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Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath's Hometown?

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... Tell eṡ-Ṡ âfi/Gath is one of the largest pre-classical archaeological sites in Israel (Figs. 2 and 3). Most scholars identify Tell eṡ-Ṡ âfi/Gath as biblical Gath of the Philistines, one of the most important Philistine cities during the early period of Philistine history (Rainey, 1975;Schniedewind, 1998;Maeir and Ehrlich, 2001). The site was inhabited almost continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th millenium BCE) until modern times. ...
... The site was inhabited almost continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th millenium BCE) until modern times. It is an important source of archaeological data for approximately the last six millennia (Maeir, 2001, in press a,b;Maeir and Ehrlich, 2001). A unique trench encircles the eastern, southern and western sides of the tell. ...
... 1000 -700 BCE). Based on archaeological and historical considerations (Boas and Maeir, 1998;Maeir, 2001, in press a,b;Maeir and Ehrlich, 2001;Fig. 3. Tell eṡ-Ṡ âfi/Gath, aerial photograph with arrows showing trench. ...
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The semi-arid Mediterranean landscape in the area of Tell eṡ-Ṡâfi (biblical Gath of the Philistines), in central Israel, has been affected by extraordinary human activities. The Judean foothills in the region are characterised by chalk and calcrete with a patchy cover of Rendzina soils. Unique human-made geomorphic and catenary changes in the landscape, nearly 3000 years ago, left their marks on the vegetation distribution in the area today. A very large trench that surrounds the tell on three sides was excavated in the Iron Age II (ca. 9th century B.C.E.). The trench served as a siege moat, part of an offensive siege system around the tell. The trench is 2.5 km long, 8–10 m wide, and has a maximum depth of 5.5 m. A berm, consisting of dumped earth and rock fragments excavated from the trench, is situated alongside the entire length of the trench, covering the original surface. Our catenary landscape analysis revealed that a particular vegetation species, Sarcopoterium spinosum, is dominant on the berm, covering 78% of its surface area. Its coverage of the three other catenary landscape units, slope above the berm, trench, slope below the trench, is only 29%, 32% and 24%, respectively. Bedrock exposure in the berm is less than 4%, which together with the slightly elevated position of the berm results in surface area conditions of relatively low water retention. Such areas are conducive to S. spinosum establishment and survival, due to the plant's high resistance to comparatively dry conditions. Thus, the human landscape changes almost three thousand years ago caused a dramatic catenary change that continues to have a distinct effect on vegetation distribution today.
... s-. Sâfi/Gath. The investigations were carried out in conjunction with an ongoing excavation project that has been conducted at the site since 1996 (Maeir and Ehrlich, 2001). ...
... s-. Sâfi/Gath is one of the largest pre-classical archaeological sites in Israel (Figures 3 and 4). Most scholars identify the tell with biblical Gath of the Philistines (e.g., Rainey, 1975;Schniedewind, 1998;Maeir and Ehrlich, 2001), one of the most important Philistine cities during the early period of Philistine history (Iron Age I-II, ca. 1200-800 B.C.E.) ...
... The tell was inhabited almost continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th millenium B.C.E.) until modern times. It is a rich source of archaeological data for approximately the last six millennia (Maeir and Ehrlich, 2001). ...
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Tell es-Sâfi/gath is situated in the semiarid foothills of central Israel, adjacent to the coastal . plain. An enigmatic landscape feature, noted on aerial photographs, encircles the tell on three sides. This unique feature, unknown from other Near Eastern tells, was investigated. Methods of analysis include aerial photographs, field surveys, excavations, soil analyses, chronotypological ceramic classification, and radiocarbon dating. We concluded that (1) the peculiar landscape feature is a huge human-made trench, over 2 km long, 5–6 m deep, and more than 8 m wide, cut through bedrock; (2) the trench was excavated during the Iron Age IIA (ca. 1000–800 B.C.E.), apparently as part of a siege system; (3) the extracted rock and soil material was dumped on the Iron Age landscape surface on one side of the trench, forming an elevated “berm”; (4) erosion processes transformed this landscape scar, as the trench filled with sediment; (5) stratigraphic analysis indicates two major phases of filling, separated by a period of landscape stability and soil formation (A horizon); (6) the two filling phases, exhibiting Iron Age IIA and Byzantine pottery (ca. 324—638 C.E.), appear to coincide with more intense human activity; and (7) the possible effect of climatic variations seems less obvious. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
... 1. We included sites with different pottery types in the transitional layers: (a) sites containing layers with LHIIIC imports, found in Tel Beth Shean (D'Agata et al. 2005;Mazar 2007; Yasur-Landau 2010; Mountjoy 2011); (b) locally produced Aegean-like pottery such as Philistine 1 and Philistine 2 (Dothan 1982) that were found in Tel Miqne-Ekron (Dothan and Zukerman 2004) and in smaller numbers in Tell-es-Safi/Gath (Maeir and Ehrlich 2001) and Qubur el-Walaydah (Asscher et al. 2015a); and (c) sites with no imports nor locally produced Agean-like pottery were also incoporated as references for the intermediate LB|Ir local culture such as in Tel Lachish, Tel Megiddo, and Tel Rehov (Mazar and Carmi 2001;Ussishkin 2004). ...
