Studies conducted during the past three decades over a vast geographic area extending from the Southern Levant to the south of Spain have uncovered a multitude of direct evidence of warfare that resulted in the destruction of fortified settlements, some of which were large urban centers, in the fourth and third millennia BCE.

Besides all of the well-known sites where ‘destruction’ layers were discovered, the reasons for which are not known, we can today point to numerous sites where there is direct evidence of fighting, siege and violent destruction that happened mainly over the course of the third millennium BCE. The sites are located in the Land of Israel, Syria, Iran, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Britain. Still, we do not have direct evidence of warfare that happened in open areas in this period, even though we can reasonably assume that this type of combat comprised the overwhelming majority of violent events that occurred.

In this lecture I will present direct evidence from a number of sites in the geographic region cited above, where, despite the complexity of it, it turns out siege warfare was already an accepted mode of combat in the fourth millennium BCE. Central to the evidence is the extensive use that was made of various kinds of projectiles – different types of stone ballistae and arrowheads. Especially interesting is the use of stone or ceramic projectiles, thousands of which were discovered in the destruction levels of numerous sites in the region. It seems this weapon was particularly common and also easy to operate at short range, as is attested to by the projectiles that were discovered inside houses at fourth and third millennia sites, but also in the houses of the city of Olynthus, which was vanquished in a siege during the Greco-Persian war.

At the end of the lecture we will discuss whether it is possible to trace the factors resulting in the destruction of some of the urban sites in the Land of Israel at the end of the Early Bronze Age by taking into consideration military, political and social aspects.