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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Levantine States


Shimron (Canaan)

In the mid-third millennium BC, city states began to appear in Syria as people benefited from interaction with Sumer and from improvements in irrigation. Within five hundred years, around 2000 BC, the same process was happening farther south and west, in the Levant, along the Mediterranean coast. Semitic-speaking Canaanite tribes occupied much of the area, creating a patchwork of city states of their own. The Phoenicians (more Canaanites) also occupied parts of this region, eventually founding their own mighty seaborne trading empire.

The former city of Shimron or Shim'on is usually linked to today's archaeological site of Tell Samunia in the Jezreel Valley, although not with complete certainty. The same site also seems to be known as Tell Samunia (otherwise shown as Tell Samunieh), which simply adds to the confusion. It is located about twenty-four kilometres to the south-east of Haifa in modern Israel, and parallel with the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee. Towards the end of the first millennium BC, 'Shimron' began to appeared in amended form as 'Simonias'.

Archaeology has found minimal Neolithic activity on the site, thereby dating the earliest occupation to at least about 4500 BC. Equally minimal evidence has been found of Chalcolithic activity, with this connecting the site to the Ghassulian culture. By the Middle Bronze Age a small farming community existed which quickly expanded into a thriving town. An acropolis was added on the eastern side.

The city's proximity to the Acco Plain later made it an important feature on trade routes which laced through the area. In the twelfth century BC (dating estimated), as Shimron-meron, it was one of many to be conquered (allegedly) by Joshua and his Israelites. It is highly likely that Shimron-meron was the city's full name, or some form of descriptive nickname. There was also a king by the name of Shimron, ruler of the Canaanite city of Achshaph which was, like Shimron itself, an Israelite Settlement period conquest.

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, A H Sayce, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran, 1992, from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Summer in Shimron (Red-Headed Archaeologist).)

c.2000 - 1800 BC

Egypt's 'Middle Kingdom' can be noted at this time for its expansion of trade outside of the kingdom. This includes maintaining a trading presence along the Mediterranean coast while Amorites settle and found the city of Arvad.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 2000 BC
At the start of the second millennium BC, a series of small city states in Anatolia which had existed for perhaps a millennium now began to emerge from obscurity (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Shimron itself is mentioned in Egyptian tablets, but not as a particularly vital city despite its position on a prosperous trade route. This position imbues it with an international influence which is reflected in a cylinder seal which archaeologists discover in 2017. Animal depictions on the outer surface reflect influences from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syria.

1453 BC

Egypt reasserts its authority in the region following the disturbance of the 'Second Intermediate' by conquering territory in Canaan and Syria as far north as Amurru. It establishes three provinces in the conquered territories which are named Amurru (in southern Syria), Upe (in northern Canaan), and Canaan (in southern Canaan). The city of Arqa is destroyed by the Egyptians and Sumur is made the region's new principal city.

1348 BC

FeatureAkhenaten institutes monotheism in the fourth year of his reign of Egypt with the sole worship of the sun god Aton (see feature link for more). In the following year he founds a new capital at Amarna. During this period the Amarna letters are written - diplomatic correspondence with Assur-Uballit I of Assyria, the Kassite rulers of Babylonia, plus Mitanni, the Hittites, Alashiya, Arzawa, and the city states of Syria and Canaan.

The 'Aleppo Treaty' of the fourteenth century BC
The treaty agreed between Mursili II and Talmi-sharruma of Aleppo to regulate future relations between the two states - most of the document survived three millennia of abandonment before being rediscovered by archaeologists

fl c.1340s BC

Šammu-Hadi / Šum-Hadda

King of Shimron. Mentioned in the Amana letters.

Burnaburiash (II) of Babylon complains to Egypt that its vassals, Surata of Akko and Šum-Hadda of Shimron, have raided his caravan. The outcome is unknown, but the letter illustrates the importance of Shimron in terms of raiding and trading, and Akko in providing support and imperial irritation.

c.1200 BC

The entire Near East is hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops. Food supplies dwindle and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who have banded together greatly increases until, by about 1200 BC, this flood has turned into a tidal wave. Egyptian control of the Levant is abruptly ended, but many city states are barely able to survive this period, let alone re-establish any previous dominance they may have had.

c.1160s BC

The Jebusites are conquered by the Israelites, as are many other very minor Canaanite city states which are situated in and around what becomes Judah and lower Syria. Dor, Gezer, Megiddo, Shimron-meron, and Tirzah can be counted amongst their number, along with the other Israelite Settlement period conquests. The takeover is led by Joshua, but it appears to take place over a span of time, probably ten or twenty years if not more.

Tall Samunia, the ancient city of Shimron
The former small but important trading city of Shimron is identified with today's Tell Samunia (otherwise known as Tel Shimron)

c.1125 BC

The Israelites have been subdued by Jabin, 'king of Canaan', in Hazor. Now they are roused to rebel. Jabin's associate, Sisera, is routed in battle at Merom, and Hazor itself is sacked and burned, possibly by the Israelites who then annexe it to their still-tribal state. Jabin's allies (or vassals) include the kings of Achshaph, Madon, and Shimron, along with the king of the Hivites of the land of Mizpah.

c.1125 BC


King of Shimron-meron. Killed by Israelites.

Even referring to many of the Israelites conquests as city states may be generous. Many could be little more than obscure settlements and small tribes which are taken over piecemeal. Many also have not been pinpointed by modern archaeology, although educated guesses abound. Shimron is allotted to the Israelite tribe of Zebulun.

c.730s BC

The city of Shimron, already diminished since its capture by the Israelites, is destroyed in this century. It is Assyria under Tiglath-Pileser III which is assumed to be the culprit, thanks to a mention in the king's now-badly damaged annals of a name which has been restored to read as Samhuna, taken by modern scholars to mean Shimron.

Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria
Tiglath-Pileser III dominated the Levantine city states during the later years of the eighth century BC, terminating the kingdom of Samaria and, shown here, with his foot on the shoulder of Hanunu of the Philistine city of Gaza, a gesture of dominance in the face of Hanunu's crouched submission

The greater region around Shimron remains depopulated for centuries, thanks to the deportation policies of Tiglath-Pileser III and his successors. The site of Shimron shows very modest re-occupation of the former city during the Persian period, which becomes much more substantial during the subsequent Greek period.

As Ptolemaic Egyptian rule is replaced by Seleucid rule and then, as that shrivels across the Near East, Shimron is abandoned, seemingly in the middle of the second century BC. Sporadic habitation follows right up into the nineteenth century AD, but never beyond the extent of a poorly-populated village.

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