A Judean “pillar figurine” from Gath

So that you don’t think that all we deal with is Canaanite and Philistine remains, we also have the opportunity to excavate and study other cultures (and periods) as well. A very interesting, albeit briefly represented, phase at Tell es-Safi/Gath is the 8th century BCE (and possible 7th cent. as well) Judean levels that we find on various parts of the tell.

Apparently, following the destruction of Philistine Gath in the 2nd half of the 9th cent. BCE by Hazael of Aram Damascus (as discusse often on the blog, such as here and here), and after a brief period of relatively little activity on site, there is evidence of renewed activity on the site. This is found in various parts of the site, but in particular in the excavations in Area A on the east of the site, and in Area F, just near the summit. In addition, in our survey, a very small amount finds typical of 7th cent. Judean were found, such as a few “Rosette” stamped handles.

This phase is represented in Area A with one stratum (A2), but in Area F there seems to be 2 strata of this phase (see previous discussion on this here). What is unique, and clearly typical of this stage is the material culture that is seen during this phase. As opposed to the earlier, Philistine levels, where the pottery is clearly oriented to Philistia, both in shapes and decoration, in the 8th cent. BCE levels at Tell es-Safi/Gath one sees a very clear change. In these latter levels, one identifies pottery, and other facets of material culture, which has a very strong affiliation with the material culture know from contemporary Judean sites, such as Lachish and Jerusalem. This is apparently the same level in which Bliss and Macalister found LMLK handles in their excavations in 1899, and, most recently, in the 2007 season, I had the fortune to pick up an additional LMLK handle from the surface of the tell, just to the NW of Area F, on the slope of tell (see my excited description of this here).

Here is a typical Judean “Pillar Figurine” – from St. A2 in Tell es-Safi/Gath,

It would appear that following the destruction of Philistine Gath, and the apparent existence of a political “vacuum” in part of the region of the late kingdom of Gath, the kingdom of Judah, perhaps under Hezekiah, takes over parts of the lands of the former kingdom of Gath, including the city of Gath itself.

While I won’t get into this here, this scenario is supported by the bilbical and extra-biblical sources, and has been discussed by various scholars in the past (see here for the mention of an article by Itzik and Alex which, among other things, deals with this issue).
What is interesting though, is the fact that despite the clear change in ceramics, when we analyzed the animal bones from the 8th cent. BCE level, there still was a lot of pig bones – very untypical of the Judean sites. This may very well indicate that while the political control, and cultural affiliation of the site moved towards Judah, at least some of the original “Philistine” population remained on site and sustained their traditional dietary habits.

So far, we have only scratched the “tip of iceberg” in the study of this fascinating stage and Gath, and the relationship between the earlier Philistine-oriented levels and what seems to be a predominantly Judean one.

Make sure to join our team this summer – to reveal more exciting evidence about these, and many other, finds.


4 thoughts on “A Judean “pillar figurine” from Gath

  1. Pingback: Of Pig Bones and Pillars: Why Josiah Matters - Sam Harrelson

  2. arenmaeir

    Hi! Off hand, I don’t remember the number of petals, but Jane did check them out and in fact related to them in her article in IEJ.



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