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The Philistines and Other “Sea Peoples” in Text and Archaeology

The Philistines and Other “Sea Peoples” in Text and Archaeology

Edited by Ann E. Killebrew and Gunnar Lehmann (Archaeology and Biblical Studies 15). Pp. xix + 751, figs. 239, tables 19. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta 2013. $88.95. ISBN 978-1-58983-129-2 (paper).

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The volume under review developed out of a 2001 workshop cosponsored by the University of Haifa and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, which was devoted to the Philistines and other groups often called “Sea Peoples” in the scholarly literature. More than 10 years later, the papers of the workshop are now finally published, edited by two of the workshop’s former organizers, Killebrew and Lehmann. Some, but apparently not all, of the contributions seem to have received a final “updating” before the volume went into print, although this is not always clearly stated for each article. The very comprehensive bibliography given at the end of the volume at least includes works that were published up to 2012 (665–737). Generally, the reader is thus advised to consult more recent publications on the specific site or topic to make sure results and conclusions remain valid or were subsequently revised in the meantime (see also M.L. Steiner and A.E. Killebrew, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant: C. 8000–332 BCE. Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology [Oxford 2014]).

The 24 papers in this volume generally address the current understanding of the social, economic, historical, and political changes at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the transition to the Iron Age in the eastern Mediterranean in light of recent discoveries and texts. Given this broad spectrum of topics covered, it is thus clearly beyond the scope of this review to discuss all, or even most, of the papers in detail.

Placed even before the acknowledgments and abbreviations, the volume opens with a tribute by Silberman to the late archaeologist Moshe Dothan and the important influence he had on the archaeological study of the culture of the Philistines (ix–xiv). Following the introductory chapter written by the editors that thoroughly outlines the current state of research on the topic (1–17), the papers are organized into three major thematic sections.

The papers of the first section (“The Philistines in Text and Archaeology” [19–264]) present studies on various aspects of the history and material culture of the Philistines in the southern Levant. Among other contributions, the late Singer discusses the Philistines in the biblical record (“The Philistines in the Bible: A Short Rejoinder to a New Perspective” [19–27]), and Niemann tries to bring together the biblical text and the archaeological and historical sources (“Neighbors and Foes, Rivals and Kin: Philistines, Shepheleans, Judeans Between Geography and Economy, History and Theology” [243–64]). Barako summarizes the early history of the Philistines and places their arrival during the reign of Rameses III (“Philistines and Egyptians in Southern Coastal Canaan During the Early Iron Age” [37–51]). To Meiberg’s study of lion-headed cups (“Philistine Lion-Headed Cups: Aegean or Anatolian?” [131–44]) one should add the important article on the so-called Qatna Lion, made of amber, which is only briefly mentioned in a footnote (A. Mukherjee et al., “The Qatna Lion: Scientific Confirmation of Baltic Amber in Late Bronze Age Syria,” Antiquity 82[315] [2008] 49–59). Other contributions from this section deal with the study of material, mainly pottery (i.e., Mycenaean IIIC and associated assemblages), from sites in the southern Levant (Dothan, Ben-Shlomo) and especially from Tel Miqne/Ekron (Mountjoy, Killebrew), Tell eṣ-Ṣafi/Gath (Maeir), and Tell el-Far’ah South (Laemmel).

In the second section (“The Other ‘Sea Peoples’ in the Levant” [265–468]), Lehmann thoroughly presents Aegean-style pottery found at sites in the northern Levant (“Aegean-Style Pottery from Syria and Lebanon During the Iron Age I” [265–328]). Aegean-style pottery is also the topic of the paper by French (“The Origin and Date of Aegean Type Pottery in the Levant” [345–47]), as well as that of Sherrat and Mazar (“‘Mycenaean IIIC’ and Related Pottery from Beth Shean” [349–92]). Artzy presents material from Tel Nami, Tel Akko, and Tel Abu Hawam (“On the Other ‘Sea Peoples’” [329–44]), while Sharon and Gilboa present results from the coastal site of Tel Dor (“The SKL Town: Dor in the Early Iron Age” [393–468]).

