As Alex Zukerman, long-term senior member of the team (who is now, among other things, working on the analysis of the Iron I pottery from Area A), was looking through some of the Iron I pottery, a little fish on a sherd swam by him…
Turns out that this is an unfortunately incomplete depiction of a fish and some wavy lines on a bichrome Philistine sherd. We have had other depiction of fauna on Philistine pottery, and if I’m not mistaken, even a fish or two before, from the Safi materials. While this is known from other Philistine sites (and these figurative decorations have been the subject of Linda Meiberg’s [who also was on our team for a few years] recently completed dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania) – it nevertheless is nice to see this!
This brings me to my theory about the origins of Gefilte Fish. Perhaps, the etymology is actually “GePhilistine Fish” – and only in the middle ages, with the advent of Yiddish, did it turn into “gefilte”… :-)
I have clear supporting evidence for this. As you may know, it is customary to eat gefilte fish with horseradish, known as khreyn in Yiddish, and Hazeret (חזרת) in Hebrew. Now since we know that the Philistines ate pig – Hazir (חזיר) in Hebrew, the connection is quite clear… :-P
Now that’s rather fishy
Joking aside, the depiction of fish, birds and other fauna on Philistine pottery is quite interesting. This is due to its rarity, its connections with decorative traditions in other pottery families (whether Aegean, Levantine or other), and the possible implications it has for understanding the worldview and cultural backgrounds of the Philistines. For those interested, get your hand on Linda’s PhD where she develops many of these topics!