It is commonly agreed that the Iron Age I–II transition was gradual and that processes of social complexity initiated in the Iron Age I simply matured in the Iron Age II. The emergence of Levantine kingdoms – whether the so-called “United Monarchy” (i.e., the highland polity) or other polities – was therefore seen as an outcome of this gradual maturation, even if the date of their emergence is hotly debated. The present paper challenges both the perceived gradual nature of Iron Age complexity and the dated understanding of state formation processes that lies behind the common scholarly reconstructions of Iron Age political developments. Instead, the paper shows that the Iron Age I–II transition was troubled and was accompanied by drastic changes in many parameters, whether settlement patterns, settlement forms, or various material traits. Acknowledging these transformations is therefore the first step in understanding the process through which local kingdoms emerged.