Canaanite City-States
The Canaanites (West Semitic: K’naan’im) were a West Semitic people, closely related to the Israelites and speaking essentially the same language. Prior to the 1400's BCE, the population of much of the area of what is now Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon was mostly Canaanite; Aramean incursions in Syria and Amorites in Trans-Jordan reduced the area of “Canaan” while the Phoenecians of northern Israel and Lebanon are usually classified separately due to their divergent development as maritime traders and explorers. The Canaanites were organized into loose confederations of city-states, virtually all of which were under Egyptian domination from around 1500 to 1200 BCE. Between 1200 and 900 most of the Canaanite states fell under Israelite rule and were largely assimilated. It should be noted that many of the names of king/governors of the Canaanite kingdoms are Indo-European rather than Semitic, and it is likely that many of these dynasts were Hurrian or Hittite mercenaries in the service of the Pharaohs rather than native Canaanites, or at least came from families that had adopted Hurrian or Hittite culture. Some archeologists and historians believe that some of the early Israelite tribes were actually Canaanite in origin.

As an interesting aside - in the Bible (Gen. 10) eleven Canaanite "tribes" are mentioned: the Sidonians, Arvadites (both Phoenician people), Hethites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites (who lived in Shechem), Arkites, Sinites, Zemarites, and Hamathites (possibly referring to the Canaanite population of the Syrian interior). Later in Genesis another tribe is mentioned, the Perizzites, though they do not appear on the Gen. 10 genealogy. The interesting thing about this is that if you add the Perizzites to the other Canaanite tribes mentioned this brings the number up to twelve. This was a magic number in the ancient Middle East (Babylonian mathematics, for example, is based on 12 which is why we have a 24 hour day, 60 min. hour, etc.) and many historians suspect that the Israelites engaged in some creative adjustment of tribal identities (see under Hebrews) in order to maintain the number of tribes in their confederacy at twelve. So you have, in the Biblical narrative, twelve Canaanite peoples being supplanted by twelve Israelite tribes. Alternatively, you could ignore the Perizzites and to the original eleven add the Hittite/Hurrian warrior aristocracy that made up the ruling class of most of the cities- this gives you 12 also.

Why a separate file on these small polities? First, because there are so many of them recorded, and to include them among other states within modern Israel would damage the clarity of the presented data. Quite apart from which, the Canaanites as a distinct ethnoi deserve specific treatment. But there is, I feel, a more important issue present. These little polities are remembered largely because they are mentioned in what became a vitally important holy scripture - a book which has arguably had more impact on world culture than any other. Had it not been so, there would be little trace or memory of these cities today. And it is important to understand that the way of life implied in this file: that of dozens or even hundreds of little independent and semi-independent city-states (villages, really) crowded into limited terrain, is the way we lived as a species for thousands of years. For every town mentioned below, one can imagine ten more very much like it in almost every other habitable spot on the globe. But most all those others are forgotten, while the names of these were written down.

The names of the major Canaanite kings come primarily from three sources: the Bible, the Tel El-Amarna documents (papyrus letters, addressed to various pharaohs of the 1400's BCE by several of the Canaanite kings) and the Sefer ha-Yashar, purported to be the annals of the ancient Hebrews quoted in several places in the Bible, but which may or may not be authentic. Where rulers’ names have come from the Sefer ha-yashar, I have indicated so with an asterisk.

Includes: Achshaph, Admah, Adullam, Akhtiashna, Ammia, Aphek (Afek), Arahti, Arashni, Astaroth, Ayalon, Bala-Zoar, Beth-Horon, Beth-Shean (Beth Shan, Scythopolis), Beth ShemeshBeth Teni, Bezek, Bihisi, Bihura, Chazar, Eglon, Enishasi (Esazi), Ga'ash, Gath-Carmel (Gintikarmil), Geba-Shemen, Gerar, Geshur, Gezer, Gitti-Padalla,Gomorrah, Gudashuna, Hayasha, Hazati, Hazi, Hazor, Hebron, Hivite Kingdom, Irqata, Jarmuth, The Jebusites, Jericho, Keilah, Khashabu, Kumidi, Lachish, Lapana, Madon, Megiddo, Muhazu, Mushikhuna, Niy, Nuribta, Qatna (Nukhashshe), Qidshu (Kadesh), Qiltu, Ruhizzi, Sarton, Sashimi, Segor Confederation, Shamkhuna, Sharuna (Sharon), Shechem (Nablus), Shiloh, Shunem, Sile, Siyannu, Sodom, Ta'anach, Tapnach, Tikunani, Tob, Tunip, Tushulti, Yannuama, Yarimuta, Yurtsa, Zeboyim, Zemar, Ziklag, Zilu, Ziribashani, Zuhru, and Zunu.

