Talk:Southern Levant

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RFC on Wording of Lede Paragraph[edit]

Both A and B have well-reasoned support and opposition. There is a weak consensus favouring A, the current version, so we shouldn't adopt B over A. Nevertheless, the RfC revealed a more useful conclusion: "Southern Levant" is primarily used by archaeologists to refer to the geographical area without invoking the geo-political connotations of other names for the region. So this RfC should be closed with a recommendation to rearrange the contents of the article with this scope in mind. Deryck C. 18:27, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Which of the following paragraphs should be the introductory paragraph to Southern Levant? Please indicate your support for A or B in the Survey (or propose an alternate wording). Robert McClenon (talk) 02:53, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

Do not reply to statements in the Survey. Threaded discussion is permitted in the Threaded Discussion section; that is its purpose. Robert McClenon (talk) 02:53, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

A. The Southern Levant roughly encompasses the lower half of the Levant, resulting in some variance of geographical definition, with the widest definition including Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, southern Syria and the Sinai Desert.[1] In the field of archaeology, the southern Levant is "the region formerly identified as Syria-Palestine and including Canaan."[2] Archaeologically, it is among the most extensively excavated regions in the world.[3]

B. The Southern Levant roughly encompasses the lower half of the Levant, resulting in some variance of geographical definition, with the widest definition including Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, southern Syria and the Sinai Desert.[4] The region is known by a wide variety of names including Palestine (region), the Land of Israel, Southern Syria, Canaan, the Holy Land and the Promised Land. Archaeologically, it is among the most extensively excavated regions in the world.[5]


  1. ^ "Ancient Texts and Archaeology Revisited-Radiocarbon and Biblical Dating in the Southern Levant - Antiquity | HighBeam Research". Retrieved 2016-04-26. 
  2. ^ Burke, Aaron. The Transformation of Biblical and Syro-Palestinian Archaeology" The Transformation of Biblical and Syro-Palestinian Archaeology." Historical Biblical Archaeology and the Future: The New Pragmatism. Ed. Thomas Evan. Levy. London: Equinox Pub., 2010. "Much work continues to be done in these regions, and not surprisingly this work is now of great interest to those studying the southern Levant (i.e. the region formerly identified as Syria-Palestine and including Canaan)...Nevertheless, despite such a well-reasoned basis for the identification of Levantine archaeology, the adoption of this term by many scholars has been, for the most part, simply the result of individual attempts to consider a wider, yet relevant, cultural corpus than that which is suggested by the use of terms like Canaan,Israel, or even Syria-Palestine. Regardless of the manner in which the term has come into common use, for a couple of additional reasons it seems clear that the Levant will remain the term of choice. In the first place scholars have shown a penchant for the term Levant, despite the fact that the term ‘Syria-Palestine’ has been advocated since the late 1970s. This is evident from the fact that no journal or series today has adopted a title that includes ‘Syria-Palestine’. However, the journal Levant has been published since 1969 and since 1990 Ägypten und Levante has also attracted a plethora of papers relating to the archaeology of this region. Furthermore, a search through any electronic database of titles reveals an overwhelming adoption of the term ‘Levant’ when compared to ‘Syria-Palestine’ for archaeological studies. Undoubtedly, this is mostly due to the fact that ‘Syria-Palestine’ is, correctly speaking, the title for a Roman administrative division of the Levant created by Hadrian (Millar 1993). The term ‘Syria-Palestine’ also carries political overtones that inadvertently evoke current efforts to establish a full-fledged Palestinian state. Scholars have recognized, therefore, that—for at least the time being—they can spare themselves further headaches by adopting the term Levant to identify this region"
  3. ^ "A passion for cultural difference. Archaeology and ethnicity in the southern Levant". Retrieved 2016-04-26. 
  4. ^ "Ancient Texts and Archaeology Revisited-Radiocarbon and Biblical Dating in the Southern Levant - Antiquity | HighBeam Research". Retrieved 2016-04-26. 
  5. ^ "A passion for cultural difference. Archaeology and ethnicity in the southern Levant". Retrieved 2016-04-26. 


  • Option B – More complete and encompassing. Everything in A is in B, plus the other stuff that's in B, making it a better choice. B just looks to be a better alternative. United States Man (talk) 04:33, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A, since B is incorrect The terms "Canaan" and "The Holy Land" are pretty well defined, and are only partly identical to "Southern Levant". Debresser (talk) 15:33, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Option A - Option B is inappropriately putting terms at the top-summary when they just are not prominent or extensive in the article. Option B is also worded incorrectly as these are not other names for the region, but seem to refer to areas included within the region in contexts other than the archeological theme of this article. Good for See Also, not as top-mention items. Markbassett (talk) 15:48, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Option A, but with added proposal - For a reader stumbling upon it from other Levant-related articles, it is not immediately clear that the article discusses the archeological concept. If it didn't, it would, of course, likely just be a content fork of Canaan, Holy Land or Palestine (region). Option B would seed further doubt on that matter by equating them. I believe it would already help a lot to get rid of this possible issue by starting the article with "In archeology, ..." or something similar to make its focus clear. Bataaf van Oranje (Prinsgezinde) (talk) 19:43, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A because "B" is incorrect. The area is wider than any one of the named entities with which it is supposedly synonymous. It's an amalgam. Laurel Lodged (talk) 21:40, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Not option A, because that is incorrect as well. Not only is the quotation itself incorrect (Canaan includes Phoenicia, which is not in Syria-Palestine), but the suggestion that Southern Levant is the same as Syria-Palestine is just one perspective (see above at #Sources providing a definition of the Southern Levant for more). Our encyclopaedia should provide a balanced overview of all mainstream views on a subject, and not give undue prominence to just one quotation. Oncenawhile (talk) 11:24, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A - The additional terms in B are not synonymous with Southern Levant. The Burke quote is helpful in understanding contemporary academic usage of the subject. I agree with the current change from Palestinian territories to (State of) Palestine. Drsmoo (talk) 14:38, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Neither – See Talk section: 'Delete the article altogether'. --Corriebertus (talk) 15:59, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
  • Neither - As per Corriebertus's remark above. Borsoka (talk) 04:37, 7 July 2016 (UTC)

