Re: Relationship between Gath and Ekron

In continuation of Joe’s post about the MB II at Gath and the relationship with nearby Ekron, I wanted to note an interesting, ongoing pattern of relationship between the two sites. Tell es-Safi/Gath and Tel Miqne-Ekron are located 9 km from each other. From a point of view of theories of geographic spatial proximity of sites, this would mean that in most circumstances, both sites could not be large and dominating in the same period. And in fact, in most periods this is the pattern.

During the MB II, Miqne-Ekron is a large, 20 hectare site, while Gath is apparently quite small (ca. 5 ha.), limited, apparently, to only part of the upper tell. During the LB, the size of Safi/Gath jumps considerably, apparently passing 10-15 hectares, while Ekron becomes much small (1-2 ha.), only inhabited on the acropolis.

The Iron Age I, right after the initial settlement of the Philistines in Canaan, is apparently the only period in which both sites are large (more than 15 ha. each). This is most probably due to the influx of the new Philistine immigrants, and the creation of extensive urban entities on the ruins of existing Canaanite settlements.

This situation does not last for long, since already in the Iron Age IIA, Gath becomes the dominant site (ca. 45 ha.), while Ekron recedes to a much smaller size. Only after Gath’s destruction in the late 9th century by Hazael (and its subsequent demise), does Ekron once again rise, and once again becomes a large site – the dominant Philistine city of inner coastal plain.

After the destruction of Ekron in the late Iron Age, the site is never, substantially, settled, and when Gath is resettled (in the Persian period), it is the only one of these two sites that has a continuous history of settlement until the modern period.

Thus, we see that these two sites have a “seesaw” relationship during the MB II, LB and Iron Ages, a relationship that reflects both the ups and downs of the Southern Coastal Plain during these periods, but mirrors more global issues in the general region as well.