« The Hasmonean Conquest of Idumea between Historical Sources and the Archaeological Finds »
The Edomites which inhabited the southern part of Transjordan in the first half of the first millennium BCE expanded over the second half of the millennium into southern Judah, eventually transforming this geographical unit into an administrative district named ‘Idumaea’ in the fourth century BCE at the latest. However, this ethnic group suffered a second upheaval with the Hasmonean conquest of Idumea at the end of the second century BCE, by the Hasmonaean ruler Hyrcanus I. According to the historical records (Flavius Josephus, Ptolemy of Ascalon(?), and Strabo) the conquest of Idumaea involved conversion of the Idumeans to Judaism. Former research, based mainly on this historical evidence, has focused on the question of whether the conversion was forced or voluntary. However, the archaeological evidence from western and southern Idumaea shows that the inhabitants of these regions did not choose to accept the Hasmonaean ultimatum of conversion so that they can remain in place, but rather abandoned their homes and disappeared from this region. Both urban centers, such as the city of Marisa, and rural sites, such as Khirbet er-Rasm, were abandoned and never resettled. Settlement in western Idumaea resumed only after a gap of about a hundred years in the days of Herod the Great (37–4 BCE), whose family (on his father side) was of Idumaean descent. In eastern Idumaea, evidence from the time of the conquest is rather scarce but shows destruction and immediate resettlement. In both areas the new settlements are characterized by indicative Jewish material culture.
The seminar paper will examine the various possible reasons and directions of the Idumean migration that followed the Hasmonaean conquest of Idumaea, as well as the consequences of this migration on Idumean influence on Jewish material culture under the Hasmonaeans and Herod the Great. It will also discuss the discrepancy between the historical texts and the archaeological evidence and how it can be resolved.
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