Threaded Discussion[edit]

The crucial difference between A and B is that B removes the quote "the southern Levant is "the region formerly identified as Syria-Palestine and including Canaan." This quote is what the Dispute resolution was called about. William Dever, who established the term Syro-Palestinian archaeology, wrote that the term "may now be obsolete and in need of replacement". He advocated using "archaeology of the 'southern Levant' or simply the 'Levant'" when writing about the larger region as a whole. This is reasserted by Aaron Burke "this work is now of great interest to those studying the southern Levant (i.e. the region formerly identified as Syria-Palestine and including Canaan)" This information is important in understanding usage of Southern Levant in academia. When looking at archaeological research journals, Southern Levant is generally used in place of Syria-Palestine. Drsmoo (talk) 07:55, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

@Drsmoo: if you read Dever carefully, you'll see that he actually advocated for use of "Near East". And Burke said that most theses on the subject use Israel or Canaan as the names.
The one incontrovertible fact here is that there remains no scholarly consensus as to the right name for the region. Different scholars advocate a wide variety of positions on the most appropriate names. Our lede needs to represent this diversity. Oncenawhile (talk) 08:04, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Dever only advocated for Southern Levant or Levant as the regional name. The Near East is about 10x bigger, so no, Near East was never advocated as a comparable regional name, only as a prefix for a subregion of the Southern Levant. If the dissertation is about Canaanite pottery, it will refer to the area as Canaan and focus on that, but also typically describe the geographical area as the Southern Levant. Dever called the old regional terms "compromised", going through them one by one and laying out why they were unsuitable for general regional names. This is repeated within the book as well, where Southern Levant is used as the generic geographical name. Ie "The early bronze age in the Southern Levant", "Bronze and Iron Age Burials and Funerary Customs in the Southern Levant", etc. The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant details the ARCANE research program proposing to use ENL and ESL (Early Northern/Southern Levant) as a means of “avoiding the obvious pitfalls of ethnonyms." Southern Levant is the basic geographical name written as a non-controversial default. So one would write "Israel is located in the Southern Levant". There is in fact scholarly consensus for Southern Levant as a base geographical name. Previously, the base geographical name was "Syria-Palestine" but that is no longer the case, as is reflected in the relevant sources. Drsmoo (talk) 08:33, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, no. The quote is here:
  • If all of the older terms are now compromised (and they are) what do we propose? I can only suggest that we speak deliberately and specifically of the archaeology of each modern region of the Middle East despite the fact that many of these borders are recent and arbitrary. Thus, the archaeology of “Israel”; the “West Bank" (not “Samaria and Judea"); “Jordan”; and “Syria”. If an adjective is required for us to identify ourselves individually and professionally we can simply say: “I am a Near Eastern archaeologist specializing in X.” All the above may be awkward hut we have little choice if we are to avoid further politicization of our discipline. Alternatively we might speak of the archaeology of the “southern Levant" or simply the “Levant."
He says that it is best to use modern political designations, and use a wider adjective of "Near Eastern", or alternatively Southern Levant or Levant, if it is required.
Oncenawhile (talk) 08:42, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for posting the quote. Dever said that scholars studying a specific region, ie Israel, should only call themselves "a Near Eastern archaeologist specializing in Israel" because using the name Israel for the wider region would be politicization. Or calling it the "Palestine (region)" would be politicization. The only wider regional name(s) he advocated for was/were Southern Levant or Levant. The Near East contains the Southern Levant, but is in no way synonymous with it. Again, we have the Burke article which reinforces Dever "the southern Levant is "the region formerly identified as Syria-Palestine and including Canaan" and additionally reinforcing Dever by bringing up the "political overtones" of using Syria-Palestine to define the region. That's why Paleorient, and the Near East Reader and the other sources provided use Southern Levant as the geographical term. Drsmoo (talk) 09:06, 14 June 2016 (UTC) Drsmoo (talk) 09:02, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
We are getting closer here. The major difference now is emphasis. The characterization of the scholarly positions in your post above is much stronger than the reality. Those scholars who advocate for terms like Levant are doing so whilst acknowledging its awkwardness. Of the five sources we have, two use the term "awkward", one calls it "strange", and one calls it "imprecise". We have to be balanced here, and reflect the whole message of these scholars. Oncenawhile (talk) 09:32, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I'm glad you recognize that they're advocating for the term. You're incorrect with your numbers though. Claudia Sagona's comment on the name came after writing that the term Land of Israel evoked "the suspicion of a theological bias" and calling the term Palestine "a political designation for a restricted area". So after saying why she rejected the other terms, she wrote "Therefore I have joined those who today advocate the designation "Southern Levant." Although I confess that it is an awkward name, it is at least strictly geographical". "Strictly geographical" was the salient point, and the purpose of the sentence was to say that the term was being advocated for due to it's strictly geographical nature, not it's phonetics. That an author advocating for the term was changed in the article to "criticized as an awkward name" is pure WP:Synth. There was no criticism. The same is true for the "strange expression" quote, which follows the author writing that the names "Israel"/"Palestine" imply ownership to either nationality and writing that they "may introduce misunderstanding." Yet somehow these actual criticisms of Israel/Palestine as regional names were ignored and left out of their respective articles, and only comments on phonetics were left in this one. It was WP:Synth and POV pushing. The Paleorient editorial was from 23 years ago, and was critical of using wider geographical names rather than more specific ones. At no point were they criticizing the term Southern Levant itself, and in fact, searching through their archives, they use the term "Southern Levant" thoroughly and consistently throughout the journal. Drsmoo (talk) 10:19, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I said advocating for Levant, not Southern Levant. Some of your interpretations above appear strange and extreme. All these synth and pov attacks are unhelpful. We both want to reach the same goal, which is to properly represent the sources. I don't understand why it is proving so difficult. Let's wait for others to comment. Oncenawhile (talk) 10:44, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
The sources reflect Southern Levant and the earlier version was pure WP:Synth, there is no problem calling it as such. Additionally, I hope you'll comment on policy and not on other editors, comments like "Some of your interpretations above appear strange and extreme" are uncivil and unhelpful. Drsmoo (talk) 10:54, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
This article section is relevant and interesting reading. Oncenawhile (talk) 11:11, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
I'll let the above edits speak for themselves. Drsmoo (talk) 11:19, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

