And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years(Judges 13:1 ESV)
For the LORD is destroying the Philistines,the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor(Jeremiah 47:4 ESV)
Famous for their role as one of Israel’s main antagonists, the Philistines were one group of so-called “Sea Peoples” that migrated to and/or invaded the eastern Mediterranean coast and Egypt from various points in the Aegean world. Four other distinct Sea People groups, named by the Egyptians as the Tjekker, Sheklesh, Denyen and Weshesh, invaded the Nile Delta along with the Peleshet (Philistines) in the early twelfth century BC. These other groups settled farther north along the Mediterranean coast, from Jaffa and Dor to the Amuq Valley in southeastern Turkey, while the Philistines rebuilt and settled in the Canaanites cities of Gaza Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron (Oren 2000: 197-212 by Stern; Killebrew and Lehmann 2013: 1-17; 265-468, 645-664; Stern 2013; Janeway 2017). The exact historical circumstances behind these migrations to the eastern Mediterranean coast is disputed and various theories exist (e.g., Sanders 1978; Yasur-Landau 2010; Cline 2014). Known only from the Old Testament accounts until the nineteenth century, linguists translating Egyptian texts from Rameses III’s impressive mortuary temple at Medinet Habu discovered that murals in the walls of this temple actually depicted Philistines as part of a “confederation of peoples” in a pitched land and sea battle with Egyptian forces. While western culture has erroneously interpreted them as uncouth and uncultured, quite the opposite was true. When archaeologists began to probe Philistine sites and occupational levels during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they uncovered an exceptionally rich and advanced culture (e.g., Macalister 1913). Pride of place among these discoveries was the elegant decorated and painted Philistine pottery, which was hardly comparable to the clunky and rather coarse ware then used at Israelite sites. The pottery produced by the Philistines upon their initial settlement was close copies of a ceramic horizon known as Mycenaean IIIC ware found at Aegean sites.
Relevance to the Biblical Account
The distinctiveness of Philistine pottery to wares produced by Canaanites and Israelites greatly aids researchers to establish a “Pots and People” ethnicity link. Indeed, the entirety of Philistine material culture varies dramatically from local styles to the extent that early Iron Age Philistine settlements are easily distinguishable from others. More importantly, archaeological data has confirmed the historical accuracy of the biblical accounts regarding the Philistines, their relations with Israel and their geographical origins in the Aegean region (e.g., Judges 16:23-31; 1 Samuel 13:19-21; Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7). These clear links demonstrate that the Old Testament texts fit the geo-political situation in the Iron Age I-II (e.g., Oren 2000: 53-83; Stager 2006; Killebrew 2013: 19-27).
Acquired in 1991 as a long term loan courtesy of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, these three Philistine sherds (AB.00070, AB.00122, AB.00401) display characteristic Mycenaean artistic styles. The painted sherds consist of a bowl or krater rim as well as two body sherds and feature bichrome red and black decorations with bird, spiral, net and lozenge motifs on a heavy white slip. Early Philistine vessel forms included the bowl, the larger krater, the stirrup jar, the amphoriskos and pyxis, and the strainer-spout and basket handled jug. Many published studies exist for Mycenaean and early Philistine pottery (Amiran 1969: 266-269 and Plates 90-91; Ben-Shlomo 2006; Dothan 1982: 94-160; Dothan and Dothan 1992: 159-170; Dothan and Zukerman 2015; Furumark 1941a; 1941b; Gitin, Mazar and Stern 1998: 379-405 [by A. E. Killebrew]; Killebrew 2005; Mazar 1985; Mountjoy 1986; Oren 2000: 233-253 [by A. E. Killebrew]; Killebrew and Lehmann 2013: 29-35, 53-129 [by T. Dothan, D. Ben-Shlomo, P. A. Mountjoy and A. E. Killebrew]; and Yasur-Landau 2010).
Imported Cypriot pottery, which first appeared in the Levant in large quantities during the Late Bronze Age and continued into the Iron Age, shared various stylistic and artistic features with Mycenaean ware more than other ceramics. Philistine pottery itself went through several phases as it adopted local elements as well as initiated its own, notably the later Bichrome ware and still later “Ashdod Ware.” The Horn Museum collection includes three whole vessels, a small pyxis (72.097) and two juglets (72.098; 72.100) originating from an early Iron Age tomb at Idna, near Hebron. These vessels all have strong Cypriot and/or Aegean characteristics and demonstrate both trade and migratory progression of the Philistines and other Sea Peoples during this very turbulent period (see D’Amato and Salimbeti 2015; Janeway 2017).
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