The Shechem Polity

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Shechem in the ancient Middle East (Click to view large map)

In Israel Finklestein’s discussion paper The Forgotten Kingdom, considering the archeology and history of northern Israel, he considers the geographical area he is discussing as states with hub cities where each each hub can have a number of satellite communities around it.

In terms of a diagrammatic representation of his description, it might be thought of in the manner of what is popularly referred to as a mind map like the much simplified example of Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

It seems reasonable to assume that the connections between the hubs, sub-hubs and nodes might form the main lines of communication, at least for the formal/administrative purposes.

There would of course be informal communication of news and gossip and suchlike, between the various communities.  That communication would not in many instances follow the formal routes. It can also be reasonably assumed that the more informal communication routes would cross the boundaries of the outlying communities and potentially feed up to other hubs. It is quite possible, even likely, that some of those outlying communities of one hub could in practice be closer to an admin centre of another hub than their own. In the way the leaders, mayors appear to have competed for territory and influence, these outlying places would have become obvious targets to be attracted, or taken from one state into another by promises, or by more direct means.

I also suggest that some of these outlying communities might ‘report’ to two hubs (not directly but through the formal channels) as a means of defraying risk by having the option to cut ties on one side and strengthen them on the other as a means of avoiding a threat, or seeking better protection.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

An alternative way of looking at the distribution of power, to the mind map type diagram, which might have equal, perhaps greater, merit in some circumstances, is in the form of a dart board, Fig 2.

Thinking of the bullseye and inner ring as the centre of administration and the sectors further out around the outside as the other settlements and communities. As you get further away from the centre and the segments widen, so the population becomes more thinly spread over a greater area. Then at the periphery there will be some overlap with other boards. The closer to the centre, or hub of the board, the more likely the population will be if a neighbouring mayor were to attempt a land/power grab.

Whilst both suggested models have merit, which to choose will depend, to some degree, as the way in which we consider the distribution of power from the administrative centre of the city states, as suggested by Finklestein. In political terms, the dart board model is probably a reasonable representation but when we consider the geographical and topographical population distribution also, then the mind map type of model would probably be more helpful.

Adapted from my submission to the course
The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose and Political Future.

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One thought on “The Shechem Polity

  1. Pingback: The Shechem Polity | Christians Anonymous

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