Palestinian Territories or Palestine[edit]

Should the lead, whatever it will be, say "Palestinian Territories" or "Palestine"? Debresser (talk) 15:33, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Delete the article altogether[edit]

Sorry: the need for this article has never been shown or argued. Its first version (9 Aug 2003) bears only on 'archaeology of the southern Levant' but gives no rationale why such article separate from Levant would be needed. The present proposals (A) + (B) in Talk section RFC on Wording of Lede Paragraph contend that 'The Southern Levant roughly encompasses ...' this or that, but base that contention on only one source: HighBeam Research. I don't know those guys, and no doubt they have some specific interest (or agenda) to want to make us believe that a separate 'Southern Levant' should be defined, but one source is not enough for Wikipedia to justify (the need of) such a separate article. --Corriebertus (talk) 15:52, 6 July 2016 (UTC) NB: Of course I should now properly propose an article's deletion. But that's now too difficult for me. But if someone would go through that trouble, please contact me and I'll subscribe the request. --Corriebertus (talk) 16:03, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

Article Southern Levant consists of only one subject(=section): 'History'. That section refers in its first line to three "main articles": Prehistory of the Levant, History of Palestine, and History of Israel.
At the same time, article Levant has also already a section 'History' that refers also to three main articles, of which 'Prehistory of the Levant' is also mentioned in 'SouthernLevant' (the other two are not).
So, all we basically have to do is move those references to "Main articles: History of Palestine, and History of Israel" to the starting line of Levant#History. Which I've done just now. If there is no clear and motivated need for a separate article on 'Southern Levant', (and I have argued here yesterday that there isn't), we can now delete this article. --Corriebertus (talk) 09:52, 7 July 2016 (UTC)

Terminology section[edit]

Following the removal of this section two months ago, consensus was gained for its inclusion at Wikipedia:Dispute_resolution_noticeboard/Archive_139#Southern_Levant.

However, consensus has yet to be gained as to exactly what the section says - two versions were proposed at the DRN, but not discussed.

Drsmoo, how would you like to progress this to reach a resolution?

Oncenawhile (talk) 20:20, 24 July 2016 (UTC)

You should make declarations and proposals to editors in general, as multiple editors have been working together to improve the article. Personally, I'll be working to flesh out and significantly expand this article. Regarding the terminology section, no consensus was reflected in the link you posted, which is a dispute resolution over the lead. Regarding the contents of the section, as was explained to you by an academic who works in the field, there is no controversy over the widely-used term. The cherry-picked sources you WP:Synth'd together don't reflect controversy either when actually read. Despite five years of you openly making hostile comments towards/mass deleting references to the region from Wikipedia, (culminating in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the main article altogether), I'm willing to edit collaboratively with you, but that won't include WP:Synth, cherry-picked material, or any other violations of policy. Drsmoo (talk) 22:41, 24 July 2016 (UTC)
@Drsmoo: In the DRN you wrote the following:
  • I think the section you're referring to is the Academic Usage section, I agree it should remain in the article. [...] The sources themselves are fine as long as they're presented in context. Drsmoo (talk) 05:25, 4 June 2016 (UTC)'
Others were also in agreement, and none held the opposite view.
Oncenawhile (talk) 07:33, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
You chopped out essentially the entire edit as well as ignoring the previous post in the DRN that I made, which is that the academic usage section had become a collection of cherry-picked quotes, and that the way the sources were presented was WP:Synth. For example, you can't say someone is criticizing a term when they're not, that's Synth. You also can't cherry pick sources to backup a POV, that's Synth as well. For example, if there were a reliable source that said there was controversy over the term, then you could go and find prominent voices to represent that controversy. However, you can't decide that a non-controversial term is controversial because you personally don't like it, then chop up quotes from scholars who advocate the use of the term (as most scholars do) and twist their words around to make the topic seem controversial, that is the definition of Synth. The specific example I gave was Claudia Sagona, who when describing why she advocates use of southern Levant, listed the pros and cons of the names Israel and Palestine, describing the name Israel as religious and the name Palestine as political, before saying that she found the NAME southern Levant to be awkward, but that due to it's MEANING of being strictly geographical, she joined those who advocate for its use. For that to be twisted into a claim that the term was criticized is textbook Synth, as are all the other cherry picked examples provided.
What the academic section should be, if it is to be included in the article is a description of the history of the term, and a description of the way the term is used throughout academia ie, it's use in journals, scholarly papers etc. Drsmoo (talk) 08:00, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
We are in agreement on the concept, and we need to discuss the details. We both made drafting proposals for this section during the DRN.
However there is no further debate on "if it is to be included in the article" - that was agreed at the DRN. Oncenawhile (talk) 11:23, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
The DRN was over the lead and there wasn't any consensus on that point tbh. Anyway, you say "we" but it kind of feels like WP:Own, which isn't a good way to edit. Drsmoo (talk) 17:09, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
No it was not - you wrote the dispute overview, which had two paragraphs, the second of which was entirely related to this point. Of the seven sections of statements made throughout the DRN, the first six were almost exclusively related to this paragraph.
I said "we" above as a nice way of saying I agree with you.
Oncenawhile (talk) 19:18, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

