ARCHAEOLOGY Part I
The conventional chronology dates this event of the Sea Peoples
defeated in year 8 of Ramesses III. to 1190BC. This in fact coincides
with the beginning of the Iron Age. Thus in that chronology any
destructions found at the end of the Late Bronze Age are either due to
the advance or defeat of the Sea Peoples or the settling of the land by
the Children of Israel because the Iron Age is in conventional terms the
time of the Judges.
|Map of Iron Age I
Click for a larger view.
We would expect therefore that any archaeological finds in the first
Iron Age strata to be completely different from the preceding age all
over Canaan. So as not to present a false picture of what is actually
found, I will quote extensively from THE text book of pottery of the
area "Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land" by Ruth Amiran and Amihai
Mazar's "Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000 - 586 B.C.E." the
latter being the reference work in the Anchor Bible Library dealing with
Ruth Amiran writes:
" The Philistine Pottery: (p. 266) The problems of the
Philistines and of the pottery attributed to them has engaged the
attention of scholars, historians, archaeologists, and philologists for
many years, and has been discussed repeatedly, not only within the
framework of Palestinian archaeology, but also within that of the Aegean
cultures. In fact, the Philistine problem in Palestine was 'discovered'
by archaeologists who had worked mainly in Cretan-Aegean archaeology
(Welch, 1900; Thiersch, 1908). Mackenzie, in particular, investigated
the problem during his excavations at Beth Shemesh in 1911-1912, he
determined correctly the stratigraphic relationship of the pottery and
defined it as "Philistine," and as related to the cultures of the Aegean
world. Ethnic association of any pottery class is rarely as justified as
in this case. The historical and philological aspects of the Philistine
phenomenon are beyond the scope of this book, though they are almost
inseparable from the ceramic aspect, which we have to analyze.
The ceramic aspect includes, of course, both form and decoration.
a) Form: The repertoire of types in Philistine pottery falls
generically into two categories:
1) forms of Mycenaean character, and
2) forms of local Canaanite character.
1) Mycenaean character: the krater with two tilted horizontal handles
(Nos. 1-4, Photo 269); the stirrup-jar (No. 10, Photo 270); the
elongated pyxis (Nos. 6 and 7).
2) Local Canaanite character: jugs in several variations (Nos. 5 and
9, Photo 271), including the one designated as 'beer-jug' (No. 11,
Photos 272-274); juglets, even the 'waisted' example (No. 8), which
recalls the 'waisted' variants of the local pyxis imitations, (cf. Plate
57:4, 5); the pilgrim flask (Nos. 12 and 13, Photo 275); and jar No. 14,
if our assumption that its decoration is a simplified version of the
Philistine style is accepted.
b) Decoration: The salient characteristics of the painted decoration
may be defined as follows: the decoration covers the upper and middle
parts of the body, i.e. the shoulder and the central zone. Each of
these, usually the central zone, is a frieze of the metopic order: the
triglyphs consist of straight or wavy lines, enclosing sometimes a
vertical row of semicircles with a dot in each. The metopes may contain
a geometric pattern, like spirals, concentric circles enclosing a cross,
checkerboards, lozenges, or, most characteristically, a bird-motif. The
bird is shown in two postures - generally the head is turned backwards,
with the beak thrust under the wing-feathers, but sometimes the bird
looks straight ahead. Generally this decoration is black and red on a
white slip, but it occurs also in one color, with or without the slip.
This style of decoration occurs on all the types enumerated above in the
two groups of forms. A very interesting point should now be emphasized:
representatives of the types in group I were imported into Canaan as
early as in the Late Bronze (cf. for krater - Plate 57:12; for
stirrup-jar Photo 191 and Plate 57: 10; for pyxis - Photos 181, 199, and
Plate 57: 1). Even more important is the fact that these very types,
among others, were not only imitated by local potters (Plate 57), but
were absorbed into the local culture, and continued to develop together
with the other more native elements making up the pottery repertoire.
They became part of the local culture to such an extent that it could
reasonably be suggested that the three types enumerated in group I came
down to Iron I as direct descendants of the Late Bronze repertoire, in
itself a complex amalgamation. In other words, the stirrup-jar was
already a native though a 'naturalized' one, when the decorated
stirrup-jar started to be made by the newcomers - the Philistines, who
decorated it in the style customary in their Aegean homeland.
This suggestion has been brought forward merely to illustrate the
complexity -of the problems involved, although the ethnic connotation of
this pottery seems to be satisfactorily settled."
The general conclusion is that there is little change in the shapes
and style of pottery from Late Bronze II.
Making things even more difficult for the conventional chronology,
"At Beth Shemesh , some 7 km farther east (of Timnah), a single
Iron Age I level (Stratum III) contained abundant Philistine pottery,
Beth Shemesh appears in the Bible as an Israelite town during the period
of the Judges (see particularly 1 Samuel 6:9-15), but the material
culture at the site is indistinguishable from that of its Philistine
neighbor, Timnah. This phenomenon exemplifies the difficulties of
defining ethnicity on the basis of material culture.
( Archeology of the Land of the Bible : Amihai Mazar p. 312)
So now we have a situation where there doesn't seem to be much change
after the invasion from before and there doesn't seem to be much
evidence that what is termed Philistine ware was restricted to the area
generally accepted to be Philistia.
There is one site however in which all such problems should be
resolved. At Tell Qasile which is now in the area of Tel Aviv and 2
kilometers from the sea, the Philistines built on virgin soil. Here at
least there should be clear evidence that newcomers had arrived in the
area, bearing in mind of course that here were Sea Peoples according to
the accepted view.
"Other sites settled by the Philistines in the Yarkon region are
Aphek and Tel Gerisa. But they appear to have been only partially
settled and of little significance. Jaffa, the most natural port in the
area south of the Yarkon, was surprisingly unimportant during this time,
but at nearby Azor, a cemetery was exposed which indicated the existence
here of a substantial Philistine settlement." ( Mazar p. 311)
Neither he nor anyone else wants to comment as to why these "Sea
Peoples" built a completely new city inland when the most natural port
in the whole area was left empty.
He goes on:-
"The three temples at Tell Qasile are different in plan even
though they belong to the same culture and were built within a
relatively short time span of some 150 years. Such variations in temple
architecture are unprecedented within the Canaanite sphere, in which
temples retained their basic form for lengthy periods. It seems,
therefore, that the Philistine population - as was the case with the
Myceneans - did not have a crystallized tradition of religious
architecture." (Mazar p. 322)
Again this doesn't seem to ring warning bells as it did with Aharoni,
that something is terribly wrong with the scenario that a strange people
arrived in the area at the beginning of the Iron Age.
Next week we will look more closely at the link between Cypriot
pottery and that of the Philistines and see how the archaeology of the
Iron Age better fits the time of the divided Kingdom than that of the
Michael S. Sanders
Monday, July 06, 1998
Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land: Ruth Amiran
(ISBN: 0813506344 )
Out of Print. Amazon will search.
Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E. : Amihai
Mazar (ISBN: 038523970X)
The Archaeology of the Land of Israel: Yohanan Aharoni
Out of Print. Amazon will search