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November 20, 1987 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Enigma Of Philistines
Endures Despite Digs

Jerusalem — An historical
mystery — who were the
Philistines? — is being
unraveled slowly and careful-
ly on a rural mound near Kib-
butz Revadim just off the
Jerusalem-Gaza road by ar-
chaeologists from the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem and
the W.F. Albright Institute of
Archaeological Research.
Although the existence of
the Philistines, tracing back
more than 3,000 years, is
known to readers of the Bible
all over the world, little is
known with certainty as to
the life patterns of these in-
dustrious "Sea People," who
came unexpectedly from the
Mediterranean to Isreal's

The Philistines
raised and ate
pork, unlike their
Israelite neighbors.

southern coastal region in the
12th century B.C.E., and
disappeared from the area
some 600 years later.
The Philistines were pre-
sent in the land to witness
the rise and decline of the
Israelite and Judean
kingdoms, and indeed were
their rivals. But beyond that,
historians and archaeologists
know precious little else
about them. Whom did they
worship, how did they earn
their living, and what were
their cultural . ac-
complishments? The problem
is seriously compounded by
the fact that the Philistines
left no known written records.
But they did leave unwrit-
ten records in the form of
their houses, artifacts and
ritual and manufacturing in-
stallations. It is these records
that the archaeologists have
been uncovering at Miqne,
the site of Ekron, one of the
Philistines' five capital cities
(the others were Ashdod,
Ashkelon, Gaza and Gath).
Tel Miqne is the largest
biblical period archaeological
site yet discovered in Israel,
covering more than 50 acres.
First surveyed by the famed
American archaeologist, W.F.
Albright, in 1923-1924, ac-
tual major excavations only
began in 1984. It is located
about ten miles inland from
the Mediterranean seaport of
Ashdod.
Heading the staff of some
105 professionals and
volunteers from Israel and
abroad working at the site are
Prof. Trude Dothan of the
Hebrew University Institute
of Archaeology and Prof.

Seymour Gitin of the
Albright Institute.
"It is like trying to solve a
huge puzzle," says Prof.
Dothan of the attempt to
learn from Ekron some of the
secrets of the Philistine way
of life and culture. She feels
that what she and her col-
leagues have so far revealed
at Tel Miqne represents the
major moments in the life of
a large, urban, border city —
the beginnings and the "last
grasp" of Philistine culture,
which flourished in the time
of Kings David and Solomon
and came to an end with the
Babylonian conquest of 603
B.C.E.
What still needs to be learn-
ed in the life of Ekron is
something of its middle years,
when it was a small, fortified
town under the shadow of a
powerful Judean kingdom.
In the recently completed
excavation season, as well as
in the three previous seasons,
the archaeologists uncovered
a great many artifacts of
stone, faience, ivory and
ceramics, including lovely,
tiny animal figures reminis-
cent of those found at other
sites in the Mediterraean
that were inhabited by people
of Aegean origin.
Of special note in Ekron are
remnants of its huge olive oil
industry of the 7th century
B.C.E. Over 100 olive oil in-
stallations have been
discovered. In surveys of the
rooms of the excavated in-
stallations, four-horned altars
were found, indicating some
sort of cultic relationship to
the olive oil production.
Also of interest are the rich
findings of ceramic vessels,
made in distinctive Philistine
style, near kilns discovered on
the site that date back back
to the 12th century B.C.E.
In this year's dig, extensive
progress was made on ex-
cavating a monumental
building in the city center
dating back to the 11th cen-
tury B.C.E., which might
have been the palace of a rul-
ing figure, or perhaps a
building devoted to public
assemblies, or even both. It
has well preserved walls more
than one meter high still
bearing their original plaster,
a rare find in archaeological
excavations of such antiquity.
Although the building is
believed to extend to a total of
more than 130 square meters,
what has been uncovered so
far are two rooms and a cour-
tyard. The rooms appear to
have been a shrine or "cult
rooms," in one of which was

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