The Intermediate Bronze Age (circa 2200-2000 BCE) is considered by many to be an uncomprehended hiatus between the two urban societies of the Early Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze Age II. The numerous cemeteries stand out prominently against the background of meager settlements. In the main regions of Israel a new method of burial becomes widely practiced whereby ‘shaft tombs’ are hewn in the ground, in which only a single body is interred together with a variety of funerary offerings. Among the prevalent funerary gifts is the abundance of copper daggers that have been described as the weapons of the warriors of the period. A systematic analysis of the mortuary methods of the owners of the daggers compared with those of other burials reveals a clear pattern by which the owners of the daggers were awarded different treatment, and there are those who would say preferential treatment, in death.

Every object may have many social meanings – symbol, threat, sacrifice, offering, loyalty, idea, antagonist etc. These meanings are no longer apparent when we find the object that the society which used it no longer exists. The burials of the Intermediate Bronze Age in the Land of Israel have been extensively studied in the past. However, there are social aspects that deserve to be re-examined. In this lecture I will attempt to expose the social function of the dagger beyond its functional use. I shall do this by comparing ethnographic studies that were conducted among preindustrial tribes and by means of cross-referencing the data with archaeological studies from other periods and regions. My conclusion is that the manner of burial and the funerary gifts in the Intermediate Bronze Age indirectly reflect the social status of the deceased, and that the daggers played a central role in defining these social functions and contexts. At the same time, they also served as status symbols for the elder men and bestowed distinction upon their owners. The mining of copper, which was expensive, and the trade in it were controlled by the men who were the only ones who possessed daggers (and that occurred only in the richer tribes). The dagger symbolized the social identity of the man, and being interred together with the dagger helped to make male political dominance legitimate, as though this was the situation from time immemorial.
A study of the symbolic meaning, combined with a multi-disciplinary approach, corroborates the theory that during the Intermediate Bronze Age there were class societies that lived in the Land of Israel that were not egalitarian with regards to the division of resources.