added by archaeologs
Term used to describe the people occupying Palestine and southwestern Syria from at least the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age c.2000 BC) onwards. The geographical term Canaan is much easier to define than the cultural or ethnic traits of its Bronze Age inhabitants. Numerous Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts refer to the Canaanites from the 15th century BC onwards and the beginning of the Iron Age (c.750 BC) is usually considered to represent the end of the Canaanite culture, but there are major problems in attempting either to assess the origins of the Canaanites or to correlate the written references with archaeological sites. Kenyon (1966) argued that the Canaanites emerged during the period of AMORITE incursions into Syria-Palestine at the end of the 3rd millennium BC, and were in fact ‘urbanized Amorites’, whereas Millard (1973: 38) suggests that the situation was much more complex: ‘Palestine received a motley array of peoples and influences. Should the amalgam be designated Canaanite? . . . If the name was used by the natives of the area, then either they survived the various invasions, retaining some sense of identity . . . or the name was assumed by their conquerors, or simply applied to any denizens or products of the region.’
If the term is taken to refer simply to the inhabitants of Palestine in the 2nd and early 1st millennia BC then the major Canaanite cities would include Hazor, BETH SHAN and MEGIDDO. Canaanite personal names in the AMARNA letters and the UGARIT archives suggest that the population was a mixture of Semites, Hurrians and Indo-Europeans. In c.1600 BC the West-Semitic speaking Canaanites began to write texts using an alphabet of 32 letters, which was perhaps derived partly from the Egyptian HIERATIC script. The Canaanite alphabet evolved into the PHOENICIAN script and was eventually to form the basis for the Greek, Hebrew and Arabian alphabets.
T. Bauer: Die Ostkanaanäer (Leipzig, 1926); J. Gray: The Canaanites (London, 1964); K. Kenyon: Amorites and Canaanites (Oxford, 1996); A.R. Millard: ‘The Canaanites’, Peoples of Old Testament times, ed. D.J. Wiseman (Oxford, 1973), 29–52.