greater Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Its size (about 2.5 hectares) and the results of earlier excavations by the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, indicate that it was likely a village within the sphere of influence of Tel Bet Yerah, a 30-hectare walled center on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The excellent preservation of Yaqush village and its occupation throughout the entire Early Bronze Age offer an opportunity to explore the major social and political changes taking place in this region over time, particularly relating to urbanization and migration.

In the Early Bronze Age, the first fortified cities were being constructed in the Southern Levant. These cities established a new form of political organization and created a centrally controlled economy. Yaqush, however, remained a small, unfortified village, in the shadow of the large city of Bet Yerah. The renewed excavations will focus on these relations between the sites, in this dramatic shift to urbanism in the region.

This period is also marked by the large-scale movement of people throughout the Middle East. Material associated with the so-called Kura-Araxes culture, which originated in the Southern Caucasus, has been found at Tel Yaqush, making it one of the southernmost sites this group occupied. Study of the distinctive material cultural of the Kura-Araxes newcomers found at Yaqush sheds light on their arrival and integration with local populations.

Project co-directors are planning a new field project at Tel Yaqush, beginning with a four-week pilot season in the summer of 2018, with plans for five excavation seasons and two study seasons. The first season is planned to include 25 personnel in total, including students and staff from the US, Germany, the UK, and Israel. In addition to gaining first-hand experience in excavation, students will learn from afternoon talks and lectures, and have opportunities to travel to other archaeological and historical sites in Israel.



Information about the old University of Chicago excavations:

A preliminary report on the Oriental Institute excavations at Yaqush will be published at BASOR in 2019:

Rotem, Y., Iserlis, M., Höflmayer, F., and Rowan, Y. (in press), Tel Yaqush – An Early Bronze Age Village in the Central Jordan Valley, Israel. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Link to the Oriental Institute reports on Tel Yaqush: https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/projects/yaqush-project

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