Despite the late date and dubious veracity of the Deuteronomistic history, and despite the Bible’s status as the only Bronze or Iron Age text which indisputably refers to Dagon in a southern Canaanite geographical context, scholars have traditionally accepted 1 Samuel 5:1–8’s portrayal of Philistine cult in the Iron Age i as being centered on this deity and his temple at Ashdod. This study marshals archaeological and historical evidence to assess the level of support for the presence of Dagon in Iron i Philistia, and for a temple at Ashdod as described in the biblical account. Also considered, through comparison with the materially analogous situation in the Bronze Age Aegean, is the critical role that a textual complement to physical evidence (or, in the case of the Philistines, the lack thereof) plays in cultic analysis and pantheonic reconstruction.
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BietakM.BiranA.AviramJ.“The Sea Peoples and the End of the Egyptian Administration in Canaan.”Biblical Archaeology Today 1990: Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Biblical Archaeology1993JerusalemIsrael Academy of Sciences and Humanities292306
DothanM.CrossF.M.“Ashdod at the End of the Late Bronze Age and the Beginning of the Iron Age.”Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1900–1975)1979CambridgeASOR125134
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DothanT.GitinS.“Tel Miqne/Ekron: The Aegean Affinities of the Sea Peoples’ (Philistines’) Settlement in Canaan in Iron Age I.”Recent Excavations in Israel: A View to the West: Reports on Kabri Nami Miqne—Ekron Dor and Ashkelon1994DubuqueKendall Hunt4156
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DothanT.CohnR.L.SilbersteinL.J.CohnR.L.“The Philistines as Other: Biblical Rhetoric and Reality.”The Other in Jewish Thoughts and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity1994New YorkNYU6173
EhrlichC.S.HarrisonT.P.“Philistine Religion: Text and Archaeology.”Cyprus the Sea Peoples and the Eastern Mediterranean: Regional Perspectives of Continuity and Change2007TorontoCanadian Institute for Mediterranean Studies3352
EmanuelJ.P.BersV.ElmerD.FrameD.MuellnerL.“Cretan Lie and Historical Truth: Examining Odysseus’ Raid on Egypt in its Late Bronze Age Context.”Donum Natalicium Digitaliter Confectum Gregorio Nagy Septuagenario a Discipulis Collegis Familiaribus Oblatum2012Washington, DCCHS141
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GitinS.DeverW.G.GitinS.“Israelite and Philistine Cult and the Archaeological Record.”Symbiosis Symbolism and the Power of the Past: Canaan Ancient Israel and Their Neighbors from the Late Bronze Age Through Roman Palaestina2003Winona LakeEisenbrauns279283
HarrisonT.P.SchloenD.“Lifting the Veil on a ‘Dark Age’: Ta’yinat and the North Orontes Valley During the Early Iron Age.”Exploring the Longue Durée: Essays in Honor of Lawrence E. Stager2009aWinona LakeEisenbrauns171184
HesseB.WapnishP.SilbermanN.A.SmallD.B.“Can Pig Remains be Used for Ethnic Diagnosis in the Ancient Near East?”The Archaeology of Israel: Constructing the Past Interpreting the Present1997LondonBloomsbury238270
JanewayB.HarrisonT.P.“The Nature and Extent of Aegean Contact at Tell Ta’yinat and Vicinity in the Early Iron Age: Evidence of the Sea Peoples?”Cyprus the Sea Peoples and the Eastern Mediterranean: Regional Perspectives of Continuity and Change2007TorontoCanadian Institute for Mediterranean Studies123146
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KlingB.BarlowJ.A.BolgerD.L.KlingB.“A Terminology for the Matte—Painted, Wheelmade Pottery of Late Cypriot IIC–IIIA.”Cypriot Ceramics: Reading the Prehistoric Record1991PhiladelphiaUniversity Museum181184
