Biblical Archaeology Review 40:3, May/June 2014

Archaeological Views: Jerusalem and Samaria: An Anthropological Tale of Two Cities

By Jill Katz

In the ninth and eighth centuries B.C.E., Jerusalem was the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah while Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In some ways these cities were much the same: Each was the capital of a part of the former United Kingdom of Israel that had been ruled by David and his son Solomon. Yet they were also very different—ideologically, economically and politically.

These insights come from the field of urban anthropology, which places cities in their larger social and political contexts. Cities themselves are of course multifaceted entities and are made up of diverse elements—residential, industrial, commercial, religious, etc. Urban anthropologists, however, move beyond this static view of cities and instead view them as organic, dynamic entities in constant negotiation with their societies. A society’s ideological beliefs, economic needs, political structures and social behaviors are woven into the very fabric of its urban centers. At the same time, the cities themselves construct and reinforce relationships and values that influence their societies.

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