New article on early date of LB/Iron Age transition at Safi

The online, pre-publication version of a new article, spearheaded by Yotam Asscher, with various co-authors (Dan Cabanes, Louise Hitchcock, Elisabetta Boaretto, Steve Weiner and myself) has appeared online (see here for those without access to the journal’s website).

In this study, we argue the following:

The Late Bronze Age to Iron Age transition in the coastal southern Levant involves a major cultural change, which is characterized, among other things, by the appearance of Philistine pottery locally produced in styles derived from outside the Levant. This transition in the coastal southern Levant is conventionally dated to the 12th century BC, based on historical and archaeological artifacts associated with the Philistine pottery. Radiocarbon dating can provide a more precise independent absolute chronology for this transition, but dating for the period under discussion is complicated by the wiggles and relatively flat slope in the calibration curve, which significantly reduce precision. An additional complication is that the stratigraphic record below and above the transition at this site, as well as at most other sites in the region, is far from complete. We thus used a variety of microarchaeological techniques to improve our understanding of the stratigraphy, and to ensure that the locations with datable short-lived materials were only derived from primary contexts, which could be related directly to the associated material culture. The 14C dates were modeled using Bayesian statistics that incorporate the stratigraphic information. Using this integrative approach, we date the appearance of the Philistine pottery in Tell es-Safi/ Gath in the 13th century BC.

The full title is:

Asscher, Y., Cabanes, D., Hitchcock, L. A., Maeir, A. M., Weiner, S., and Boaretto, E. 2015. Radiocarbon Dating Shows an Early Appearance of Philistine Material Culture in Tell es-Safi/Gath, Philistia. Radiocarbon 57(5).

This article is in continuation of a previous article (see here) in which we also argued that the Philistine culture may first appear at a slightly earlier stage than previously thought. This seems to indicate that the process of the appearance of the Philistine culture may have been a more complex and drawn out process than is usually assumed!

Check it out!


6 thoughts on “New article on early date of LB/Iron Age transition at Safi

  1. I find this highly implausible. Gath is far inland; the idea the Philistines had already captured Ashkelon by Merenptah’s time is highly dubious. Is this the Gittite equivalent to those Tel Dor radiocarbon dates from over a decade past?


    1. arenmaeir

      If you follow what we (and others) have been writing for the last few years, there is little, if any, evidence of Philistine conquests of the Canaanite cities in the southern coastal plain at the end of the LB/beginning of the Iron Age. We have also argued that the entire “Philistine phenomenon” is a much more complex and multi-faceted processes (or processes), which most probably took place over a period of time – NOT a single, limited time event.
      I have no vested interest in claiming that the process started already in the late 12th cent BCE – we simply now have two separate 14C dating series which seem to support this.


      1. I think you mean late 13th, not late 12th. So are you saying the Philistines took over Gath and Ashkelon peacefully? That’s new to me. And I still strongly doubt Merenptah’s Ashkelon was already Philistine.

        Also, what is the best rebuttal to Ussishkin’s claims on Lachish VI having good evidence of contact with the coast, but no evidence of Philistine pottery? I think that shows pretty decisively the Philistines were unlikely to have arrived at Ashkelon before c. 1150 BC.


      2. arenmaeir

        Yes, I meant 13th. At Ashkelon, there is no evidence of a destruction in the late LB/early Iron Age. In fact, there even appears to be a bit of an abandonment. Regarding Lachish – this issue has been discussed by many, with views in both directions. I have a hard time dating LH IIIC pottery to only post-1150.
        And again, I think we are dealing with long term processes.


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