Southern Levant

Satellite imagery of the Southern Levant

The Southern Levant is a geographical region encompassing the southern half of the Levant. It corresponds approximately to modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan; some definitions also include southern Lebanon, southern Syria and/or the Sinai Peninsula. As a strictly geographical description, it is sometimes used by archaeologists and historians to avoid the religious and political connotations of other names for the area.

Like much of Southwestern Asia, the Southern Levant is an arid region consisting mostly of desert and dry steppe, with a thin strip of wetter, temperate climate along the Mediterranean coast. Geographically it is dominated by the Jordan Valley, a section of the Great Rift Valley bisecting the region from north to south, and containing the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea – the lowest point on the earth's land surface.

The Southern Levant has a long history and is one of the areas of the world most intensively investigated by archaeologists. It is considered likely to be the first place that both early hominins and modern humans colonised outside of Africa. Consequently, it has a rich Stone Age archaeology, stretching back as early as 1.5 million years ago. With one of the earliest sites for urban settlements of humans, it also corresponds to the western parts of the Fertile Crescent.


Maps showing the extent of the Southern Levant based on geographic features (left)[1][2][3][4][5] or modern political boundaries (right).[6][7][8] Definitions vary between scholars:
  Core area of the Southern Levant (Israel, Palestine & Jordan)
  Other regions sometimes included in the Southern Levant (Southern Lebanon, Southern Syria, the Sinai Peninsula & the Badia)

The Southern Levant refers to the lower half of the Levant but there is some variance of geographical definition, with the widest definition including Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, southern Syria and the Sinai Desert.[7] In the field of archaeology, the southern Levant is "the region formerly identified as Syria-Palestine and including Canaan."[9]

Many scholars studying the region's archaeology have adopted the term Levant (including northern and southern halves) as the "term of choice" due to it being a "wider, yet relevant, cultural corpus" that does not have the "political overtones" of Syria-Palestine.[9] A survey of North American dissertations shows the "overwhelming emphasis and scope of these works has been the southern Levant, an area formerly identified as Syria-Palestine including Canaan", but with most modern Ph.D. dissertations using the terms 'Israel' and 'Canaan'.[9]

The term "Southern Levant" has also been criticized as imprecise[10] and an awkward name.[11][12] The term Southern Levant has been described in academic discourse as a "at least a strictly geographical" description of the region, avoiding religious and political connotations of names such as "Canaan", "Holy Land", "Land of Israel", or "Palestine".[11]

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Tiếng Việt: Nam Levant