Agrarian Economies in Depopulated Areas in Persian Antiquity


The complex subject of agricultural economies in the ancient Mediterranean world has attracted much scholarly interest. Our special topic cuts across several disciplines – biblical studies, anthropology, archaeology, classics, epigraphy, economics, gender studies, history, Jewish studies, and religious studies.Many regional surveys have been conducted throughout Israel in the last four decades, which provide historians with invaluable information about settlement trends in various historical eras. One intention of these special sessions at EABS is to explore the relevance of the settlement patterns for the two centuries during which Yehud was part of the Achaemenid empire. This area of the southern Levant was significantly depopulated as the result of the Assyrian campaigns of the late 8th century and especially the Babylonian campaigns of the early 6th century. From this devastation, it took the highland regions centuries to recover.Within the special EABS sessions, we hope to address several related sets of issues. One involves identifying which areas were depopulated, shifts in regional balances of power due to various levels of depopulation and substantial differences in terms of when areas began to be redeveloped, and why some areas were redeveloped, but others were not during the Persian period. These issues may be addressed both at the regional inter-polity level and at the inner-Yehudite level.A second set of questions concerns the material and literary evidence for whether the traditional mainstays of the agricultural economy shifted during this era.A third set of questions concerns land ownership, possible squatters' rights, and centralized governmental interventions (including military ventures).A fourth concerns the development of trade in the broader area, especially in light of repeated Egyptian revolts in the latter part of the Persian era.A fifth concerns the development of a potential gap between symbolic vs. economic value and availability of resources (e.g., ‘land’). Can a resource be both ‘easily available’ and ‘scarce’ at the same time, and for whom and in which discourse?A sixth set concerns the economy of  monarchic Judah that was imagined/remembered in Yehud and how it may relate or not to the actual economy and social circumstances in Yehud.


Marvin Lloyd Miller

Gary N. Knoppers

Ehud Ben Zvi


Leipzig 2013 

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