The archaeological site of Ekron (Tel Miqne) is located about 21.7 miles (35 km) southwest of Jerusalem and 2.8 miles (4.5 km) east of Kibbutz Revadim, close to the south bank of Nahal Timna. The site controls several local routes connecting the coast with the inlands and points northward. Tel Miqne/Ekron is just to the west of the border between the inner Coastal Plain and the Shephelah, part of a natural border zone between Judah and Philistia. It is ca. 49.4 acres (20 ha, 200 dunams) in size, of which four constitute the upper city (the top of the tell is 354.3 ft [108 m] above sea level but only 23 ft [7 m] above its environments); it is one of the largest Iron-Age tells in Israel. The name of the site, Khirbet el-Muqannaʿ, relates probably to the nearby wadi of this name. In 1924, W. F. Albright identified the site with biblical Eltekeh in the territory of Dan. However, after an intensive survey, Joseph Naveh (1958) suggested the identification of this large site with biblical Ekron. The identification of the site was supported by the results of the excavation and finally confirmed by the royal dedicatory inscription found in 1996.

Archaeological Excavations.

The site of Tel Miqne/Ekron was excavated for 13 seasons, during the years 1981 to 1996, as a joint Israeli–American project headed by Trude Dothan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Seymour Gitin of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. The main fields of excavation include field I on the northeast acropolis, the upper city, where a long step trench was excavated on the northeastern tell slope; field IV in the center of the lower city; fields III and II in the southern lower city, which included the olive oil industrial zone on the crest of the southern slope, where the gate and city wall were exposed; and field X in the northwest corner of the site, in which another portion of the Iron-I city wall was discovered. Small excavation areas include fields V, VII, and XI in the lower city. The lower city was occupied during the Middle Bronze Age II, Iron Age I, and late Iron Age IIB. All these strata are represented in the upper city, which also contained Late Bronze–Age and Iron Age–IIA–B remains. Limited Roman and later remains were found in fields IV and V. In 1985, a survey of industrial installations was conducted by David Eitam and N. Aidlin.

The occupation of the site includes ceramic evidence spanning the Chalcolithic and Middle Bronze–IIA periods and architectural remains from the Late Bronze Age until the end of the Iron Age. The Chalcolithic and Early to Middle Bronze I are attested to by only sporadic ceramic remains from fills. The Middle Bronze–IIA ceramics, especially notable in the lowermost fills in fields I, III, and IV (stratum X), include three infant jar burials found under the Iron-I buildings in field IV. This indicates that the lower city was also occupied during this period and that Ekron was a large, possibly even a fortified, site.

Strata IX to VIII in fields I and III represent the Late Bronze Age II. The earliest Late Bronze–II phase includes a two-room installation destroyed by fire and Cypriote imports including base ring I and monochrome; it may be dated to the fifteenth to fourteenth centuries B.C.E. The thirteenth century B.C.E. is represented by strata VIIIB and VIIIA. Phase VIIIB includes a domestic area with a plastered vat and a burial containing a faience seal and a Nineteenth-Dynasty scarab, as well as Mycenaean IIIB imports and Egyptian-style vessels. Stratum VIIIA was more substantial, with an area containing metallurgic bronze remains and rare Anatolian gray-ware imports. This phase, which included a jar filled with charred figs, ended in a violent destruction. The Late Bronze Age is not represented in the lower city, indicating that during this period Ekron was relatively small and unfortified.

Strata VII to IV represent the Iron I in fields I, III, IV, and X. Remains in fields X and III in the lower city indicate a fortification wall during the Iron Age I and highlight Ekron’s large size during this period of time. A fragment of a gate was also excavated in field III strata V and IV (Iron Age IB). Remains of early Iron-I structures, including pottery kilns, were uncovered in field I NE in strata VII and VI (Iron Age IA, 1,025 miles2 [2,654.7 km2] excavated in this area). Finds in a small room from stratum V led to its interpretation as cultic (see Dothan, 2003, p. 208, fig. 17). Several pottery kilns from strata VII and VI were identified on the eastern edge of field I. One has an unusually square shape; its plan shows Aegean characteristics. The late Iron I to early Iron IIA, represented by stratum IV, was nearly absent from this field, while this is the only area to clearly attest to the late Iron IIA and the early IIB (ninth–eighth centuries B.C.E., strata III–II).