KopakaK.LaffineurR.HäggR.“A Day in Potnia’s Life: Aspects of Potnia and Reflected ‘Mistress’ Activities in the Aegean Bronze Age.”POTNIA: Deities and Religion in the Aegean Bronze Age2001LiégeUniversité de Liége1527
MaeirA.M.MaeirA.M.MiroschedjiP.D.“A Philistine ‘Head Cup’ from Tell es-Safi/Gath.”I Will Speak the Riddles of Ancient Times”: Archaeological and Historical Studies in Honor of Amihai Mazar on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday2006Winona LakeEisenbrauns335345
MazowL.B.HarrisonT.P.“The Industrious Sea Peoples: The Evidence of Aegean-Style Textile Production in Cyprus and the Southern Levant.”Cyprus the Sea Peoples and the Eastern Mediterranean: Regional Perspectives of Continuity and Change2007TorontoCanadian Institute for Mediterranean Studies291321
MazowL.B.SpencerJ.R.MullinsR.A.BrodyA.J.“Competing Material Culture: Philistine Settlement at Tel Miqne—Ekron in the Early Iron Age.”Material Culture Matters: Essays on the Archaeology of the Southern Levant in Honor of Seymour Gitin2014Winona LakeEisenbrauns131164
PalaimaT.G.PalaimaT.G.ShelmerdineC.W.IlievskiP.H.“Perspectives on the Pylos Oxen Tablets: Textual (and Archaeological) Evidence for the Use and Management of Oxen in the Late Bronze Age Messenia (and Crete).”Studia Mycenaea1988MadisonWisconsin85124
RahmstorfL.Kyparisse-ApostolikaN.PapakonstantinouM.“Clay Spools from Tiryns and Other Contemporary Sites: An Indication of Foreign Influence in LH IIIC?”He Periphereia tou Mykenaikou Kosmou 22003AthensHypourgeio Politismou397415
SherrattE.S.GitinS.MazarA.SternE.“ ‘Sea Peoples’ and the Economic Structure of the Late Second Millennium in the Eastern Mediterranean.”Mediterranean Peoples in Transition: Thirteenth to Early Tenth Centuries BCE1998JerusalemIES292313
SingerI.FinkelsteinI.Na’amanN.“Egyptians, Canaanites, and Philistines in the Period of the Emergence of Israel.”From Nomadism to Monarchy: Archaeological and Historical Aspects of Early Israel1994JerusalemIES282338
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YasurLandau.LaffineurR.HäggR.“The Mother(s) of All Philistines? Aegean Enthroned Deities of the 12th–11th Century Philistia.”POTNIA: Deities and Religion in the Aegean Bronze Age2001LiégeUniversité de Liége329343
Macalister1914:4699–108. The historical acceptance of Dagon in the Iron i Philistine pantheon is far too long to list here in its entirety. Representative examples include (but are not limited to) Albright 1922; Montalbano 1951; Delcor 1964; Rahtjen 1965; C. Gordon 1966: 24; Stiebing 1970:143; M. Dothan 1971:21; T. Dothan 1982:20; Ahlström 1983; Wiggins 1993. On the other hand as will be dealt with in more detail below Singer (1992) agrees that Dagon was chief god of the Philistines based on the biblical account but does not accept that a cult of Dagan existed in Canaan before their arrival. Instead he argues that the Philistines introduced this god to the area they came to occupy suggesting that they adopted him either as they passed through northern Syria toward the southern Levantine coast or later from the Phoenicians.
T. Dothan and Cohn 1994; Stager 1995;2006:380; Barako 2000; 2001:11 f. The earliest stage of Philistine occupation has alternately been seen as the forcible settlement of an intrusive population by an Egypt whose hold on southern Canaan was still very strong at the time (Kitchen 2012:15) or as an unwelcome intrusive foothold that caused Ramesses iii to establish a cordon sanitaire around the southern coastal plain as “a defensive strategy designed to block Philistine expansion [and] to administer the areas of southern Palestine that remained under Egyptian control” (Weinstein 2012:164; Bietak 1993; Stager 1995:342; personal communication 2011).
