Ekron of the Philistines: From Sea Peoples to Olive Oil Industrialists
The excavations of Ekron radically changed the traditional perception of the Philistines, a tribe of the Sea Peoples who migrated from the Aegean in the 12th century BCE. They settled along the southern coast of modern day Israel, became the chief antagonists of ancient Israel, and after 200 years were assimilated into one of the major ethnic groups like the Canaanites, Israelites, or Phoenicians. The Ekron Excavations have produced dramatic new evidence documenting Philistine history for an additional 400 years until the destruction wrought by the campaign of the Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 604 BCE. It was in the last phase, during the 7th century, that Ekron achieved the zenith of its physical and economic growth, when it became the largest olive oil industrial center known in antiquity. Among the major finds of the period was the Ekron Royal Dedicatory Inscription, one of the three most important documents outside the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the 20th century in Israel. The excavations also provided an answer to one of the enigmatic questions involving the Philistines, why they eventually disappeared from the pages of history.