Stratum VII at Tel Miqne (divided into phases A and B) marks the initial Iron I, with Philistine monochrome and early Iron-I local forms—and no Cypriote or Mycenaean imports. Stratum VIB includes both Philistine monochrome and small quantities of Philistine bichrome pottery. Strata VIA and V (Iron Age IB) mark the dominance of Philistine bichrome, while Philistine monochrome (Philistine 1, Myc IIIC:1b) is residual (see Dothan and Zukerman, 2004, table 1). Tel Miqne/Ekron was the first site, after Ashdod, at which Philistine monochrome was identified; and this ware was found at Ekron in much larger quantities. Philistine monochrome pottery is distinguished by its distinct ware and by an array of forms and decorative motifs similar to those appearing in Mycenaean IIIC early pottery. All this pottery was produced locally, in Philistia.

Philistine monochrome pottery (and other cultural elements) marks the appearance of a new, probably immigrant, population at the site, arriving from the Aegean region and/or Cyprus. In strata VIIA and VIB, the proportion of this ware reaches 50 percent in several areas (including field I NE); this is different from Ashdod, where it is a mere 10 percent of the assemblage. This difference may be the result of the specific character of certain areas at the site, such as the pottery production area in field I NE; but it can also testify to the fact that the new Philistine population was more dominant at Ekron than elsewhere.

Field IV is situated in the central part of the lower tell (the 625 miles2 [1,618.7 km2] excavated in the lower part represent Iron I; the 1,225 miles2 [3,172.7 km2] excavated in the upper part represent Iron IIC). A series of Iron-I structures were built on top of the Middle Bronze–Age remains. In stratum VIIB, a single-room structure with two pillar bases and a rectangular hearth was exposed; it was surrounded by an open area with several installations. In stratum VIIA, another single-room building with a large brick-lined silo in it was added. In stratum VIB these two structures were incorporated into a large architectural complex. Building 352 was turned into the entrance room to the large Building 351, and Building 357 remained in use, with minor alterations. To the north and east of this building, other structures were erected; in one of them, several installations, including basins, hearths, and tabuns (ovens), were found. The architectural stages are correlated with developments in the pottery assemblage: in strata VIIB and VIIA, Philistine monochrome pottery is found in significant quantities, while in stratum VIB, Philistine bichrome pottery is first introduced.

Later in strata V and IV (Iron Age IB), a large public building (Building 350) with deep stone foundations, identified as a Philistine temple, was built. It had a main pillared hall with installations that include a rectangular hearth and three benched rooms to the east. The building was rich in special finds. One room had a bamah (high place, sanctuary) and yielded several metal finds, including fragments of a bronze stand, a linchpin, and an iron ceremonial knife with an ivory handle. Special finds from stratum IV, the later phase of this building, include a cache of objects with a ceramic pomegranate vessel, a kernos (vessel with small cups attached to the rim) displaying two ibexes, stone and faience objects, and an ivory head of a woman. Special finds from stratum V include an ivory pyxis (small box or vase with a lid) with a scene of a battle between a bull and a griffin. This building and the adjacent structures were violently destroyed in stratum IVA, possibly by the Israelites or by Pharaoh Sheshonk I (r. ca. 935–914 B.C.E.) during the tenth century B.C.E. After a long gap (most of the Iron IIA and IIB, only in Ekron’s lower city), a monumental temple-palace (Building 650) was built in the same location (stratum IC, seventh century B.C.E.). The continuity of this space for a public building further demonstrates the major importance of this area, termed “the elite zone,” at Philistine Ekron and the continuity between the “early Philistines” of the Iron I and the “late Philistines” of the Iron II.

Field III is situated in the southern part of the lower tell (900 miles2 [2,331 km2] excavated). The first notable Iron-Age remains (stratum VI) include structures containing an assemblage of monochrome and bichrome Philistine forms. In stratum V, a large public building with plastered bricks was excavated, as were fragments of a city gate. Similar architectural remains continue in stratum IV. These layers yielded a large assemblage of pottery including Philistine decorated wares and small finds. In particular, a group of impressed clay sealings, several seals and scarabs, and decorated ivory plaques should be noted. The decorated ivories found in a single room probably belonged to a large wooden box; their decoration, with Nilotic scenes, indicates Egyptian influence. One of the plaques depicts two nude young women in a swimming posture. The seals and seal impressions from the Iron I also indicate Egyptian influence and motifs, as well as a Canaanite local style.