M. Dothan and Porath1993:10–11; Doumas 1998.
M. Dothan and Freedman1967:81; M. Dothan 1971:24; 1979:126; 1989:65. M. Dothan placed the destruction at the end of the 19th Dynasty (thus the 13th–12th centuries absolute date for the stratum xiv–xiii transition). However the data from Ashdod’s excavations are not without problems as has been noted by Finkelstein and Singer-Avitz (2001; 2003); see also below.
M. Dothan and Freedman1967:81–83; M. Dothan 1971:25–26; 1979:126; 1989:65; Ben-Shlomo Nodarou and Rutter 2011:337 344 346 Table 1 Figs. 4d–f.
M. Dothan1979:129. Myc. iiic is also referred to in the relevant literature as (inter alia) Myc. iiic:1 Myc. iiic:1b lhiiic:1b White Painted Wheelmade iii Philistine Monochrome and Sea Peoples Monochrome (Kling 1991; T. Dothan and Zukerman 2004:2–3 with references).
M. Dothan and Ben-Shlomo2005:132. Much as settlement foundation size and orientation (as well as the intrusive population’s interaction with indigenous Canaanites) varied from site to site the differences in Philistine 2 pottery at Ashdod Ashkelon Ekron and Gath suggests that production developed distinctly if not independently at each Philistine site (Yasur-Landau 2010:286–294; Maeir 2012:20).
M. Dothan and Ben-Shlomo2005:161.
Stager1995:335339; T. Dothan and Zukerman 2004:6 36 44; Ben-Shlomo 2010:194–195; Hitchcock 2011:269; Maier 2012:19; Zukerman 2012:300; T. Dothan and Ben-Shlomo 2013:29; Mazow 2014:157.
Machinist2000:65; Stager 2006:376.
Faust (2006) following Barth (1969) suggests that Israel’s ethnic identity was defined in contrast to Philistine culture and vice versa while Maier Hitchcock and Horwitz (2013:3) contend that “Philistine identity was initially focused on maintaining cohesion and preserving continuity with its own past and not with the establishment of an identity vis-à-vis local Levantine populations.”
Machinist2000:5469; Stone 1995.
Dothan and Dothan1992:3–6; R. Gordon 2004:22.
T. Dothan and Cohn1994:61. The term “Ark Narrative” refers to the story of the Ark of the Covenant’s transfer from Shiloh under the Elide priesthood to Jerusalem under the Davidic monarchy (1 Sam. 4:1–7:1 and 2 Sam. 6:1–19). It was coined by Rost (1965) who saw this as a cohesive narrative predating the surrounding portions of the book of Samuel.
Singer1992:435; Machinist personal communication 2010. Recent studies of Philistine cult and cultic implements include Mazar 2000; Gitin 2003; Ehrlich 2007.
Machinist2000:59; cf. Noort 1994:174; Judg. 16:22; 1 Sam. 5:2–5 7; 1 Chron. 10:10. The Canaanite shift ā > ô results in dagān > dāgôn (Singer 1992:436; Wyatt 1999:112).
Crowell2001:4055; Feliu 2003:302–304.
Dussaud1935:179–180; Artzi 1968; Archi 1981; Healey 1988:107; Yon 1992.
Pettinato1976:4850; 1981:248; Pettinato and Waetzoldt 1985:238 n.24.
Feliu2003:23n.115. rs 11.840 an administrative text from Ugarit lists a Canaanite (kncny) and separately an Ashdodite (aḏddy) (Rainey 1996:4).
Cf. Mazar 1985; 2000; Press2007:85–91; Ben-Shlomo and Press 2009:49; Dothan and Dothan 1992:156; Yasur-Landau 2010:305. According to Yasur-Landau (2001:333 n.22) a fragment from Tel Qasîle that may have held an infant pictured in Ben-Shlomo and Press (2009 fig. 8.2) “suggests an additional yet related role as a kourotrophos” though he offers the caveat that this is so only “if both types of figurines [that from Qasîle and the other non-childbearing figurines of Ashdoda type] represent different aspects of the same goddess and not different goddesses” altogether. However Press (2012:164–165) sees insufficient evidence for this role writing that “there is no clear indication that the arm is holding anything” and that “no other Ashdoda example . . . depicts a child pregnancy or any other attribute that might be associated with motherhood.” The implications of this will be discussed in greater detail below.
