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Ekron-A Philistine City *

רחוב פלשתי משוחזר בקיבוץ רבדים Photo: :Avi1111

The city of Ekron (עֶקְרוֹן‎  عقرون‎), in the Hellenistic period known as Accaron ,was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine pentapolis, located in southwestern Canaan.

Numerous locations have been suggested for Ekron, including Aqir, Qatra, Zikrin and Caesarea Maritima, but following the discovery in 1996 of the Ekron inscription, Ekron has been positively identified with the mound of Tel Miqne or Khirbet el-Muqanna. The tell lies 35 kilometres (22 mi) west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of Tell es-Safi, the almost certain site of the Philistine city of Gath, on the grounds of Kibbutz Revadim on the eastern edge of Israel’s coastal plain.

1939 map showing surrounding region Photo: Public Domain

Ekron Royal Dedicatory Inscription

The Ekron Inscription, is a royal dedication inscription found in its primary context in the ruins of a temple during the 1996 excavations of Ekron.

Royal dedicatory inscription from the Philistine city of Ekron. On display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem Photo: Oren Rozen 

The inscription is incised on a rectangular-shaped limestone block, has five lines and 71 characters,and mentions Ekron, thus confirming the identification of the site, as well as five of its rulers, including Ikausu (Achish), son of Padi, who built the sanctuary. Padi and Ikausu are known as kings of Ekron from the late 8th- and 7th-century Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals. 

This the first connected body of text to be identified as “Philistine”, on the basis of Ekron’s identification as a Philistine city in the Bible (see Joshua 13:3 and 1 Samuel 6:17). However, it is written in a Canaanite dialect similar to Phoenician and Old Byblian, such that its discoverers referred to it as “something of an enigma”. (Byblos is a city in the present Mount Lebanon Governorate of Lebanon.)

The inscription was discovered in the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research Tel Miqne excavations of Ekron led by Seymour Gitin and Trude Dothan. The inscription is one of the primary documents for establishing the chronology of events relating to the end of the late biblical period, especially a possible late history of the Philistines. The inscription has therefore been referred to as one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century in Israel.

Tel Miqne  –  Khirbet el-Muqanna

Tel Miqne (Khirbet el-Muqanna‘ – Tel Makna Akron) is 22 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Tel Miqne is identified with biblical Ekron, one of the capitals of the Philistine Pentapolis and is located on western edge of Inner Coastal Plain – a frontier zone that separated Philistia and Judah—Tel Miqne overlooks ancient network of highways leading northeast from Ashdod to Gezer. Tel Miqne is one of the largest Iron Age sites excavated in Israel, it comprises a 40-acre lower city (which expanded to more than 75 acres in the late Iron Age II) and a 10-acre upper city on the Northeast Acropolis.  A joint project of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 14 excavation seasons were conducted between 1981 and 1996 under the direction of Professors Trude Dothan and Seymour Gitin. 

Canaanite City

In the second millennium BCE (the years 2000 through 1001 BCE), Tel Mikne was a large Canaanite city, at first covering all parts of the tel, but later confined to a settlement on the acropolis. Above the ruins of this Canaanite settlement, the 12th century BCE Philistine city was discovered. It was a large, well planned and fortified city which existed for 200 years and covered the entire surface of the tel.

Philistine City

Tel Mikne, near the traditional border between Philistia and Judah, was identified as the biblical Philistine city of Ekron existing for 600 years (from the 12th to the end of the 7th century BCE). The square tel (mound) rises only a few meters above the fertile plain and consists of a small upper tel and a large lower one to the south.

Ekron of Judaea

According to the Bible, Ekron was assigned to the Tribe of Judah (Jos. 15:45-46; Judges 1:18) and later, to the Tribe of Dan. (Jos. 19:43) But archeological evidence indicates a flourishing Philistine city during the 12th and 11th centuries BCE. When the Ark of the Covenant fell into Philistine hands, they displayed it in the Temple of Dagon in Ashdod and from there took it to Ekron; (1 Samuel 5:10) and after David defeated Goliath in the Elah Valley on the Philistine border with Judah, the Israelites pursued the Philistines to the gates of Ekron. (1 Samuel 17:52).

Ekron was probably destroyed by King David during his campaign against Philistia at the beginning of the 10th century BCE and over the next 300 years, Philistine Ekron was again reduced to the acropolis area of the tel. 

During the 7th century BCE, Ekron was once more an important city-state and some of its kings are mentioned in the annals of the Neo-Assyrian kings. The economic mainstay was olive oil production and trade. The industrial buildings were built in a dense belt along the inner perimeter of the city walls. The culture of the inhabitants was the local Philistine culture, which had absorbed Judahite and Phoenician influences. At the end of the 7th century BCE the citys fortunes declined and in 604 BCE, it was conquered and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. 

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