Ekron

Ekron temple inscription, seventh century BCE. Kim Walton, courtesy of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

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Field X, on the western slope of the lower tell (200 miles2 [518 km2] excavated), yielded remains of a city wall with adjacent structures dated to the Iron I. Two strata bearing Philistine monochrome pottery were correlated with strata VIIB and VIIA, while stratum VI contained Philistine bichrome pottery. The Philistine monochrome pottery included a complete hedgehog-shaped vessel. The later strata in this field were largely eroded (Bierling 1998).

The late Iron Age I (strata VA–IVA) includes some Philistine bichrome but mostly degenerated Philistine pottery and marks the appearance of red-slipped pottery (roughly contemporary with Tell Qasile stratum X and Khirbet Qeiyafa). The Iron Age IIA and IIB (strata III–II, late tenth–eighth centuries B.C.E.) are represented only in field I on the upper tell (9.9 acres [4 ha]). Here, a long street flanked by walls was excavated, as was part of the city wall and a tower on top of the acropolis. Strata III and IIB yielded typical Iron-IIA to -IIB pottery with “coastal forms” similar to Ashdod strata X to VIII (see Gitin, 1998, figs. 3–6). This assemblage also contained “late Philistine decorated ware” (also called “Ashdod ware”), as well as zoomorphic vessels and kernoi decorated in this style (red burnished slip and black-and-white decoration).

As noted, during the Iron IIC (stratum IB–IC, late eighth–seventh centuries B.C.E.) the lower city was populated again by the late Philistines as the site expanded to 49.4 acres (20 ha). Fields II and III became the industrial zone of Ekron, containing over 115 olive oil installations with an estimated production capacity of at least 551 tons (500 metric tons), making Ekron the largest known industrial center for olive oil production in the Mediterranean; this olive oil industry was probably initiated by the Philistines under the control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the late eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. The large quantity of oil was probably distributed locally in Philistia, Judah, and the Assyrian provinces in the Levant and exported to farther regions, including Egypt and locations throughout the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Each building in Ekron’s industrial zone contained an olive oil production room with a crushing basin, crushing roller, pressing weights, and vats. One of the buildings had a cultic niche where a four-horned incense altar was found in situ, while another contained a cached silver hoard. One of the basins contained a secondary burial with a cache of special objects, including a libation vessel, jewelry, and seals. The city wall and gate, probably first erected in the Iron I and then rebuilt in the seventh century B.C.E., were located in this area.

In field IV, Temple-Palace Complex 650, a monumental structure measuring 124.7 by 187 ft (38 by 57 m), was built in stratum IC (seventh century B.C.E.). While the town was populated mainly by the “late Philistines,” the region was under the control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and the temple complex was an administrative center of the vassal king of Ekron. Its eastern wing contained a very large, square courtyard surrounded by several rectangular rooms. Its western wing, a sanctuary, contained a rectangular pillared hall surrounded by 10 smaller rectangular rooms. The royal inscription, which named a dynasty of five rulers of Ekron, dates to the building’s construction and was found in the cella (inner room or sanctuary of a temple). A throne room with a long reception hall in front of it stood between the two wings, while one of the rooms near the sanctuary contained an olive oil press. This complex may have housed the administrators who oversaw industrial olive oil production at Ekron.

The plan of Complex 650 exhibits some Neo-Assyrian features, such as the courtyard surrounded by rectangular rooms. It displays, as well, similarities with Phoenician Kition. Temple-Palace Complex 650 yielded a rich assemblage of finds, including hundreds of restorable vessels as well as figurines, libation vessels, and bronze, gold, silver, and ivory artifacts. Noteworthy are a female pillar figurine from the sanctuary, an Egyptian wig made of a mixed chalk material, and a gold cobra (uraeus). An ostracon reads “to baʿal and to padi.” A number of ivories, including several large elephant ivories, were found together. Among them are a large statue of a standing Egyptian male figure with a relief of an Egyptian princess or goddess and a Merneptah cartouche carved into it, a large Egyptian head (part of a statue), a female-shaped flask, and a knob with the cartouche of Ramses VIII (r. 1147–1140 B.C.E.). Several of them had been curated for as long as 600 years. Seventeen four-horned limestone incense altars were found in this area as well. They are portable altars, up to 13.8 inches (35 cm) in height, similar to those associated with the Israelite cult in the northern part of Israel.