Ben-Shlomo and Press2009:49.
T. Dothan1982:234–237; Yasur-Landau 2001:332; Press 2007:206–212; Russell 2009.
Hachlili1971:129–130. As Press (2012:160) notes while this figurine is often referred to as “complete” because of its reconstructed status it has been restored (and some parts recreated) from its original fragmented state.
Ben-Shlomo and Press2009:49f; Press 2012a:162; Yasur-Landau 2001:331.
E.g. T. Dothan1982:66160 215 Figs. 34:4 50:3 51:7 53:3 pl. 73:5; M. Dothan and Porath 1993:5 66 Fig 6; Dothan and Dothan 1992:153; Russell 2009:5.
Dothan and Dothan1992:154; Yasur-Landau 2001:332; Ben-Shlomo and Press 2009:49; Press 2012a:163.
M. Dothan and Ben-Shlomo2005:166.
M. Dothan1971:161; Yasur-Landau 2001:335; Press 2011:388
Dothan and Dothan1992:156–157; A. Mazar 2000:223; Ben-Shlomo and Press 2009:49; Ben-Shlomo 2010:49.
Goodison and Morris 1998; Press2012b.
Hachlili 1971; Ben-Shlomo and Press2009fig. 9.
Ben-Shlomo and Press2009:53; arii §30.
Mazar2000:216; Ben-Shlomo 2010:16; Maier 2012: 27 figs. 1.15–16. The correlation of Tell Qasile and Tell es-Safi temples may suggest that the two-column design was a regular feature of Philistine cultic architecture in the Iron i and iia.
Mazar 1973;1980:3870 Table 14.
Mazar1980:6267–68; T. Dothan and Cohn 1994:68.
Ben-Shlomo2010:187; Maier 2012:30 fig. 1.16.
M. Dothan1969:244; 1989:65; T. Dothan 1982:37; Dothan and Dothan 1992:166–167; M. Dothan and Porath 1993:54 pls. 14:2–3 15:1.
M. Dothan1979:131; M. Dothan and Porath 1993:54 61.
Aja2009:290; Yasur-Landau 2010:271–275; cf. T. Dothan 2003:201; Mazow 2005:350.
M. Dothan1989:66; M. Dothan and Porath 1993:54. Interestingly this timeline appears to coincide with the appearance of Ashdoda figurines in the assemblage at Ashdod (see below) including in Area G where two Ashdoda seats of possible strata xii–x were found (Press 2012a:194 n.9).
T. Dothan1982:41; M. Dothan and Ben-Shlomo 2005 plan 2.5 fig. 2.16. See Finkelstein and Singer-Avitz (2001:238–239) for an alternative view of Ashdod’s status as a fortified site.
T. Dothan and Cohn1994:69; Ben-Shlomo 2010:164.
Mazar and Ben-Shlomo2005:25; Aja 2009:299; Ben-Shlomo 2010:186.
Mazar2000:223. Ben-Shlomo (2010:187) refers to Building 350 at Ekron as “a public building of some sort but probably not a temple.”
Mazar and Ben-Shlomo2005:26plans 2.5–2.6.
T. Dothan1994:44; 2003:201; 1997:103; Dothan and Dothan 1992:153; Mazar and Ben-Shlomo 2005:26; Aja 2009:301–302.
Mazar and Ben-Shlomo2005:28–30.
Mazar and Ben-Shlomo2005:22.
M. Dothan and Porath1993:72plan 10.
M. Dothan and Porath1993:72pls. 22:1–3 23:1; T. Dothan 2003:202 204–207 figs 13–15; Mazow 2007; Stager et al. 2008:265–267 figs. 15:22 30–31.
Hägg1981figs. 1–2. T. Dothan (2003:201) also notes the similarity between Room 9 of House ii at Panagia Mycenae (lhiiib) and the central hall of B5337. Of particular note is the 1.7×1m hearth flanked by two column bases which is similar to the layout of B5337’s central hall. However the parallel is not exact: Room 9 was significantly smaller than the central hall of B5337 (ca. 26m2 for Room 9 vs. nearly 43m2 for B5337 at Ashdod) while Shear (1987:29–31 n.16) also suggests that the columns in Room 9 were later additions put in place to support a sagging ceiling.
