A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
An inscription carved into a limestone slab found at Tel Miqne, 23 miles southwest of Jerusalem, confirms the identification of the site as Ekron, one of the five Philistine capital cities mentioned in the Bible. The inscription is unique because it contains the name of a biblical city and five of its rulers, two of whom are mentioned as kings in texts other than the Bible. The only such inscription found in situ in a securely defined, datable archaeological context, it has far-reaching implications for our understanding of the history of Ekron and Philistia. It also strengthens the identification of Ekron with a vassal city-state recorded in Assyrian texts of the seventh century B.C., when the Bible is relatively silent on Assyrian domination of Philistia and Judah.
Tel Miqne was founded in the twelfth century B.C. by the Philistines, a tribe of the Sea Peoples, raiders from the Aegean and central Mediterranean. A large urban center until the beginning of the tenth century B.C., it was destroyed, by either the Egyptians or Israelites, after which a smaller city arose that blended local Philistine cultural traditions with Judaean and Phoenician influences. In 712 B.C. this city was conquered by the Assyrian king Sargon II. For a short time, beginning in 705 B.C., it came under the control of Hezekiah, king of Judah. A third city was founded after Sennacherib's 701 B.C. campaign against the rebellious rulers of Phoenicia and Palestine, which reestablished Assyrian dominance over the area. It became the largest olive oil production center yet known from the ancient world. The Assyrians withdrew ca. 630-623 B.C. as their empire declined, and Egypt briefly established control over the region. In 603 B.C. the city was sacked by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
The inscription was found in the Babylonian destruction debris of a 186-by-124-foot structure, known as Temple Complex 650, in the elite zone on the site's lower tel. Consisting of 72 letters in five lines, it reads:
(Italics indicate the pronunciation of a name is uncertain. The name Achish is a reading based on its appearance in the Bible; Ikausu is based on Assyrian texts.)
The inscription records the dedication of the temple by Ikausu, son of Padi, both of whom Assyrian records refer to as kings of Ekron. Padi is mentioned in annals of Sennacherib in the context of the Assyrian king's 701 B.C. campaign. The kings Ysd, Ada, and Ya'ir, forefathers of Ikausu in the inscription, are otherwise unknown. The name Ikausu is interesting in that it is the only non-Semitic name among those of the eighth- and seventh-century Philistine kings mentioned in the Assyrian records. It may be related to the word Achaean, meaning Greek. That Padi gave this name to his son, or that his son adopted the name, may be further evidence of the Philistines' Aegean origin.
Another dedication was discovered this past summer during the postexcavation restoration of the hundreds of storage jars found in a side room of Temple Complex 650. Inscribed on one of the jars, it reads, "for Ba'al and for Padi." The contents of the jar were probably a payment of cultic taxes to the god Ba'al or for service to the king Padi. The inscription reflects a formula known from Assyrian documents specifying the responsibilities of Assyrian citizens and underscores the cultural influence exerted on the city of Ekron by Assyrian imperial rule.
Seymour Gitin is Dorot director and professor of archaeology at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research-the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. Trude Dothan and Joseph Naveh are professors of archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.