The emergence of a nomadic desert polity: an archaeozoological perspective

Lidar Sapir-Hen*, Erez Ben-Yosef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent research has provided valuable insights into the identity and social structure of the local nomadic tribes operating the two main copper production centers in Wadi Arabah, Timna, and Faynan, between the thirteenth and the ninth century BCE. This was a time of major changes in the political and economic settings of Wadi Arabah and the entire southern Levant. Our study adds the archaeozoological perspective. It focuses on animal remains, specifically access to animals and their products, as a proxy for social processes. We analyze materials from four smelting camps in Timna, dated to the twelfth to tenth century BCE, and discuss the results in the context of previous studies. Our results show that there is continuity in the ways livestock animals were exploited. However, a shift in the economic basis occurred in the late eleventh century, when cattle and sheep, which are expensive, especially in desert conditions, became part of the local economy. We argue that this change is regional and that it implies an economic flourishing of the entire region during the late eleventh to ninth century BCE. Our observations corroborate others that point to the rise of an early nomadic state—the early Edomite kingdom—during this period. They also contribute to our understanding of nomadic societies, including their ability to achieve a greater level of social complexity than the one typically attributed to them in research on the region under study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number232
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation408/22, 1880/17


    • Animal economy
    • Archaeozoology
    • Iron Age
    • Nomads
    • Social complexity
    • Timna


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