Saturday, June 13, 2009


We went searching for Ekron this morning. It's called Tel Mikne (or Miqne) in Hebrew and it's one of the five cities of the Philistine "Pentapolis" (along with Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath and Gaza). During the Iron Age (1300-600 BCE), Ekron was a border city on the frontier between Philistia and Judah. It was originally a Canaanite city but burned down around 1300 BCE before being rebuilt by the Philistines around 1200 BCE. It's mentioned in the old testament (2 Kings 1:2) as a noted sanctuary of the god Baal (actually the Baal Zebul, connected with Beelzebub). In 712 BCE Sargon II (the Assyrian king) laid seige to Ekron (depicted in one of the wall reliefs in his palace near Mosul in Iraq). The city was instrumental in Sennacherib's (Sargon II son and heir) attack of Judah and Jerusalem (where Hezekiah was king). The Assyrians were incensed by a revolt in Ekron and the expulsion of Padi, then governor of Ekron, who was sent to Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Sennacherib attacked Judah and enforced Padi's reinstatement.

The site was identified as Ekron in 1996 by the recovery of this tablet. It now lives in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

One would think that an archeological site of this importance would be well cared for and well marked. Well it's not. I googled and searched on maps. Finally I found a reference on a satellite map on google - but it seemed clear that the way was not signposted nor paved. So we marked out the way on the map and figured we would try find it. A Hebrew site gave us a key hint that the way to the site follows a nature trail marked with white, red, white chevrons.

The boy and I set out at with the birds and bikers at six. We found the exit from route 3 with no real problem and then proceeded to take the Prius through a dirt road adventure. The way was not too bad and using the satellite map we found the site without much trouble.

The site is actually in the middle of a wheat field. It is completely overgrown and requires some serious bush bashing. We started out on the southern end and actually found an old sign pointing out the oil presses. Once we uncovered the remains of the oil presses, we scrambled around avoiding thorn bushes and ticks. There must have been a serious oil producing industry as the remains were numerous.

Besides the oil presses all that's visible are really just a bunch of half buried boulders. Not even the walls of buildings are exposed. It's very overgrown. What completely amazed me was we found piles of discarded pottery and shards. These piles were obviously left by various excavation teams. It's incredible that in some parts of the world a single piece of pottery is of enormous relevance, but here they're just left in discard piles. . We couldn't help touching and feeling various pieces, they were hand made by craftsmen thousands of years back. Pure magic.

On our way back to the car, we nearly fell over what I think is the remains of an outer wall.

Both the boy and I loved today's excursion. Nick Cave's music provided the perfect backdrop for the trip out and for bumping over dirt roads. On the way back we continued our listen of Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point". I'm a lucky chap.

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