Philistine Pottery in the Core and Periphery

Posted in: AIAR
Tags: Archaeology, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, israel, Linda Meiberg, Periphery, Philistine Pottery, Tel Miqne-Ekron
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Production Centers, Stylistic Groups and Individual Artists

7-Linda-Meiberg-blogBy: Linda Meiberg, University of Pennsylvania
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

The Philistines settled in the southern coastal plain of Israel, in the area that later came to be known as Philistia, in the first half of the 12th century BCE. The predominant theory regards the Philistines as immigrants from the greater Aegean world. They settled among the local Canaanite population at sites such as Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Tel Miqne-Ekron, and Tell es-Safi/Gath. Because of the dominant Philistine culture that developed at these settlements, these sites have come to be known as the Philistine Pentapolis.

Archaeological excavations at four of the Pentapolis sites have been undertaken in recent years, and with the publication of their reports, a wealth of new information is now available for further scholarship. As such, the past decade or so has seen a vast resurgence in interest in Philistine studies. Although some of these studies have touched upon the interactions between the new settlers and the local population within Philistia, few have focused on the cultural connections between the Philistines and their Canaanite and Israelite neighbors living in the Philistine periphery.

My research investigates the production and consumption of Philistine ceramics in the southern Levant during the Iron Age I period (12th - 11th centuries BCE) by focusing on the interconnections between the Philistines and their neighbors through an analysis of their decorated pottery. Philistine decorated pottery is one of the most ubiquitous and distinctive features of their material culture. In addition to its appearance at all sites within Philistia proper, it is also found at Canaanite and Israelite settlements located to its east, particularly at Gezer and Beth Shemesh. Since Philistine pottery is so prominent at the majority of sites in the region, it can serve as a clear indicator of Philistine relations with their neighbors. Moreover, adjacent non-Philistine settlements have yielded some locally produced examples of Philistine-style pottery, with certain features of Philistine ceramic shapes and decorations appearing on non-Philistine vessels. Overall, we see that Philistine pottery was highly movable and was commonly traded between sites, not only for its contents, as in the case of storage vessels, but also for its intrinsic value, as most of it was elegantly shaped and lavishly decorated. In this way, ideas and fashions relating to pottery styles were disseminated and often emulated. Therefore, Philistine pottery found outside Philistia apparently had a different significance than in the core region. As such, pottery on both sides of the cultural border are significant in my investigation.

Since the archaeological evidence for the physical remains of production centers of Philistine decorated pottery is surprisingly meager in the earliest period of Philistine settlement (Philistine 1). Therefore, my research focuses on provenance studies and stylistic analyses of the second phase of Philistine pottery development (Philistine 2), a phase of predominantly bichrome ware, which is found throughout Philistia and in the Philistine periphery. Provenance studies indicate that the Philistine core, that is, the Pentapolis sites as well as Tell Qasile, were producing Philistine decorated pottery for their own consumption, as well as importing Philistine 2 ware from other Pentapolis sites. Sites in the periphery, such as Tell Aitun and Beth Shemesh, appear to have been importing Philistine pottery from a coastal clay source, likely Ashdod, as well as an inland clay source comparable to outcrops from the Miqne region. Additionally, it appears that Gezer was not only producing its own Philistine-style pottery but importing it as well. Thus, a complex picture of inter-site trade in Philistine decorated pottery in both the core and the periphery emerges.

Stylistic analyses of Philistine 2 Ware from Tell es-Safi indicate that a workshop existed at the site. The local elegant style is characterized by particular motifs outlined in black that are executed in stable and even strokes…these are perhaps even attributable to the same artistic hand. Additionally, peculiar elements incorporated into figural motifs on Philistine pottery from Gezer can also be found on vessels from Ashdod and appear to be mainly limited to these two sites. This stylistic anomaly may indicate a connection between an artist or atelier at these sites.

The iconographic data from preliminary stylistic analyses are supported by the provenance studies and seem to indicate that workshops of Philistine decorated pottery existed at core Philistine sites such as Tell es-Safi, Ashdod, and Tel Miqne and that sites in the periphery, such as Gezer, were possibly producing, as well as importing, Philistine pottery for their own consumption. The continued study of Philistine decorated pottery and the anticipated publication of the material from sites such as Ashkelon and Beth Shemesh may support my preliminary findings.

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2 Comments for : Philistine Pottery in the Core and Periphery
  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #8 | Doug's Archaeology

  2. Pingback: Linda Meiberg reports on her work on Decorated Philistine pottery | The Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

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