ACHSHAPHTown in the Galilee. Following the end of Egyptian rule in the 1200's, it was probably under the dominion of Hazor.
  • Endaruta.......................................fl. 1300's
  • Shimron..................................fl. early 1100's

  • ADULLAMA major Canaanite stronghold in central Israel, near Bethlehem.


    AMMIA A Phoenician town located on the site of modern Amyun, near the city of Tripoli. A mendicant prince from Alalakh reported that Ammia was populated by "men of Halab (Aleppo), Mukish, Ni and Amau", suggesting a cosmopolitan and diverse population. The town plays a key role in the Amarna texts. In one of his more frantic letters (EA 75) Rib-Addi of Gubla (Byblos) writes to Pharaoh the "behold now the people of Ammia have killed their lord; so I am frightened."

    APHEK (Afek) A town situated near modern-day Petach Tikva, Israel.

    ARAHTI A town in central Syria, typically a dependency of Mitanni and later the Hittites.

    ARASHNI A city of unknown location, mentioned in the Amarna texts as an enemy of Gebal (Byblos). Probably located in northern Israel or Lebanon.

    ASTAROTH Town on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, near the border with Bashan.
  • Ayyab.....................................fl. late 1300's

  • AYALON Region along the road from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, in central Israel.
  • Ninurmahmes (fem.).........................fl. late 1300's

  • BETH-HORON City in Judea, along the road from Jerusalem to Jaffa (Tel Aviv).
  • * Lavan..................................1600's or 1500's

  • BETH-SHEAN (Beth Shan, Scythopolis) A strategically vital city in the Jordan valley, in northeastern Israel.

    A city in central Israel, 14 miles (22 km.) west of Jerusalem. Its name means "House of the Sun" in Hebrew and it was the site of an ancient Canaanite city-state.


    BEZEKA Canaanite city in Judea, south of Jerusalem.
  • Adonibezek......................................c. 1150

  • BIHISI Possibly located in the Samarian highlands north of Jerusalem.


    CHAZAR Literally “place of return”; a city in the Samarian highlands.
  • * Parathon...........................fl. 1600's or 1500's

  • EGLON A city in Judea, near Lachish. It has been identified with Tell Nejileh, 6 miles south of Tell Hesy or Ajlan, northwest of Lachish.
  • Debir..........................................fl. early 1100's

  • ENISHASI (Esazi)

    GA’ASH City in the Samarian Highlands.
  • * Elan...................................1600's or 1500's

  • GATH-KARMEL (GINTIKARMIL) A town on the slopes of Mount Carmel, near modern Haifa.
  • Tagi...........................................fl. late 1300's

  • GEBA-SHEMEN (Qebaasumin) A town in northern Israel, near Megiddo.

    GERAR Canaanite city-state, southeast of Gaza. In the Bible, Abraham and Isaac sojourned there for a time. Its identification is controversial; the most likely site is Tel Haror, where remains from the appropriate biblical period have been found.
  • Abimelech I
  • Abimelech II...................................fl. c. 1600's ? with...
  • It is possible that the two Abimelechs referred to are actually the same individual.
  • Phicol
  • To the Philistines of Gaza.................c. 1200-1000
  • To Israelites thereafter...

  • GESHUR A tiny kingdom on the border of modern Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. The Geshurites were probably predominately Canaanite with an Aramaic-speaking ruling class. They repulsed an Israelite invasion under Joshua and later retained close relations with the Israelite kingdom.

