Publication Date

Summer 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Jonathan Roth


archaeology, Bronze Age, ethnicity, Gezer, Iron Age, social identity

Subject Areas

Ancient history; Archaeology


This project examines the issue of social identity, particularly ethnicity, in the ancient world. It focuses on one site, Gezer, and how ethnic identities there evolved between the Middle Bronze Age and the end of the Iron Age. Modern anthropological perspectives on ethnicity and methods used by archaeologists for identifying ethnicity archaeologically are examined. In light of these studies, the history of Gezer is inspected.

The site is chronologically divided into three periods, the Bronze Age, the Early Iron Age, and the Late Iron Age. Using both historical and archaeological sources, the occupational history of Gezer is outlined, highlighting ethnically salient points. The data from Gezer are compared to wider ethnic developments in the surrounding region, namely the Canaanites as an ethno-cultural entity, the Philistines, and the Israelites.

The analysis shows that from the Middle Bronze Age through the end of the Iron Age, Gezer experienced long periods of ethnic continuity as well as shorter phases of ethnic variety. During the Bronze Age, the city was the quintessential Canaanite city-state. It continued to be largely Canaanite in the Early Iron Age, though it was ethnically mixed having a minority of Philistines occupying part of the site. In the Late Iron Age the ethnic balance shifted as the site became gradually more Israelite, being completely Israelite by the end of the Iron Age. This study demonstrates that ethnic identity was an existing form of social identity in antiquity and is capable of being revealed in the historical and archaeological record.