If you would like to proceed in reaching an agreed position here, do you have a preference re how to proceed? One option is we could comment on each other's drafts as proposed at the DRN. Oncenawhile (talk) 19:22, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

My desire on how to proceed is to have editors knowledgeable about the subject contribute towards improving and expanding the article with encyclopedic/factual information about the region. If you'd like to help with adding factual data about the region from scholarly sources that would be great. The closing of the RFC made some recommendations, so I'll be going along with those, and continuing to encourage contributions from knowledgeable editors. Drsmoo (talk) 20:34, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Right. So for this section, we are agreed on a selection of good sources (and there may be more to come). But we haven't yet agreed on how to represent those sources in an unbiased fashion. How would you like to proceed with reaching agreement on the presentation of the sources? Oncenawhile (talk) 20:44, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
The terminology section should reflect the RFC conclusion "Nevertheless, the RfC revealed a more useful conclusion: "Southern Levant" is primarily used by archaeologists to refer to the geographical area without invoking the geo-political connotations of other names for the region. So this RfC should be closed with a recommendation to rearrange the contents of the article with this scope in mind." Drsmoo (talk) 20:48, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Nope. That conclusion does not reflect the weight of sources and is not reflective of either option discussed at the RFC. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:33, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Actually yes, it does, and that's the template the article will follow. Drsmoo (talk) 21:42, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
No it will not. The contribution of one editor, whose summary does not reflect the discussion, does not make consensus. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:59, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Yes it will, I agree with him also. Drsmoo (talk) 22:12, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
So if I had agreed with the editor in the thread immediately above this, should we have immediately deleted the article? Consensus requires thoughtful discussion. Oncenawhile (talk) 22:34, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

Outside Comment on Terminology Section[edit]

A comment was made on my talk page that discussion is stuck. The topic of this section is "Terminology Section". I see that one editor has deleted the terminology section, and has cited the RFC. The RFC didn't say to delete the Terminology section. It said to rearrange material as appropriate. The deletion of the Terminology Section should be discussed; it is not a foregone conclusion. Will someone explain what the reason is for deleting the section? Robert McClenon (talk) 02:08, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

The reference to RFC was regarding the lead, so I reverted my own edit to the lead in order to comply with the consensus expressed in the RFC. The removal of the terminology section was because it's full of WP:Synth material (ie, saying an author criticized the subject when they never did.) I think the terminology section should be in the article but should be revamped. I'll revert the removal of the terminology section as we continue to work on it. Drsmoo (talk) 02:36, 26 July 2016 (UTC)


The lead currently gives two definitions, one being the "widest definition" and the other being the archaeological definition. In the thread above at #Sources_providing_a_definition_of_the_Southern_Levant, we have a long list of conflicting defintions. The lead should not cherrypick, but provide a balanced overview. Oncenawhile (talk) 07:55, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

