Department of Archaeology and Ancient History

Kristina Josephson Hesse

Research area and time period

The geographical area in focus of my research is the Ancient Near East including Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean, during the Bronze Age. The reason to this widespread geographical interest is my research emphasis on the mobility of people and goods and the appearance of intercultural networks, seen in e.g. long-distance trade, diplomatic- and administrative contacts, and ancient migration.

My dissertation

Contacts and Trade at Late Bronze Age Hazor (2008a) , was about the large Levantine city-state Hazor and its international role in LB. The thesis shows that various origin and find contexts of the imported and culturally influenced material at Hazor imply three concepts in the field of interaction studies:

1) The northern influenced material at Hazor should be understood in the context of cultural identity maintained through external trade and the regional ‘peer polity interaction’ between northern city-states, resulting in certain cultural homogeneity.

2) A ‘core-periphery’ approach is used to explain the special unequal relation between Canaan and Egypt, in which Hazor might have possessed an integrating semi-peripheral role, a kind of diplomatic position between Egypt and its northern enemies. The city’s loyalty to Egypt is hinted at in documents and in the increasing evidences of emulation in elite contexts appearing on the site.

3) A model of ‘interregional interaction networks’ describes the organization of the trade which provided certain consumers at Hazor with the Aegean and Cypriote pottery and its desirable content. The cargo of the wrecked Ulu Burun and Cape Gelidonya ships, and documents, show that luxury items were transited from afar through Canaan. Such long-distance trade required professional traders that established networks along the main trade routes. The thesis suggests that Hazor possessed a node position in such a network.


My current project, Economic Integration between Pastoral Nomads and City-States in the Bronze Age Syro-Mesopotamian Landscape: a Network Perspective is financed by the Swedish Research Council 2014-2017. The project intends to illuminate the symbiotic relation between pastoral nomads and the settled urban population, with focus on the former, based on the economics of food producing, exchange, trade mediating and other services such as caravan escort and mercenary (Hesse in print). The study centres on the economic interaction between pastoral nomads of the Syro-Mesopotamian semi-arid desert and the urban population of primarily the city of Mari, located by the Euphrates River. The chronological focus is on the Middle Bronze Age, specifically c. 1810-1760 BCE, taking into account the number of sources available from this period of the city. The overall goal is to understand the social and economic dynamics between city-states and their hinterlands, the connections between and within these different groups of people in the Near Eastern Bronze Age and their ways of interacting with their surrounding environments. The empirical foundation of the project constitutes an integration of various kinds of sources - written documents, environmental data, archaeological material, and ethnographical/anthropological studies. Methodologically GIS applications are used as well as network computer programs and theories. Networks can, to a certain degree, be traced and reconstructed by documents that describe the individual and tribe relations, trade routes and the movements within, and exploitation of, the landscape.

My postdoctoral project Migration Networks in Archaeological Explanatory Models of Cultural Dispersion was financed by the Swedish Research Council 2010-2011. By applying the concept of networking through trade and exchange in combination with migration, this project illuminated two types of migration systems:

1. Circular migration, or tethered migration, characterized by migrants who regularly move out of their familiar home to achieve a specific goal but intend to return. Two case studies (A and B below) are discussed based on the project sites of Hazor and Palmyra:

A. At LB Hazor a trading quarter, a so called Karum, has been identified and studied, which seems to be part of a network of traders and kara. The study shows that these professional long-distance traders migrated between the inland and the coastal regions of Syria-Palestine choosing port sites depending on prevailing economic, political and environmental circumstances, and the demand for, and availability of, particular goods for import and export. At Hazor goods were reloaded and exchanged with local produce, exotic luxuries and raw materials. The investigation also reveals that the merchants may have maintained a separate cultural identity to that of the local inhabitants (Hesse 2012a).

B. The mountain chains and semi-arid dessert of Palmyra was the home of the pastoral nomads, who were engaged in the breeding of sheep and goat and hence annual migration. This case study deals with methods involving both archaeological and textual evidence of the Middle Bronze Age. During their migration the pastoral nomads were also engaged in trade and exchange, guiding and other services involving settled people. The investigation, which focused on a certain nomadic tribe called the Suteans, shows with examples that these people were engaged in escort of caravans as well as of raiding, particularly in the areas of Palmyra and Jebel Bishri (Hesse in press).

