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Radiocarbon Dating Shows an Early Appearance of Philistine Material Culture in Tell es-Safi/Gath, Philistia

Yotam Asscher, Dan Cabanes, Louise A Hitchcock, Aren M Maeir, Steve Weiner, Elisabetta Boaretto


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.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18391


Late Bronze Iron Age chronology; Bayesian analysis; Biblical archaeology; Philistines;

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