The lead is backed by consensus/supported by the DRN and is comprehensive and good. It won't change unless consensus changes. Drsmoo (talk) 08:09, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Please self-revert [1] this edit then. Either we work constructively and consensually on the lead, or we don't change it at all. Oncenawhile (talk) 11:20, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
I note you chose not to comment on this. Since you will not self revert, I conclude that you consider yourself free to amend the lead, which means the same must apply to me. I have a number of changes to make, which I will propose in due course. Oncenawhile (talk) 19:26, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
As you can see the RFC has now been closed. I will revert in a few hours after the 24h are up. Drsmoo (talk) 19:57, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
What will you revert? Oncenawhile (talk) 20:45, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
The changes to the lead as well as the currently WP:Synth/WP:Undue "terminology" section (until the Synth is removed and it's improved to reflect the RFC) Drsmoo (talk) 20:49, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
You have already agreed it is not undue, as did the rest of the contributors at the DRN. Since you think the drafting is synth, then change it to your preferred version and explain your reasoning. We are here to engage in constructive discussion, not to endlessly edit war. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:36, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
No, I said it was Cherry Picked, Synth, and Undue. It doesn't help the article to have only two editors working either, or one, so I'd actually prefer to have the involvement of additional editors in drafting sections, rather than drafting it myself. Drsmoo (talk) 21:41, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Call it what you like, except UNDUE, as you and the entire DRN already agreed it was appropriate. I have waited patiently for two months since you unilaterally removed the section. It is time for you to either engage in discussion or walk away. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:58, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
I'm happily engaged in discussion right now, I said it was Undue during the DRN as well. "Additionally, a major issue is the insertion of WP:UNDUE, cherry picked "criticisms" of the subject that are inserted into the article via original research. These comments have no place in an article about a geographical region. Their existence in the article is basically a result of WP:IJUSTDONTLIKEIT. Drsmoo (talk) 14:20, 27 May 2016 (UTC)"
That was your opening statement. After that, Debresser and Laurel Lodged both suggested that all well sourced opinions should be included, and the moderator wrote "My own opinion, and I try to be neutral, is that if some editors think it is needed, it probably serves a purpose." You then wrote "I think the section you're referring to is the Academic Usage section, I agree it should remain in the article. [...] The sources themselves are fine as long as they're presented in context. Drsmoo (talk) 05:25, 4 June 2016 (UTC)".
It says something depressing about the effectiveness of our communication when we can argue in circles over objectively and clearly written evidence of a historical debate. Oncenawhile (talk) 22:32, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Again, you strangely deleted the majority of my actual post, which is that the section as presented was UNDUE and SYNTH. Drsmoo (talk) 23:02, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
There was agreement, including from me, that there could be an academic usage section, but there was no consensus for the addition of Synth. Also, what do you mean you "waited two months"? You proposed to have the whole article deleted two weeks ago. Drsmoo (talk) 22:20, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
The deletion discussion was requested by another editor. Frankly I don't feel strongly either way, but thought it was good to have the discussion as deletion discussions normally attract a good crowd.
You deleted the terminology section in May, and after being challenged you turned aggressive and edit warred. So I pulled back and decided to wait. And now here we are two months later, with almost no progress. Oncenawhile (talk) 22:25, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Nope, the deletion proposal was opened by you and you advocated for the article's deletion, just as you voted to delete the category, and have gone through Wikipedia deleting mentions of/links to the southern Levant en masse. I opened the mediation/RFC in an attempt to get outside editors involved. Before the RFC was even closed, you argued for the article's deletion. Drsmoo (talk) 22:48, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

Outside Question[edit]

I can see considerable back-and-forth. There has been so much back-and-forth that it isn't really clear to me what the question is. What is the question about which I was asked to offer an opinion? Robert McClenon (talk) 02:10, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

The current discussion is over the content of the terminology section. There is also a wider discussion over expanding/revamping the article. Drsmoo (talk) 03:00, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
Hi Robert, thanks for coming in to help here. Anything you have time to give a view on would be appreciated. The other editor and I desparately need outside perspectives to keep us grounded. At the heart of this there are two debates - one is how to interpret what scholars are saying re the usage of the term (which we are summarising quite concisely so far in the thread immediately below this one), and the other (which we have made early steps towards engaging on in this "definition" thread) is how to describe how scholars actually define the region of Southern Levant, given the breadth and variance of the different geographical boundaries given in scholarly descriptions. Oncenawhile (talk) 07:27, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

Major revamp[edit]

User:Oncenawhile invited me to come back and participate in the ongoing discussion.

I suggested we should be clear to our readers that this term is primarily used in archaeology to avoid political overtones. I didn't make explicit suggestions about how to do that in the RfC closure because that wouldn't be appropriate as part of a closure. I'm happy to make suggestions as a follow-up now but procedurally that means I'm now an involved editor.

I note that much of the content in the lead section aren't repeated in the following sections. So if I were to brush up the article, I would merge the existing lead section into the "Terminology" section, then write a completely new lead section to summarise the article. I might also rename "History" to "Archaeological findings".

I'm on the move for the next 2 days or so, so I can't do a major edit to the article myself at the moment. But I'm happy to muck in later on if welcome. Deryck C. 22:32, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

Hi Deryck, thanks for agreeing to help - the one other editor and I are not doing too well on our own.
I am fine with your overall proposal subject to one point - we don't have any sources stating that "Southern Levant" is used to avoid political overtones. The relevant source states that "Levant" is used to avoid political overtones. It may seem like a subtle point but it's at the heart of our ongoing dispute here. Oncenawhile (talk) 22:47, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Thanks Deryck, looking forward to working with you and other editors on the article. The sources do refer directly to the southern Levant in terms of avoiding political overtones/as a neutral term. Dever and Sagona describe the southern Levant as non-political and strictly geographical, while Flannery describes the term as "generic" and Whiting writes of the southern Levant "The term has been used to avoid confusion with the 'Israel' of the Old Testament and because of the political sensitivity in the area". Burke describes the apolitical nature of the word Levant itself (including both the northern and southern Levant) as does Levy Drsmoo (talk) 23:30, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
The problem is that none of these sources provide the meta statement that the term Southern Levant is used in the mainstream in order to be apolitical. Whilst we may want to conclude that some are close enough to make a jump (synth), such a jump would give a misleading impression because we certainly have nothing close to suggesting that the term "Southern Levant", apolitical or not, is in mainstream usage. In fact, the three sources above which directly advocate use of the term (Sagona de Geus, Whiting and Flannery - note that Dever advocates Near East) are doing just that - advocating - and are not providing any commentary on the extent of wider usage. And for every advocate there is a critic - de Geus, Arnold and Paléorient call the term Southern Levant awkward, strange and imprecise, respectively. The only two meta sources which provide a scholarly description of wider usage (Burke and Levy) are actually talking above the Levant (not the southern part), and Burke says the terms which are actually used for the southern part are Israel and Canaan, not Southern Levant. Oncenawhile (talk) 07:11, 26 July 2016 (UTC)


