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From the earliest evidence of humankind in Palestine to the establishment of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the ministry of Jesus, and the rise of the Christian Church, the richly illustrated HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History brings the Bible to life in all its geographical context.
Detailed biblical references, timelines, and suggestions for further reading accompany each period of biblical history, conveying a tangible sense of the land, events, and people portrayed in the world's most famous book. With more than 100 full-color maps, timelines, and expert explanations, this superlative reference work will enable readers to more fully appreciate and understand the Bible and its stories.
The HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History features:
Palestine has always been something of a "gateway." Geographically, it serves as a landbridge between Asia and Africa; historically, it was an important route between the two centers of ancient civilization: Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The land has a basic relief of rounded mountains and incised valleys, which have determined the pattern of major roads. Seen from the west, Palestine consists of a coastal plain, a lowland, and two lines of mountains, divided by the great rift that runs southward from Syria to the source of the African river Zambezi.
The river Jordan runs through the Palestinian section of this rift. Indeed, the Jordan depression is a unique feature of the physical geography of Palestine. The point where the river enters the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the land surface of the Earth, some 393 m (1280 ft) below sea level. Appropriately, the name Jordan means "the descender."
Palestine lies in a subtropical zone, with a long dry summer and a short rainy season in winter. Precipitation varies greatly. The northern mountains of Carmel, Upper Galilee and northern Samaria were once covered with dense woodland sustained by the fair amount of rain. Now, however, only a narrow strip along the Mediterranean enjoys a relatively large amount of rainfall. Desert surrounds Palestine on the south and east.
The geology of the land has had a huge impact on human activities. The hard limestone in the hills of Palestine weathers into a rich red-brown soil called terra rossa, ideal for farming. However, the soft limestone (the intermediate Senonian rock) tendsto erode into a gray infertile soil. Building stone was quarried from the limestone rocks of Cenomanian, Turonian, and Eocene formations. Quarries have been found at Megiddo, Samaria, and Ramat Rahel in Iron Age contexts. Basalt exists in eastern Galilee and in the Golan; since prehistoric times, it has been the basic material for making querns and mortars.
Palestine is not very rich in mineral resources. A thick layer of red Nubian sandstone, containing deposits of copper, is known from southern Transjordan and around the river Jabbok; iron is mined in the mountains of Transjordan. Salt is obtained from the Mediterranean or from the Dead Sea.
The economy of Palestine has generally been pastoralagrarian in character. Some plant species have migrated from as far away as Western Europe, Central Asia, and Central Africa. Agriculture has traditionally been based on grain, wine, and olive oil. Barley was usually grown in areas of poor soil and limited precipitation. Supplementing these were figs, pomegranates, dates, and almonds. Terraces were frequently built in serried fashion on the slopes of hills for farming. Easy access between fields and the marketplaces was vital, and in many areas of Palestine a complex network of regional and rural roads was established.
The great variety of soil and rainfall makes for a diversity of flora. In the narrow belt of land known as the Mediterranean zone, the climate is characterized by a short, wet winter with an annual total rainfall of between 15.5 and 47.25 in. The zone originally supported evergreen woodlands and high maquis vegetation, but this has now been destroyed. The typical trees are the Aleppo pine, the common oak, the Palestine terebinth, the laurel, the carob, and the mastic terebinth.
Loess or thin calcareous soils exist in the Irano-Turanian zone. The climate is characterized by a low rainfall with an annual total ranging between 7.5 and 11.5 in. Since this is the absolute limit for dry-farming, only sparse trees and shrubs are to be found, notably the lotus jujube and the Atlantic terebinth. The Saharo-Arabian zone has the poorest flora in the Levant. The rainfall does not exceed 7.5 in and can be much less. The soils are not conducive to plant growth, but thorny acacias of African-savannah origin grow in the wadi beds and survive on the water of the occasional flash flood.
The region supports a great variety of animals including over 100 species of mammals and almost 500 species of birds. The Bible refers to many different wild animals, including the lion, tiger, bear, antelope, wild ox, Mesopotamian fallow deer, ostrich, crocodile, and hippopotamus. Some of these - such as the lion, ostrich, and bear are no longer found in the region, mainly due to intensive hunting. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the crocodile, which originally inhabited the river Jordan, could still be seen in Nahal Tanninim ("the crocodile river") in the coastal plain of Palestine. The ibex and hyrax, mentioned in the Bible as living in the high hills (Ps 104.18), are common today in a number of rocky locations in Sinai and Negeb and at En-gedi near the Dead Sea. In nearby Nahal Mishmar, objects decorated with ibex horns were found in the bronze hoard dating back to the Chalcolithic period. The Sinai leopard referred to in a number of biblical passages is critically endangered, if not already extinct. Ancient representations of the leopard have come to light on a Neolithic wall painting in Anatolia, in stone constructions in the desert floor next to a structure of the late 6th millennium BC at Biqat Uvda in southern Palestine, and in ancient wall carvings in Sinai (Wadi Abu-Jada).
Domesticated animals are also frequently mentioned in the Bible. Among them are horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, and cattle. Insects too, such as fleas, mosquitoes, and locusts, feature in biblical passages.HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History. Copyright © by James B. Pritchard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.