Several auxiliary structures were located adjacent to Complex 650. The adjacent structure just south of the complex contained 14 inscriptions on storage jars, reading, for example, l’šrt (“for the goddess Asherah”) and l’mqm (“for the shrine”), as well as three hoards of silver jewelry and cut bits (bitzei-kesef). Another hoard came from the southern entrance to Temple-Palace Complex 650. In field I SW, another silver hoard contained a medallion with an Assyrian-style scene; it depicted the goddess Ishtar standing on a lion and a supplicant.

Material Culture.

The archaeological finds from Tel Miqne/Ekron probably represent the most extensive and robust example of manifestation of Philistine material culture during Iron Age I–II. In particular, the Iron-I remains illustrate the special characteristics of the new Philistine society and various aspects of its daily, religious, and public life. This includes architectural elements rooted in the Aegean tradition, such as the extensive use of rectangular and rounded hearths. These installations used for cooking and/or heating were located both inside rooms and in open areas. In addition, local-style tabun installations were probably used for baking bread. Other evidence relating to the food habits and diet of the Philistine society include the use of cooking jugs (a special cooking vessel used in the Aegean and Cyprus), together with Canaanite-style open cooking pots and faunal and floral remains. The faunal remains at Iron-I Ekron indicate a distinct rise in pig bones, in contrast to contemporary Canaanite and Israelite sites in the Levant. A special type of lentil (Lathyrus sativus), found primarily in the Aegean, is also found at Ekron (as well as at Ashkelon, Gath, and Tell Qasile). This lentil requires a special cooking method to remove toxins, and it is new to the Levant. Thus, archaeological evidence shows distinct Philistine food habits in both food-preparation techniques and types of food consumed. Some of these characteristics, such as the use of cooking jugs, continue during the Iron II. Culinary distinctions are a known ethnic marker in both ancient and modern societies. Architectural elements with Aegean roots include long-room houses with an entrance room containing two pillars (megaron plan) and the use of clay or stone baths inside various rooms.

The main component of Philistine material culture is the decorated pottery with Mycenaean components. This includes both the earlier monochrome pottery and the later bichrome style, which begins to show local influences. This pottery was produced at Ekron in the pottery kilns from the Iron I. The daily activity of weaving is attested to by a large assemblage of loom weights and spindles. The Iron-I loom weights are cylindrical in shape, similar to those at other Philistine sites as well as in the Aegean and Cyprus. This type is not attested before in the Levant.

The cultic and symbolic sphere is illustrated by figurines and zoomorphic libation vessels. A distinct group of Aegean-style figurines includes standing (psi-type) and seated (“Ashdoda”-type) schematic female figurines, which probably depict dressed goddesses, and decorated bovine figurines. They show strong connections with Mycenaean figurines of the twelfth century B.C.E. and indicate domestic cultic practices rooted in the Aegean. A large assemblage of undecorated, crudely shaped zoomorphic figurines, mostly bovine, were found in domestic and cultic contexts. Incised bovine scapulae from Ekron have parallels at Cypriote sites and may be related to cultic practices. All these images and the wide usage of the bird motif represent a Philistine iconographic tradition. Other figurative manifestations, such as zoomorphic libation vessels, seals and seal impressions, and decorated ivories, show Canaanite and Egyptian influences. No evidence of an Aegean-style script was found at Ekron.

The Iron-II material culture of Ekron does not illustrate strong Aegean elements, reflecting, instead, the distinct local characteristics typical of Philistia, such as coastal pottery and late Philistine decorated ware; therefore, this culture should be seen as reflecting the late Philistine population at Ekron. A large component of the evidence is related to the more public and official spheres of religion, especially with regard to Temple-Palace Complex 650 and the olive oil industry. The textual finds indicate the worship of at least two deities, the female Aegean Ptgyh and the male Canaanite Baʿal (and note the connection with the biblical Baal-zebub of Ekron [2 Kgs 1:2–3]). The Canaanite Asherah is also mentioned, and either the three deities were worshipped together or Asherah was equated with Ptgyh. Cultic artifacts include local-style female pillar figurines and various libation vessels. Especially common are large, standard-shaped, wheel-made bovine libation vessels, which appear in the context of Temple-Palace Complex 650 and the olive oil production installations, as do the portable four-horned limestone altars.