I am not sure that the term is "primarily used in archaeology to avoid political overtones". Certainly that hasn't been my experience, as an archaeologist working in the Southern Levant. I realise that doesn't get us anywhere, though.
It seems to me from reading this talk page that we've already tried and failed to construct that narrative out of the scant mentions in the few "meta" sources we have. Clearly, some scholars have moved from "Syro-Palestinian Archaeology" to "Southern Levantine archaeology" to avoid political overtones, and have discussed the term in that light. But that does not mean the term originated or is primarily used in that way; cf. BCE/CE, which many people consciously switched to for political neutrality, but which had an independent existence long before that, and many more people now use purely out of convention. My suspicion is that political concerns are much more relevant in the archaeology of historical periods, and especially in American "biblical archaeology", which is beset with these kind of problems. But the region also has a prehistory that has nothing to do with the Bible or the Israeli-Palestine conflict, where using biblical terminology like "Israel and Canaan" would be absurd, and "Southern Levant" is simply the obvious term for the geographic region. Scanning Google Scholar suggests to me that papers on these early periods actually make up a significant portion, if not a majority, of sources that use the phrase "Southern Levant". The problem is those who simply use the term as a straightforward geographical description are unlikely to write about it in a "meta" way.
So what I'd suggest is that rather than obsessing over a political debate which is barely visible in our sources, we take the tens of thousands of RSs that use the term as evidence that it is notable and widely accepted term for a geographic region (albeit perhaps only within the field of archaeology), and get to work on writing an article about that: its geography, climate, history, etc. Joe Roe (talk) 13:48, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
One last thing I'd add is that, as far as I know, there are no other names for this region. There are names for its constituent parts (Israel, Judea, Canaan, Palestine, Transjordan, Negev, Sinai, Al-Hamad) and larger regions that include it (Levant, Syria, Syria-Palestine, Holy Land, Near East, Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean), but nothing that's used in precisely the same way. I'd suggest that justifies us having an article that extends beyond a discussion of terminology, and that as long as that expansion was done carefully it would be more than a content fork (as was suggested on my talk page.) Joe Roe (talk) 14:01, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
Hi @Joe Roe: many thanks and I like your thinking. One point we need to agree on before approaching such a task is what actually is the definition of the region. Your posts above suggest you have a clear sense of this in your mind, so it would be great if you could share with us. We then need to square that with all the other scholarly defintions proposed, such as those at: #Sources_providing_a_definition_of_the_Southern_Levant. Oncenawhile (talk) 16:56, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
Thanks. I realise you and Drsmoo have put a lot of effort into this article and my apologies if the above comes across as me cutting through that, but you did ask for outside opinions!
I think the definition in my head is more or less in line with the sources collected above. The quick and easy definition is Israel, Palestine and Jordan (the modern countries). Coming up with geographical boundaries makes things more fuzzy, especially in the north and east: but the Litani River seems to be commonly cited, and you can imagine a line drawn between that and the Jebel Druze such that it includes a bit of southern Lebanon and Syria (but not the Damascus basin); everyone agrees the eastern boundary is "the desert" but it's a bit unclear where the desert begins. There's a somewhat Israel-centric tendency in the later archaeology of the region that would put say you're in desert as soon as you're out of the rift valley or even as soon as you cross the Jordan, but in reality there's a semi-arid zone that you could see extending as far as the Iraqi-Jordanian border (especially in prehistory) which I think ought to be included. Joe Roe (talk) 17:26, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

Lemme see. If I were to rewrite the lead section, I'll write it as such:

In archaeology, the Southern Levant refers to the geographical area that encompasses the southern half of the Levant. This terminology is a strictly geographical designations and is often chosen to avoid political overtones of other names for the area such as Syria-Palestine.

Evidence of human civilisation in the region since pre-history has been found. Artefacts from various cultures throughout the Bronze Age and the Iron Age have also been excavated. Later historical periods in the region from the Assyrian Empire onwards are generally named after the reigning dynasty. Because of its rich history, the Southern Levant is among the most extensively excavated regions in the world.

The area of the Southern Levant corresponds approximately to modern Israel, Palestine, and Jordan; some definitions include parts of nearby territories.

...and then merge the existing lead section's content to the "terminology" section as appropriate. Deryck C. 13:53, 1 August 2016 (UTC)

I think that's a significant improvement over what we have now, both in terms of accuracy and readability. I'd suggest maybe dropping the "In archaeology," – it's not solely used in archaeology, even if it is primarily (e.g. [2] [3] [4]). I also think the second paragraph doesn't say a great deal—every part of the world has a prehistory and a history that is "rich" in some way—so perhaps it would be better to hold off putting history in the lead until we have something more fleshed-out to summarise. So I'd suggest something like this:

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 often used by archaeologists and historians to avoid the religious and political connotations of other names for the area such as Palestine, Canaan, the Land of Israel or the Holy Land.

