One of the most popular sessions at the ASOR meeting concerned Israelite identity during Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.). William Dever, recently retired from the University of Arizona, began his discussion by asking whether the Israelites were a distinct ethnic group in this early period. He concluded that they were: The absence of pig bones in the remains of Iron Age I settlements and the development of the architecturally distinctive four-room house are both what Dever terms “ethnic markers,” common traits by which the early Israelites (or “proto-Israelites,” as Dever prefers to call them) defined themselves as a group. A third ethnic marker is demographic: from the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.) to the 11th century B.C., the population of sites in the central highlands of Canaan (shown on the map below) increased exponentially. This, Dever says, points to immigration on a large scale by a new people—the proto-Israelites.