2. The second type of migration is chain migration in the Early Bronze Age, reflected in the chronological distribution of the Khirbet Kerak (KKW) pottery. This pottery is distributed chronologically during the third millennium BCE in wide environmental variations from Trans Caucasia and eventually appears in the southern Levant, where a cluster of core sites are investigated. The purpose of this approach is to find out the chronological relation of the appearance of this pottery, between these core sites, and the distribution of various pottery types and forms within each site. Thus, this project investigates the two-fold world of the immigrants – the public, or external, zone and the internal domain culturally rooted in the past. This is aligned with the theories by Bourdieu about Habitus, that a traditionally based product of the past is independent of external conditions of the present. The distribution of the pottery is yet under investigation (Hesse 2012b; forthc.).

Qualifications and cooperation

Besides my doctoral thesis in archaeology, I have studied Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University; and the archaeology of Middle Eastern areas as a Visiting Research Student and Visiting Research Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This, together with eight years of excavations in the project at Tel Hazor (, one year of excavations at the project at Tel Bet Yerah, TBYREP Tel Aviv university ( and the participation in several seasons of fieldwork in Syria in the Syrian-Norwegian NFR financed project “Palmyrena: City, Hinterland and Caravan Trade between the Occident and the Orient” ( and the Syrian-Finnish NorFa financed project “SYGIS” (, has given me a comprehensive picture of ancient Near Eastern/Eastern Mediterranean areas.

Some publications:

Hesse, Kristina J. “Adaptation in the Semi-Arid Syrian Landscape during the Old Babylonian Period”. In The Palmyrena project publication. Monographs from the Norwegian Institute at Athens. In print.

Hesse, Kristina J. ”Hazor as a Bronze Age City”. In Bible Odyssey. The Society of Biblical Literature, online encyclopaedia. 2014a.

Hesse, Kristina J. “Trade and Cultural Exchange at Hazor”. In Bible Odyssey. The Society of Biblical Literature, online encyclopaedia. 2014b.

Hesse, Kristina Josephson and Nils Anfinset. Palmyrena: Palmyra and the Surrounding Territory. Joint Syrian-Norwegian Project, Surface Survey North of Palmyra, April and April-May 2011. Preliminary Report, Prehistoric Periods. University of Bergen. 2013a.

Hesse, Kristina J. “An Inland Levantine Perspective on Late Bronze Age Maritime Trade – the Case of Hazor”. in Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East 2010 eds R. Matthews and J. Curtis. 663-680. Wiesbaden 2012a.

Hesse, Kristina J. Cultural Interaction and Cognitive Expressions in the Formation of Ancient Near Eastern Societies. In Urban Mind: Cultural and Environmental Dynamics, eds. P. Sinclair, G. Nordquist, F. Herschend, C. Isendahl. 63-90. Uppsala University 2010.

Hesse, Kristina Josephson. Contacts and Trade at Late Bronze Age Hazor: Aspects of Intercultural Relationships and Identity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Doctoral dissertation in archaeology, department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University 2008a.

Hesse, Kristina Josephson. Intercultural Relations in the Old Babylonian Period – The Contacts between Mari and Hazor as a Case Study in Jebel Bishri in Context, edited by M. A. Lönnqvist, 33-49, Oxford. Archaeopress, 2008b.

Hesse, Kristina J & M. Cimadevilla. Report of the Area A1 excavation at Tel Hazor 2004. In the unpublished Preliminary Report of the Excavations at Tel Hazor 2004, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 2004. Reworked in the Hazor Volume VI and VII.

Anfinset, Nils and Kristina J. Hesse. Palmyra and its Hinterland from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age: Landscape, Economy and Interaction. An account and analysis of the prehistoric survey of the Palmyrena project. University of Bergen, forthc.

Hesse, Kristina J. “The Concept of Networking in Ancient Processes of Migration: Connections between KKW Sites in EB II-III Southern Levant”, forthc.

Popular science

Hesse, Kristina J. “Eastern Turkey Seminar. Rapport från SFII:s tvärvetenskapliga forskarresa.” in Dragomanen, No. 16, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, pp. 9 – 12. 2014c.

Hesse, Kristina J. ”Kvinnoliv i Mesopotamien avspeglade i Maridokumenten”. In Institutionens historier. En vänbok till Gullög Nordquist, eds. E. Weiberg, S. Carlsson & G. Ekroth. 89-98. Uppsala. 2013b.

Hesse, Kristina J. ”Migration i Mellanöstern för 5000 år sedan”. Dragomanen, No. 14, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, pp. 149-156. 2012b.

Hesse, Kristina J. ”Svenska Forskningsinstitutet i Istanbul fyller 50 år” in Dragomanen, No. 14, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, pp. 9 – 14. 2012c.