The Political System of Canaan

In contrast to the political structure of pharaonic Egypt; which was based, ideally, on the concept of a single unified kingdom. On the other hand. the political system of Canaan revolved around individual city-states; each with its own ruler. Now the city-state system was established ca. 2950/2900 BCE, with the urbanization of the region in the Early Bronze Age; and it continued until the end of the second millennium BCE. 

As in Egypt, the political system of Canaan saw periods of strength during which the urban centers flourished. But also periods of demise during which the states experienced decline and destruction. The precise terminology; characterization; and absolute chronology of these periods are not as clear as in Egypt. 

During periods of unity and strength; Egypt determined the nature of its relation with Canaan in accordance with its own needs. However, when the central rule in Egypt disintegrated; controls of its border weakened. And, as archaeological and textual records from the First and Second Intermediate Periods indicate, large-scale infiltration of foreigners from Canaan into the eastern Delta took place. 

Nevertheless, pharaonic Egypt clearly remained the major political power in the region, and Canaanites, whether in their homeland or as settlers in Egypt, continued to hold Egyptian culture in high esteem, adopting Egyptian cultural traits that they deemed prestigious. At the same time, textual and archaeological evidence also shows Canaan’s cultural influence on Egypt. 

First Contacts With Canaan 

In fact, Egypt’s earliest organized contacts with Canaan were associated with the importation of luxury goods sought by the rising Egyptian elite around the time of the unification of Egypt in the late fourth millennium BCE. It was at that time that cultural interaction between the two regions commenced. Gradually increasing over the course of the third and the second millennia BCE and varying to a great extent in accordance with political developments in both regions. Similarly, there were considerable differences between Egypt’s relations with southern Canaan, namely, the area of present-day Israel. And its relations with northern Canaan, the region of Lebanon, and southern Syria. 


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