Joe Roe (talk) 16:46, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
I think that works really well! Drsmoo (talk) 16:47, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
I'm not sure about listing out the overloaded placenames in the last sentence, but I can live with that. Actually I'll make the edit now to get us started. Deryck C. 17:14, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
My concern with this lead paragraph is that we have no source for the last sentence. See my post immediately above the word "Break" above this thread (the post was timestamped 07:11, 26 July 2016). Oncenawhile (talk) 19:39, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
We do have sources though, in the body paragraph which the lead references. Drsmoo (talk) 20:08, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
No we do not. As I have explained above, none of the sources state that "often chosen to avoid political overtones of other names". Levant yes, but not Southern Levant. Even if we put sources aside, one can't argue that Palestine / Land of Israel / Southern Levant are all different regions, and also argue that they are used as synonyms. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:51, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
I tend to agree with Drsmoo's point here. Avoiding political and/or religious connotations is basically what Burke, De Geus, and Arnold are all trying to do. It may calm down some controversy by reducing the amount of discussion in the lead on which terms they're trying to avoid and have that discussion in the body text instead... Deryck C. 10:42, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
I think that Joe's proposal is fine. Laurel Lodged (talk) 11:43, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
@Oncenawhile: Would removing the references to specific alternative terms assuage your concerns? Or is the assertion that S. Levant is used out of political correctness in general? I see Deryck's point that the list may be a bit much for the lead, and in the body we could explain that they are not completely coterminous with "Southern Levant", but are terms for similar-ish regions that historically have served the same function in scholarly literature. Joe Roe (talk) 13:22, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
Hi Joe, I am fine with the similar terms - in the RFC above I had advocated including them in the lead. The conversation around the list of partially-synonymous names has been very confusing to date, with some individual editors making both sides of the argument in different circumstances.
My focus is whether the statement re political correctness is OR, and whether we are in danger of misleading readers as a result. I look at is as follows: it is clear some writers have advocated for its use as an apolitical term. They are explictly advocating though, which suggests such logic is not widespread. We have two meta-sources which explain that Levant is used in an apolitical sense versus Syria-Palestine, but these same sources do not go on to make the same statement regarding "Southern Levant". One of these goes on to explain that most PhD's use the terms Israel or Canaan instead. And Canaan is certain apolitical.
Oncenawhile (talk) 17:54, 2 August 2016 (UTC)


I agree, it's definitely a case of some people using it that way (a minority, I suspect) and I think the article puts a tad too much emphasis on that at the moment. Maybe for a start we could switch "it is often" to "it is sometimes"? Joe Roe (talk) 20:00, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

Thank you Joe, "It is sometimes" is good. There are scholarly sources which state that "many" (in work related to biblical archaeology) have adopted the term, and that the term is popular (in that field) for that reason, but I agree that the article should focus primarily on the actual region of the southern Levant (as you wrote: "its geography, climate, history, etc."). Given that the article is for a geographical region, which of course far predates biblical archaeology, it does seem that a bit too much emphasis is being placed on usage of the term by those studying biblical archaeology. Now that the map seems to be sorted, I'd be happy to help with writing up a geography section. Drsmoo (talk) 21:30, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
I think we're reaching a sensible position here. My remaining concern is that the lead is POV as to usage of the term, since it includes a sentence stating the key argument used by those who advocate for use of the term (for which we have three underlying scholars wih scholars advocating), but nothing showing the concerns raised around usage (for which we also have three scholars providing critique). Oncenawhile (talk) 07:30, 3 August 2016 (UTC)
I couldn't disagree more strongly. As was mentioned previously, there's no scholarly debate over usage of the term, and there isn't a single source which describes usage of southern Levant as controversial. Of the sources you described as critical, De Geus directly says he advocates for use of southern Levant in the chapter, Arnold directly says he uses southern Levant in the chapter, and Palorient continue to use southern Levant and have done so hundreds of times. In contrast, there are reliable sources which describe the term southern Levant as being popular in biblical archaeology due to its neutrality:
There are also multiple sources which describe southern Levant as being neutral (not advocating, but stating its neutrality as a fact):
The idea that we must "balance the lead" to satisfy a "controversy" which isn't mentioned in any reliable source, based on "critical opinions" from authors who advocate and use the term regularly, is nonsensical. Drsmoo (talk) 09:17, 3 August 2016 (UTC)
Perhaps you have misread my post? This doesn't appear to relate to the point I made. Or are you referring to someone else's post? I can't see where anyone mentioned a controversy. There are simply arguments for and against the usage of the term, as in eveything in life. Oncenawhile (talk) 15:32, 3 August 2016 (UTC)


I thought it would be useful to make some maps of the region based on the sources above: one for the "geographic" definition, and one for the "country-based" one. I've gone for the most inclusive definition in each case, and including the Sinai is somewhat awkward in my opinion, but a couple of sources mention it, so.

I don't know whether we want to include one or both in the article itself. Since the definition has been the source of some debate, I thought I'd raise it here first. Joe Roe (talk) 19:11, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