The third section (“Anatolia, the Aegean, and Cyprus” [469–644]) presents the archaeological evidence from the cultural regions outside the Levant proper. The essay by Genz presents new insights into the end of the Hittite empire (“‘No Land Could Stand Before Their Arms, from Hatti ... on ...’? New Light on the End of the Hittite Empire and the Early Iron Age in Central Anatolia” [469–78]). Following this, French gives a short introduction to the archaeological research conducted in Cilicia (“Cilicia” [479–84]), while Gates then proceeds to present results of her excavations at Kinet Höyük (“Early Iron Age Newcomers at Kinet Höyük, Eastern Cilicia” [485–508]). Iacovou presents Cypriot material culture and its connections with the Aegean (“Aegean-Style Material Culture in Late Cypriot III: Minimal Evidence, Maximal Interpretation” [585–618]). Other papers (Benzi, Rutter, Mountjoy) in this section deal with the region of the Aegean pottery and its influence on Philistine ceramics. The volume closes with Sherratt’s reflections on the Sea Peoples (“The Ceramic Phenomenon of the ‘Sea Peoples’: An Overview” [619–44]). An appendix by Adams and Cohen completes the volume (“The Sea Peoples in Primary Sources” [645–64]). To this, one may now add the article by Schneider (“The Philistine Language: New Etymologies and the Name ‘David,’” UgaritF 43 [2011] 569–80).

It is unfortunate that archaeological sites in Transjordan with evidence for contacts with the Sea Peoples were not included in the volume, such as—to name but a few—Tell es-Sa’idiyeh or Tell Abu al-Kharaz (see P.M. Fischer, Tell Abu al-Kharaz in the Jordan Valley. Vol. 3, The Iron Age. Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean 34 [Vienna 2013]; P.M. Fischer and T. Bürge, “Cultural Influences of the Sea Peoples in Transjordan: The Early Iron Age at Tell Abū Ḫaraz,” ZDPV 129 [2013] 132–70).

Given the importance of most of the contributions and the volume as a whole, one would have wished for a different format, allowing the many figures and tables to be reproduced on a larger scale. Furthermore, some of the photographs also appear blurred or too high in contrast, although most are reproduced in a good quality. While this is surely no drawback in general, studies devoted to pottery and its chronological and historical implications, commonly considered to be the hallmark of Philistine presence, feature prominently in the volume, while other groups of material culture (e.g., terracotta figurines) are not dealt with at all or only get a minimal treatment. Also virtually absent from the volume, clearly because of the editorial deadline, is the recent discovery (and subsequent scholarly discussion) of inscriptions of the Iron Age temple at Aleppo that reference a region called Walistin/Palastin (i.e., the region of the ʿAmuq Plain) (see J.D. Hawkins, “The Inscriptions of the Aleppo Temple,” AnatSt 61 [2011] 35–54).

By and large, the volume is a welcome contribution to the ever-growing field of studies dealing with Philistine culture and the Sea Peoples in general. Especially noteworthy is that the scope of the articles covers a vast geographical area, comprising the regions of the Aegean, Cyprus, Cilicia, Anatolia, the entire Levant, and even Egypt. The book should be present in all libraries concerning the archaeology of the eastern Mediterranean. The editors thus deserve our gratitude for bringing together the wide variety of these contributions on the topic; it will surely find a wide audience.

Alexander Ahrens
Department of Near Eastern Archaeology
Institute for Archaeological Sciences
3012 Bern

Book Review of The Philistines and Other Sea Peoples in Text and Archaeology, edited by Ann E. Killebrew and Gunnar Lehmann

Reviewed by Alexander Ahrens

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 4 (October 2014)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1184.Ahrens


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