Metal Weapons of “Warrior’ Burials” Found
in the Middle Bronze Age II Southern
Levant – Economical and Social Aspects
Tal Kan Cipor Meron
The Leon Recanati Institute for Marine Sciences and Zinman Institute of Archaeology, The University of Haifa, Israel
Submission: August 06, 2018; Published: August 16, 2018
*Corresponding author: Sariel Shalev, University of Haifa, Address: 199 Aba Khoushy Ave., Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel; Tel: 972-547682053; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to cite this article: Tal Kan Cipor Meron. Metal Weapons of “Warrior’ Burials” Found in the Middle Bronze Age II Southern Levant – Economical
and Social Aspects. Glob J Arch & Anthropol. 2018; 6(1): 555676. DOI: 10.19080/GJAA.2018.06.555676
Copper-based weapons including battleaxes, daggers, and spearheads from the Middle Bronze Age II (c. 1900-1600 B.C.E.) have been unearthed mainly in burials found in the southern Levant. Archaeological and metallurgical analyses of these metal weapons done recently, make it clear that in the beginning of the period, in the decorated weapons were made of tin bronze with and without arsenic while during the second part of this period we can see a decrease in the number of weapons found in graves as well as changes in the metallurgical composition into the usage of tin bronze, arsenic copper and copper with tin and arsenic. To explain these results, there is a need to look further on the possible social economical context of the “Warrior’ burials” phenomenon using metal weapons made of copper, arsenic, and tin, which are unavailable metals in the southern Levant at this period.
More than 1000 copper-based weapons associated with the Middle Bronze Age II (MB II; ca. 1950–1550 BCE) culture have been recovered, primarily in burials, throughout the Levant (Figure 1); [1-7]. These, funerary contexts have generally been referred to as “warrior burials”, and contained individuals buried with a presumed “kit”, comprising weapons, such as daggers, axes and spearheads found on the deceased’s waist and/or next to their head (Figure 2). The “warrior burials” are dated mainly to the first half of the MBII period (MB IIA; 1950–1750 BCE) and decline in occurrence in the Middle Bronze IIB (MB IIB; 1750–1550 BCE) [6-8].
Recently, it has been shown [6,7] that less than 25% of all
the MB IIA burials can be defined as “warrior burials”, and they
should rather be considered to reflect high-ranking members of
the contemporary society, i.e., an elite social class . The weapons
in the MB IIA “warrior’ burials” were well-made, elaborate and
composed of copper alloyed with up to 14% tin, both with and
without low arsenic concentration [5-7].
The use of tin bronzes is considered the most important
technological innovation of the Middle Bronze Age II (MBII).
Tin Bronze objects are known from earlier periods, but in small
quantities while the use of arsenic copper was more common [5,9]. During the Middle Bronze Age II, tin bronze was widely
used to create metal objects in general and weapons [5,6,7,10].
While for production of arsenic copper one metal source
containing copper with arsenic was needed, the production of tin
bronze required two metal sources, one of tin and one of copper,
which were in far distance from the southern Levant [11,12].
Nevertheless, no tin sources were found in the Levant and there
is no evidence that local copper sources were exploited at this
time, in contrast to the former periods [13-15]. In addition,
almost no ingots and complete workshops from this period were
found in the Levant [1,2,14-16]. This raise a series of significant
questions concerning the factors that led to the widespread
use of tin bronzes at this period, the sources of copper and tin,
and the trading systems that brought the raw materials and the
finished products to the Levant.
In addition, to date, the transition from the use of arsenical
copper to tin bronze was perceived as a linear development; It
was assumed that at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age
(MBIIA), most weapons, in continuation of the former period,
were made of arsenical copper, while in the later part of the
period (MBIIB), most of the weapons were made of tin bronze
. Through a detailed analysis of the available metallurgical
data we have shown that the situation was in fact quite the
opposite. It was demonstrated that the transition was highly
complex; Tin bronze appeared quite abruptly in the MBIIA, with
only few antecedents, and decreased during the MBIIB [6,7].
Therefore, gradual linear development cannot explain
this transition, but rather social circumstances that are to the
MBIIA as well as developments in the wider region, including
the development of trade networks that enabled the transport
of the necessary raw materials – copper and tin. Trade routes
that connected Mesopotamia with Anatolia as well as the Levant
in the early second millennium are known from both texts and
archaeological evidence. The Mari and Kultepe-Kanish archives
dated to the MBIIA support this picture of long-distance trade
connections and provide some information on the metal supply
system during this period, mainly of copper and tin [12,17].
Through these trade routes, the social concepts of the “Warrior’
burials” could penetrate the southern Levant, as burials of high
rank members in the society with elevated status. In the MBIIB,
with the increased Asiatic presence in the eastern part of the
Egyptian Delta, trade contacts with Anatolia decreased [18-22].
Thus, these extensive political and socio-economic changes
in the MBII period may explain the change in availability of raw
materials and metal products and should be further explored.