This is really helpful, thank you. My initial preference is for the geographic map, though both maps are great. I also agree with your decision to use the most inclusive definition for two reasons. One being that it would be confusing for readers if Wikipedia presented a limited map, while research described as being in the southern Levant was conducted outside of that map. The other reason being that the widest definition was approved by the RFC. If we want to use both, what are your thoughts on having the country-based definition as the base, and then the red of the geographic definition as a transparent overlay? Drsmoo (talk) 19:27, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
Agreed, this is very helpful. Given the variety of definitions out there, perhaps we could show both the narrowest and the widest definitions for both. Either all overlaid on a single map (ie 4 sets of boundaries) or two maps with 2 boundaries each. I would have a preference for the latter as I suspect it will be clearer. Oncenawhile (talk) 19:33, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
I think it would be difficult to put both the countries and the geographical area on the same map without it getting too messy. We can always include both (although my preference is for the geographic one; I think it's both nicer to look at and better conveys that this is a slightly fuzzy concept).
I've updated both maps to include "core" and "inclusive" definitions. Joe Roe (talk) 21:10, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
These are excellent. Oncenawhile (talk) 06:03, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
Thanks Joe, these maps are beautiful, my preference is for the geographic one for the same reasons, and I also think having a single map would be better to avoid confusion. A similar minimalist/maximalist layout is featured in the Levant article as well. Based on what you wrote here, it seems your preferences is for having just the geographical image, so I'm making an edit to conform with that. If your preference is for the double image, apologies for the misunderstanding and feel free to revert. Drsmoo (talk) 09:45, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
Sticking with one sounds good to me. Joe Roe (talk) 11:45, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
Agreed, I'm unable to revert it myself due to the region being arguably within ARBPIA, if so editors are limited to 1 revert per 24h, so I'd personally be unable to make the revert myself having reverted earlier today. Drsmoo (talk) 12:40, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
Perhaps we need an RFC or similar here. To my mind, just showing the geographic-feature-based definition is ignoring half the sources out there, as well as ignoring the only definition that has clearly defined boundaries. It also inaccurately reflects the reality of the breadth of usage of this term. The beauty of two maps is that it combines clarity with accuracy - the ideal that Wikipedia strives for. Oncenawhile (talk) 11:54, 27 July 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I see your point, and I think if there's disagreement on this the most sensible thing to do is stick with the most conservative option (two maps). Joe Roe (talk) 12:47, 27 July 2016 (UTC)


I believe this term is used more broadly than just for the Syrian and Jordanian steppe - as this source states, it is also used for the Negev. As a generic word for steppe, Bedouin literally means "people of the Badia". Oncenawhile (talk) 12:19, 27 July 2016 (UTC)

Yes, but it's also used in English to refer to the region, like how "the steppe" usually refers to the Eurasian steppe. Joe Roe (talk) 12:43, 27 July 2016 (UTC)


The broad-definition Southern Levant from the south

The geographic map shows Tabuk and the western part of that province in Saudi Arabia as being in the Southern Levant. Whilst it makes some sense from a cultural and historical perspective, does anyone have any sources which include part of Saudi in the SL? Oncenawhile (talk) 16:03, 27 July 2016 (UTC)

This could be a (flimsy) justification?
"The southern Levant, as defined here, is delimited by the Litani River to the north, the Jordan Rift Valley to the East, the Gulf of Aqaba to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea and Sinai Desert to the west."
But to be honest I was just trying to get a nice ellipse. Doing that and getting Sinai clipped more of Saudi than I liked (which is what I meant above when I said Sinai was awkward.) If you think it's too misleading I can try and tweak it out. Joe Roe (talk) 19:09, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
It should be easy to fix with the clone tool. I have Photoshop and can work on it if that would be helpful :) Drsmoo (talk) 20:03, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
I have mixed feelings - the satellite photo above shows clearly that there are no obvious geographic boundaries between SW Jordan and NW Saudi Arabia. But we have no sources supporting the inclusion of any part of Saudi, unless we read generously into Gulf of Aqaba as Joe mentioned. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:11, 27 July 2016 (UTC)
I think there we're getting into the deficiencies if our sources' definition there. The Southern and Eastern boundary is "the desert", but it's very difficult to say where the steppe stops and the desert starts. I'd say Aqaba is well into the true desert, but the sources include not only that but Sinai, then why not Tabuk, or the Nefud for that matter? I was trying to convey the uncertainty of that boundary with the feathering on that side, so maybe a solution is to make that more prominent? Joe Roe (talk) 08:34, 28 July 2016 (UTC)
They sounds like it would be helpful Drsmoo (talk) 05:50, 30 July 2016 (UTC)
No worries, it's my obsessiveness over neatness rather than technical obstacles that's the problem. I'll just sacrifice the nice ellipse shape. But thanks for offering :) Joe Roe (talk) 08:24, 28 July 2016 (UTC)
No problem, looking forward to getting the maps completed and improving the text Drsmoo (talk) 07:03, 30 July 2016 (UTC)
The ellipse is sufficiently broad that most people would get the obfuscation abound the Gulf of Aqaba. It's a useful obfuscation. Keep the neat ellipse. Laurel Lodged (talk) 11:48, 2 August 2016 (UTC)


Is everyone convinced the Negev should be in the "core geographically-defined region"? Geographically and historically the Negev is a continuation of the Badia and the Sinai, which would suggest it should be treated just as they are. This is clear from the satellite photo above. On the other hand, most sources seem to include it, even when not including the Sinai and Badia. Oncenawhile (talk) 21:20, 27 July 2016 (UTC)

Odd question, the sources do include it, they don't "seem" to include it. The article is based on scholarly sources rather than original research from looking at a photo. Drsmoo (talk) 02:56, 28 July 2016 (UTC)

New version[edit]

Based on the discussions above I've just uploaded a new version of the "geographic" map that hopefully emphasizes the approximate nature of the eastern and southern boundary a bit more, and de-emphasizes the Sinai and Tabuk regions in the broad definition, and the Negev in the narrow definition. Per User:Laurel Lodged's comment, I've stuck with neat-but-slightly-inaccurate ellipses rather than go for total accuracy, though, because I agree that it helps get the message across that this is all very inexact. Joe Roe (talk) 14:36, 2 August 2016 (UTC)