... Large assemblages of Monochrome pottery were found only in Philistia, especially in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Tel Miqne-Ekron. Smaller quantities of Monochrome pottery were found in Tell es-Safi/Gath (Maeir and Ehrlich 2001), in particular in the transitional Stratum A6 (forthcoming), and sporadic sherds were found in Tel Haror, Haruba, Tell Jerishe, Akko, Ras Ibn Hani, Sarepta, Gezer, Beth Shean (Dothan and Zukerman 2004), and Qubur el-Walaydah (Asscher et al. 2015a). In the following phase, Bichrome pottery was abundant in Philistia, Upper Galilee (Hazor and Dan), northern coast and Akko Plain (Dor and Tell Keisan), Jezreel Valley and its margins (mainly Megiddo and Afula), Central Hill Country (Shiloh, Bethel, and Tell en-Nasbeh), and in the Negev Desert (Beersheba and Tel Masos) (Gilboa et al. 2006). ...
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The Late Bronze Age to Iron Age transition in the Levant includes the appearance of new material culture that is similar in styles to the Aegean world. In the southern Levant, the distribution of early styles of Aegean-like pottery, locally produced, is limited to the coastal areas of Canaan, making synchronization with the rest of the region difficult. Radiocarbon ( ¹⁴ C) dating provides a high-resolution absolute chronological framework for synchronizing ceramic phases. Here, absolute ¹⁴ C chronologies of the Late Bronze to Iron Age transition in the sites Tel Beth Shean, Tel Rehov, Tel Lachish, and Tel Miqne-Ekron are determined. Results show that the ranges of transitions vary in an absolute time frame by 50–100 years between different sites and that the range of the Late Bronze Age to Iron Age transition in Canaan spans the 13th–11th centuries BC plateau. These chronologies, based on a site-by-site approach for dating, show that the change between early types of Aegean-like pottery (Monochrome) to developed types (Bichrome), occurred over 100 years in Canaan and that the transition occurred in southern sites prior to sites in the north. These ranges show that not only is the Late Bronze to Iron Age not contemporaneous, but also synchronization between sites based on their ceramic assemblages is problematic.
... The study was conducted in the environs of Tell es-Safi/Gath in the Judean Shephelah (the Judean Foothills), in central Israel (Fig. 1). The site has been identified as the biblical "Gath of the Philistines," one of the cities of the Philistine "Pentapolis" (Rainey 1975;Schniedewind 1998;Maeir and Ehrlich 2001). It is one of the largest pre-classical archaeological settlements in Israel (Figs. 2 and 3), and is an important source of information regarding human history in the area from the Chalcolithic period (5 th millennium BCE) until modern times (Maeir 2001; in press a; in press b; Maeir and Ehrlich 2001). . . ...
... The site has been identified as the biblical "Gath of the Philistines," one of the cities of the Philistine "Pentapolis" (Rainey 1975;Schniedewind 1998;Maeir and Ehrlich 2001). It is one of the largest pre-classical archaeological settlements in Israel (Figs. 2 and 3), and is an important source of information regarding human history in the area from the Chalcolithic period (5 th millennium BCE) until modern times (Maeir 2001; in press a; in press b; Maeir and Ehrlich 2001). . . ...
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As part of the long-term archaeological project being conducted at Tell e-Sâfi/Gath in the semi-arid foothills of the Judean Mountains, a first order dry stream channel located in a valley east of the main site was surveyed and soil pits excavated in selected locations. A ditch, 10 m in length, was dug perpendicular to one of the agricultural terraces, showing that the small valley is filled with soil to a depth of more than 3 m above bedrock. The fill dates mainly to the Byzantine period (ca. 4th-7th cent. CE), according to the ceramic sherds. Three check-dam walls and related terraces were found across the width of the valley. Surprisingly, the base of the check-dam does not go deeper than 50 em into the uppermost part of the fill, well above bedrock or gravel layers, while covering only the upper part of the terrace step. Thus we use the term “floating terrace wall” or “floating check-dams”. Each of the terrace walls is about 0.5 m high and 50 m long. The valley is bound by two slopes: (1) a northeast facing slope characterized by Nari outcrops (a hard calcrete crust in the upper part of the chalk bedrock) and soil pockets, and (2) a southwest facing slope without Nari. The source of most valley fill material is apparently from the slope without Nari. The valley shows comparatively little accumulation during the Iron Age and very much accumulation during the Byzantine period. The main cause seems to be human-made earth movement and terrace building during the Byzantine period, rather than passive erosion and accumulation as a result of general environmental pressure by human activity.
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In this short study, a unique fluted ceramic bowl from the Iron Age IIA Stratum A3 (late 9th century B.C.) at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel, is discussed. This locally made bowl has a unique shape, which is reminiscent of Phoenician and Assyrian types. It is the earliest appearance of such a bowl in Philistia, and one of the earliest in the entire Iron Age Levant. The authors argue that Phoenician, and not Assyrian influences can be seen in the bowl, evidence of the cultural and trade contact between Philistia and Phoenicia during the early Iron Age II.
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