The End of the Philistines, by Samantha Chasse

604 destructionThis smashed assemblage of storage jars discovered at the Philistine city of Ashkelon dates to 604 B.C.E. These jars were probably used for wine storage. Charcoal, collapsed roofs, and charred remains were also found around these jars, and there is evidence of burning throughout the site.

The jars are evidence of the Babylonian destruction of this Philistine site. Philistia was an area filled with independent city-states with no overarching ruler but a common cultural heritage. Ashkelon was a prosperous city-state with large wine production facilities and evidence of trade with imported Greek pottery, Phoenician pottery, and Egyptian items. When the Assyrian empire fell, Ashkelon and the rest of Philistia aligned with Egypt, which was one of two major powers in the Near East. Their relationship with Egypt is a possible explanation for the utter destruction of the city in 604 B.C.E by the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar. Another possible explanation was that the king of Ashkelon refused to be a client king for Babylon. The pottery was intentionally smashed before it was deposited.

The pottery is indicative of the end of the Philistines. The survivors were exiled to Babylon once their home was destroyed. Ashkelon’s destruction was a foreshadowing of what was to come throughout the Near East. Jerusalem, the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, would also be destroyed by the ever-growing Babylonian hegemony, and its inhabitants also be exiled. The Judeans would eventually return to their homeland but the Philistines would never return to Ashkelon or Philistia.