This week, I received my copy of the new issue of Near Eastern Archaeology (72/4 ). The issue, which is devoted to new studies on the “New Hittites”, includes several very nice articles.
What stood out for those interested in the Philistines are two articles which open up to the more general public an issue that has up until now appeared mainly in more specialized journals, that of the now mounting evidence for the Aegean components appearing in NW Anatolia and N. Syria, and particularly in the Amuq region, during this period.
This clearly is connected to the “Sea Peoples” phenomenon, and what has been coming out in the last years is the very strong similarities to the processes (and finds) found in Philistia. Thus, similar LH IIIC pottery is found in both areas, along with other evidence, such as changes in diet and weaving, all indicating that a significant portion of the population during this phase is of non-local, most probably Aegean origin.
What is particularly interesting is the fact that apparently, among these northern Sea Peoples in the Amuq region there is a group that is identified as the “Palistines!” Based on a relatively new reading of an inscription from Aleppo and from Tel Ta’ayinat, J.D. Hawkins (Hawkins, J. D. 2009. Cilicia, the Amuq, and Aleppo: New Light on a Dark Age. Near Eastern Archaeology 72(4): 164–73) argues that this was the name of the early Iron Age kingdom in the Amuq, based at Tel Ta’ayinat, and that they are connected, culturally and otherwise, with the Philistines of the Southern Levant.
In a second article, T.P. Harrison (Harrison, T. P. 2009. Neo-Hittites in the “Land of Palistin”: Renewed Investigations at Tell Ta’yinat on the Plain of Antioch. Near Eastern Archaeology 72(4): 174–89) discusses the new excavation at Tell Ta’ayinat, including important finds from the early Iron Age (among them various aspects that are clearly Aegean-related).
As the modern exploration of this area expands, a whole new perspective on the changes that occurred in the early Iron Age is being fleshed out.
In particular, what is nice, is how these finds dovetail so well with the up-to-date understanding of the processes occurring in Philistia during this time frame.
Clearly, a more in-depth understanding of the exact relationship between the northern “Palistines” and the southern “Philistines” is needed, but I believe this points out some very promising directions for research in the coming years.