As the archaeological and textual records indicate, Ekron was a strong center for the Philistines, especially during the Iron I and the late Iron II. At that time (stratum IB), it was a major center of olive oil production, first under the Neo-Assyrians and then, during the end of the seventh century B.C.E., when the Assyrian Empire weakened, probably under the Egyptians. This city was violently destroyed by the Babylonians in 603 B.C.E. Stratum IA represents later remains, dated to the first quarter of the sixth century B.C.E. After this, the city was abandoned until the Roman period. Fragmentary evidence from the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods was found only at the northern edge of the tell. The excavation results demonstrate that Tel Miqne/Ekron provides one of the finest examples for a strong and robust correlation between biblical and extrabiblical textual sources and the archaeological record.

History and Textual Records.

Ekron is mentioned in the Bible as one of the Philistine Pentapolis cities (e.g., Josh 13:2–3, 15:11, 15:45–46, 19:43; Judg 1:18; 1 Sam 7:14) and especially as the northern border of the territory of Judah. This probably reflects a late Iron-Age reality. In the story of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, the ark is transferred to Ekron after it creates havoc at the city of Ashdod (1 Sam 5:10) and the Ekronites decide to return it. In the story of David and Goliath, the Israelites are described as pursuing the Philistines “as far as…the gates of Ekron” (1 Sam 17:52). The sick Ahaziah, king of Israel during the ninth century (r. ca. 853–851 B.C.E.), consulted Baal-zebub the god of Ekron (2 Kgs 1:2–3). This likely indicates the importance of Ekron and its cult during this period. The prophets Jeremiah (25:20), Amos (1:8), Zephaniah (2:4), and Zechariah (9:5–7) include Ekron in the destruction prophecies of the other major Philistine cities (Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod).

Extrabiblical references to Ekron include mostly Neo-Assyrian records from the eighth to seventh centuries B.C.E. and the royal inscription found at the site. The siege of Ekron by Sargon II (r. 721–705 B.C.E.) in 712 B.C.E. is depicted on his palace walls at Khorsabad. After Sargon II’s death in battle, numerous rebellions broke out against the Assyrian administration, including at Ekron and Ashkelon. These were crushed by Sennacherib’s (r. 704–681 B.C.E.) campaign to Philistia and Judah in 701 B.C.E. In the Sennacherib annals, the capture of Ekron is described, as is the restoration of the original King Padi after a local revolt, possibly supported by Hezekiah (r. ca. 715–686 B.C.E.) of Judah. It thus seems that the Assyrians were more lenient with the Philistine cities, preserving their independence to some degree as a buffer zone between Assyria and Egypt. In the annals of Sargon II and Esarhaddon (r. 680–669 B.C.E.), Ekron (ʾamqar[r]úna) and its king Ikausu are listed; he, together with other vassals, is called to provide building materials for the palace at Nineveh. In 667 B.C.E., King Ashurbanipal (r. 668–627 B.C.E.) required his vassal Ikausu, among others, to support the Assyrian military campaign against Egypt.

The royal inscription found in Temple-Palace Complex 650 at Tel Miqne has significant historical and cultural implications. It was set up by Achish, king of Ekron, and dedicated to a goddess “Potgaya/Pontnia.” It reads, “The house [which] Akhayush [Ikausu/Achish], son of Padi, son of Ysd, son of Ada, son of Yaʿir, ruler [sar] of Ekron, built for Pythogaia [Ptgyh], his lady. May she bless him, and protect him, and prolong his days, and bless his land.” The king who built Temple-Palace Complex 650 and dedicated its inscription is probably the Ikausu of the Neo-Assyrian texts. Achish also mentions his “father” Padi, who was noted in Assyrian texts three generations before him. Strong Aegean affinities are indicated in the Ekron inscription; both the king of Ekron and its main goddess have Aegean names. “Achish” is an Aegean name similar to that of the king of Gath mentioned in the Bible (1 Sam 21:11). Ekron was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II (r. ca. 630–562 B.C.E.) in ca. 603 B.C.E., together with the Philistine cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza.

Ekron is not mentioned again in ancient texts until the Hellenistic period, when in 147 B.C.E. Alexander Balas (r. 150–145 B.C.E.) granted Ekron (Accaron) and its jurisdiction to Jonathan the Hasmonean (1 Macc 10:89; Josephus Ant. 13.4.4, where the toparchy of Ekron is described as torn away, apparently from that of Ashdod). In the Onomasticon of Eusebius (fourth century C.E.), “a village near Accaron” is mentioned.

[See also ASHDOD; ASHKELON; GATH; and KHIRBET QEIYAFA.)]

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David Ben-Shlomo