Mazar and Ben-Shlomo2005:26.
Mazar and Ben-Shlomo2005:30.
Attridge and Oden Jr.1981:809811; cf. Baumgarten 1981:188–190.
Maier1998:501–502; Deutsch and Heltzer 1995 no. 42. Younger (2007:118 120) posits that the arrowhead if properly associated with Dagan is the latest attested personal name with this divine element (cf. Crowell 2001:48–50 with references).
Singer1992:434–435; Machinist 2000:59. See Wyatt (1999) for a discussion of combination and conflation of Asherah and Astarte in the biblical text.
Singer 1992; 2000; cf. also C. Gordon1966:24; Macalister 1914:105.
Ehrlich2007:36; Machinist personal communication 2010.
Press2012a:161; cf. Hachlili 1971:129–130 133–134; T. Dothan 1982:251; Dothan and Dothan 1992:156. Further Press (2007:205–206 243–245) has questioned whether the “Late Ashdoda” figurines are seated human figures at all (also Ben-Shlomo and Press 2009:56; contra T. Dothan 1982:227–228).
Ben-Shlomo and Press2009:55.
Maeir2006:338n.1; Mazar 2000:223 225.
Mazar2000:223; Maeir 2006:341.
Gitin T. Dothan and Naveh1997:12; Naveh 1998; Yasur-Landau 2001:337.
Schäfer-Lichtenberger2015. On the transplantation of this cult from Delphi to Philistia she writes “As the goddess of oath of a group of emigrants she can by all means have played a prominent role in the success of the colonization at the new place of settlement as Gaia’s worship would have maintained the group identity” (Schäfer-Lichtenberger 2015:356).
Press2012b:8; cf. Yasur-Landau 2001:333. As noted above the possibility that Ashdoda bore an additional identity as a kourotrophos may be based on a misreading of a figurine fragment from Tel Qasîle (Press 2012a:164–165).
Goodison and Morris 1998a; Press2012bwith extensive references.
Coldstream1984:99; cf. also Bendall 2001; Kopaka 2001; Kyriakidis 2001; Press 2012b. Potnia who according to Thomas and Wedde (2001:13) “as a specific goddess or more than one female divinity or aspects of a single deity remains the symbol of the modern beholder’s desperate search for a cohesive image of the Aegean Bronze Age religions” (cf. Morris 2001:429; also Godart 2001 and Trümpy 2001 both with extensive further references) appears as many as 18 times between the Pylian and Knossian archives where the term is coupled each time with a name or toponymic determinant (Thomas and Wedde 2001:3 5; Morris 2001). Homer employs the term 69 times in Iliad and Odyssey as an epithet for inter alia Hera Hebe Artemis Athena Enyo Circe and Calypso (Iliad: Hera: I 551 568 iv 50 viii 198 218 471 xiii 826 xiv 159 xiv 197 222 263 300 329 xv 34 49 83 100 149 xvi 439 xviii 239 357 360 xix 106 xx 309; Hebe: iv 2. Artemis xxi 470; Athena: vi 305; Enyo: V 592; Potnia Mater: i 357 vi 264; 413 429 471 ix 561 584 xi 452 795 xiii 430 xvi 37 xvi 51 xviii 35 70 xix 291 xxii 239 341 352 xxiii 92 xxiv 126 701. Odyssey: Circe: viii 448 x 394 549 xii 36; Hera: iv 513; Calypso: I 14; nymph: v 149. Potnia mater: vi 30 154 xi 180 215 xi 546 xii 134 xv 385 461 xviii 5 xix 462 xxi 115 172 xxiv 333).
Goodison and Morris 1998a; Press2012b.
Mazar2000:213; Nagy 2010:313.
E.g. Rost1965:6–34; Miller and Roberts 1977; Willis 1971; Campbell 1975; Van Seters 1983:351; Gitay 1992.