    GEZER An ancient city of Canaan, on the coastal plain of Sharon, northwest of Jerusalem. Its position guarding the road from Jerusalem to Jaffa has always given it importance, e.g., in the wars of Joshua, David, the Maccabees, and in the Crusades. Excavations there (1902–8, 1929, 1934) have made it possible to trace the history of Gezer from Chalcolithic times. It was an Egyptian outpost c.1900 B.C. Among the important findings were evidence of troglodyte dwellings, a Middle Bronze Age water tunnel, stone monoliths, and an agricultural calendar of the late 10th cent. B.C. In 1945 a communal settlement of the same name was founded there. References to it in the Bible are numerous.

    GITTI-PADALLA Town in the Jezreel Valley in northen Israel, near the modern city of Haifa.


    HAYASHA A town in Syria, on the upper Euphrates.



    HAZOR A city in northern Israel and a Canaanite city in ancient times. Vassals of Egypt, they threw off Egyptian control in the 1200's BCE and established hegemony over the city-states and tribes of northern Canaan. In the pre-Hyksos era Hazor was among the more powerful states of the Levant, dominating most of northern Canaan, Bashan and parts of southern Syria as far away as damascus. Its dominion may have extended as far as the Phoenician coast.

    HEBRON  Kiriyat-Arba to the ancient Hebrews. A Canaanite city, possibly with an Amorite ruling class. Hebron was part of a coalition of Canaanite kingdoms defeated by the Israelites in Gibeon and was occupied soon after. It was the center of the tribe of Judah and was King David's capital until the conquest of Jerusalem.

    IRQATA (Arka) Town in the Akkar district of northern Lebanon. In the Bible its inhabitants are called the Arkites and are named as one of the main Canaanite tribes.

    JARMUTHA town in the plain of Judah, originally the residence of one of the Canaanite kings. It has been identified with the modern Yarmuk, a village about 7 miles northeast of Beit-Jibrin.

    The JEBUSITES A Western Semitic folk inhabiting the region around Jerusalem; when their city was taken by King David, he made it his capital since it had not been on any Israeli land before. The Jebusites were often clients or dependent Bedawi to Egypt in times when Egypt was strong.

    JERICHO Rare for this website, this is an entry with no names. Nevertheless, I cannot forbear from mentioning it specifically, because it has been for ages a very well-known place in Judaeo-Christian history and mythology. It is, of course, the first city that was conquered by the Habiru (Hebrews) as they entered the Holy Land. According to the Biblical account, the Israelite leader Joshua ben Nun seized it after a seige involving the destruction of it's walls by the sounding of great trumpets. The Bible mentions the King of Jericho several times, but never refers to him by name. Aside from it's Biblical role, though, Jericho is also remarkable as being one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the world: the site shows evidence of settlement from at least 9000 BCE.

    KEILAH A town in the Judean hills, southwest of Jerusalem.



    LACHISH A royal Canaanite city east of Hebron and southwest of Jerusalem, in the Shephelah or coastal plain of Israel. It has been identified with Tel el Hasy.


    MADON Town in the Galilee. Following the end of Egyptian rule c.1200 BCE, it was probably under the dominion of Hazor.

    MEGIDDO City in northern Israel, a Canaanite kingdom subject to Egypt in ancient times. Megiddo was the site of many famous battles; indeed its name became so intimately connected with the concept of war that its Hebrew name, Har Megiddo (Mountain of Megiddo) gave the Greek (and later the English) languages the word "Armageddon".

    MUHAZU A city of unknown location, presumably in northern Israel.


    NIY (also Niya ?) City in Syria, with a largely Canaanite population and a Hurrian ruling class.

    NURIBTA Town in the Jezreel valley, northern Israel.

    QATNA (Nukhashshe) Town just east of the Orontes River in Syria.

    QIDSHU (Kadesh) A major North Canaanite city located on the Orontes river in Syria. The name Kadesh means "holy"; "Qidshu" is the Akkadian version used in ancient diplomatic correspondence. Kadesh was normally dominated by the Hittites and in 1275 was the site of a major battle between Rameses II and the Hittite king.

    QILTU Town in southern Israel, along the "King's Highway" near Gaza.


    SARTON City in the Samarian highlands.


