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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Adams

The Provenance of Philistine Pottery in Northern Canaan, with a Focus on the Jezreel Valley

Co-Director, and Area K supervisor Dr. Mario A.S. Martin published a new article in the latest issue of Tel Aviv. Below is an interview conducted with him, in which he tells us all about his work and the amazing new conclusions his research has brought.

So, Mario, what pulled you to this study?

The impact the Philistines and other Sea Peoples had on Iron I northern Canaan is an intricate issue that has been debated for many decades. Past theories on a sizable Sea Peoples presence and military control have today largely been replaced by more moderate views of a diminutive presence of foreign population elements or, merely, mercantile relations between Philistia and the north.

The recent discovery of a sizeable assemblage of Philistine Bichrome pottery in the Tel Aviv University excavations at Megiddo has reignited the interest in this topic.

Where at Megiddo did the assemblage come from?

This new collection comes from Area H, mainly from two levels, H-12 and H-11, with the later of the two (H-11) ending in a fierce destruction. This destruction was correlated with the tell-tale devastation of the palace of Chicago Stratum VIIA, which marks the end of the “Late Bronze” city.

How does this fit in the larger picture of what we thought we knew before?

The Bichrome wares show that this event [the end of the “Late Bronze” city] fully belongs to the early Iron Age. In fact, they confirm Trude Dothan’s original assessment that Philistine pottery first appears in Stratum VIIA and not in VIB as later contended by others. Radiocarbon dates confirm a destruction in the first half of the eleventh century BCE, highlighting the staggered process of the collapse of the Late Bronze culture at Megiddo: while a first “disturbance” came about with the end of the Egyptian empire in Canaan at ca. 1130 BCE (Area K), the second and final blow occurred only two generations later, with the final destruction of the palace (Chicago Area AA, Tel Aviv University Area H). The earliest appearance of Philistine Bichrome ware at Megiddo (H-12) was radiocarbon dated to the late twelfth century BCE. Megiddo is the only site in the north where this has been dated so rigorously and so narrowly. Evidently, these data are also of major importance in understanding Megiddo’s link to the Philistine heartland, both in chronological and cultural terms.

How can this study teach us anything about the relationship with Philistia, that is so far away from Megiddo?

To highlight the nature of the relationship with Philistia, provenance analysis (petrography) has been conducted on the Megiddo items in general and on northern Philistine pottery in general, using a grand total of 155 vessels and sherds. It came to some surprise that circa two-thirds of the assemblage was imported from the Philistine heartland. The Jezreel Valley stands out among all other northern regions for its large quantities of genuine Philistine imports. Therefore, the study revises the previously formulated schemes (‘northern skyphoi’ phenomenon), which dissociated much of the phenomenon from the discussion of Philistine pottery. Rather than pointing to foreign presence, the data suggest tight commercial and cultural contacts with Philistia. Fine resolution of the petrofabrics shows that the exporters of this pottery were mainly the coastal centres of Philistia—probably Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod—while Shephelah cities (Ekron, Gath) played a very subordinate role in the northbound export of these wares. Chronological resolution was enhanced as well. It was shown that at Megiddo all relevant vessels were Philistia imports in the earliest phases of their appearance (H-12), whereas local imitation first appeared along imports in a slightly later phase (H-11).

To read the full article, click on the link bellow:

Martin, M.A.S. 2017, The Provenance of Philistine Pottery in Northern Canaan, with a Focus on the Jezreel Valley, Tel Aviv 44(2): 193–231

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