This paper addresses the question of whether Iron I settlements in the central Levantine hill country can properly be termed 'Israelite'. Drawing on anthropological theory to interpret the recent archaeological debates, the argument suggests that an Israelite ethnic 'network' arose in the early Iron Age—albeit with a low degree of incorporation—by a process of social fission. In contrast to the Philistine incursion of the same period, there was no imposition of a foreign cultural system. The historical evidence implies that in the course of time the worship of Yhwh, an exodus story, and a 'pig taboo', were added to the indigenous culture in the making of Israelite identity. Yhwh worship was probably not originally seen as a separate religion, but in the Iron II period, it came to be interpreted by some as antagonistic to other gods.