II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > B. Kingdoms of Western Asia and Africa, to 323 B.C.E. > 5. Syria-Palestine, c. 3500–323 B.C.E. > d. The Land of Canaan
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
d. The Land of Canaan
c. 3100–2000
EARLY BRONZE AGE CANAAN. City-states developed in Syria-Palestine around 3100, serving as mediators between the protoliterate culture of Mesopotamia and the Gerzean culture of Egypt. In the mid-third millennium the region was dominated by Ebla. Egyptian inscriptions begin at Byblos with Nebka c. 2686, and there are close trade relations throughout the period. Around 2300, Uni, a general of Pepy I, led an expedition which may have reached Mt. Carmel (See c. 2345–2181). Mesopotamian culture also exerted influence, and Sargon the Great (2370–2316) conquered parts of northern Syria, reaching the Mediterranean (See 2371–2190).  1
c. 2100–1800
FIRST PERIOD OF EGYPTIAN DOMINATION. The Amorite invasion into Syria-Palestine, c. 2000, caused much dislocation, a decline in urbanism, and a return to nomadism in the Transjordan and parts of the central steppe. The Execration Texts from the Middle Kingdom Period (2040–1786) establish that Egypt exercised political control over southern Syria-Palestine, ruling through local vassal kings at Ashkelon, Beth-Shean, Shechem, Akko, Hazor, and Jerusalem. An inscription of Sesostris III (1878–1843) records a campaign which reached Shechem (See 1991–1786).  2
c. 1800–1450
THE GOLDEN AGE OF CANAAN. By the 18th century, urban culture was reestablished and the Canaanite cities, many with Amorite rulers, prospered through trade. Yantin`ammu ruled in an affluent Byblos; Ugarit rose in prominence; and Hazor, Qatna, and Aleppo were great centers of power. The rise of the Hyksos, apparently Amorites or Canaanites, is obscure, but in the 17th century they began building an empire in the west. Hyksos sites are characterized by enormous fortifications of earthen-work (terre pisée). The Hyksos 15th Dynasty (1650–1552) in Egypt exercised feudal authority in both Palestine and Egypt (See 1786–1552). In the 16th century Hurrians (biblical Horites) migrated into Palestine. By the end of the period, the Amorites had completely assimilated.  3
c. 1450–1365
SECOND PERIOD OF EGYPTIAN DOMINATION. Tuthmosis III (See 1490–1426) reestablished Egyptian political control over Syria, placing a garrison in Ugarit. Egyptian power loosened under Akehnaten (1364–1347), and the Hittite Empire exerted increasing control on the region. The Amarna Letters, written by vassal kings in Palestine to the Egyptian pharaohs, give some information on political and social history. The society was feudal, with a nobility of chariot warriors and serfs beneath. One segment of the population became outlaws and mercenaries, the so-called Hapiru, who often attacked and even took over Canaanite cities. A connection with the later Hebrews is possible, but problematic. In the late 14th century, the Akhlamu, possible forerunners of the Arameans, began to enter Syria (See 1364–1347). In 1270, Egypt and the Hittites divided Syria by treaty, with the boundary at the Eleutheris River (Nahr el-Kebir) (See 1289–1224)).  4
c. 1200
THE INVASION OF THE SEA PEOPLES. Around 1200, after having demolished the Hittite Empire, the Sea Peoples entered the region, and destroyed Ugarit and Tyre (See 1224–1186). Around 1180, one of the Sea Peoples, the Philistines (Peleset), settled on the coastal plain of Palestine. They formed a league of five city states (Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron), each governed by a 'tyrant' (seren). After the fall of the Hittite Empire, Hittites and Luwians moved into northern Syria and formed the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms. There was a northern group under the hegemony of Carchemish and a southern group consisting of Ya'diya, Hattina, Arpad, Til Barsip, and Hamath. Neo-Hittite art and architecture is a mix of their traditional style with Hurrian, Assyrian, and Aramean traditions. A number of Canaanite enclaves (such as the Jebusites at Jerusalem) remained in the interior, but most of the Canaanites retreated to the narrow strip of coastal land from Tyre northward to Arvad. This region is subsequently called Phoenicia (See Geography).  5
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.