    SEGOR Located near the Dead Sea, an ancient Canaanite confederacy of five city-states: Admah, Bala-Zoar, Gomorrah, Sodom, and Zeboyim. The exact location is unknown (cf. Gen., xiv, 3, 8, 10, 17; xix, 20-22, 30, 37; Deut., xxxiv, 3). Josephus identifies Segor with "Zoara of Arabia" at the south end of the Dead Sea ("Bel. Jud.", IV, viii, 4; cf. "Ant. Jud.", I, xi, 4; XIII, xv, 4; XIV, i, 4). Other scholars have identified it with Tell esh-Shaghur (seven miles north of the Dead Sea), Chirbet es-Safich, (three miles south of the Dead Sea) or Lisan. Sodom and Gomorrah are, of course, by far the best known of these communities; bywords to their Hebrew opponents for luxurious decadence and sinfulness. Probably sacked and destroyed some time between 1600 and 1200 BCE. Around 1300 the area around the Segor became a new Canaanite kingdom centered around the city of Arad. Its palace has been discovered by archeologists but its kings' names are not recorded.

    SHAMKHUNA A place whose location is unknown. It is mentioned on an Egyptian execration text. Some scholars have wondered whether Ab-Reheni could be an Egyptian form of the Biblical name "Abraham".

    SHARUNA (Sharon) The coastal plain north of modern Tel Aviv.

    SHECHEM (NABLUS) A Canaanite town in central Samaria, later a major center of the Israelite kingdoms.

    SHILOH City in the Samarian highlands, later a cultic site for the early Israelites.

    SHUNEM Town and region in the Jezreel Valley, near modern-day Solem. It was the home of Abishag, a young concubine who "comforted" King David in his old age.

    SILEA town, probably in southern Palestine, overrun by Habiru marauders in the late 1300's.

    SIYANNU A small kingdom located on the Syrian coast, south of Ugarit.

    TA'ANACH Modern Tel Ti'inik, a town east of Jerusalem.

    TAPNACH City in the Samarian highlands near Shechem.

    TIKUNANI A city in the extreme northeast of Syria, ruled by Hurrian overlords and normally subject to Mittani.

    TOB (Tubu) A town east of the Sea of Galilee, in the highland region of Bashan. Possibly identical with the modern town of Taibiyah.

    TUNIP (Dunip) A town of uncertain location, mentioned in various Egyptian texts. It has been variously identified with Tel Acharneh, in Syria, Laish (near modern Metulla, Israel) and with the much later city of Baalbek in Lebanon.

    TUSHULTI A town in the Beka'a Valley (see also Iturea and Amurru).

    YANNUAMA Probably located in northern Israel.

    YARIMUTAA Phoenician city whose ruins were just uncovered south of Beirut in the year 2001. In one particularly poignant plea to Pharaoh, (Amarna Tablet #75) Rib-Addi of Gubla (Byblos) states: "However, the war of the 'Apiru against me is severe. [Our] sons [and] daughters are gone, [as well as] the furnishings of the houses, because they have been sold in Yarimuta to keep us alive." This passage suggests that Yarimuta was once a major trade center, and probably a nexus point in the Levantine slave trade.

    YURTSA Town identified with modern Tell el-Ful, between Gezer and Muhatsu (modern Mahoz).

    ZEMAR (Sumura) A Phoenician state in southern Lebanon. In Genesis the Zemarites are described as one of the component tribes of Canaan.

    ZIKLAG A town in the Negev, the desert region in southern Israel. It has been identified with 'Asluj, a heap of ruins south of Be'er Sheva. Some, however, identify it with Khirbet Zuheilikah, ruins found on three hills half a mile apart on the confines of Philistia, Judah, and Amalek.

    ZILU Unknown locality, presumably in Canaan.




    Other major Canaanite cities, for whom no regnal lists could be found, include Achzib, Ai, Beth-Anath, Dothan, Hepher, Hormah, Ibleam, Rehob, Shaalbim, Zoar, Zorah.

    Note also, that numerous other cities in the Levant had were Caananite, or had Caananite phases. Where these have more detailed chronologies, they are dealt with in other files. They include:

    In Jordan: Heshbon, Pella, Peraea.

    In Lebanon: Amurru, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Tyre.

    In Syria: Aleppo, Arvad, Bashan, Carchemish, Damascus, Ugarit.