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8-10-2015, 00:46

Myc IIIC in the Land Israel: Its Distribution, Date and Significance

Amihai Mazar

Relations between the Aegean, Cyprus and the Levant in the 12-11th centuries BCE and the nature of the Philistine culture was a highly debated subject during the past generation (for recent studies and summaries see various papers in Oren [ed.] 2000; Sharon 2001; Barako 2000; 2003). This discussion largely resulted from the discovery of new data concerning Philistine settlement at a time when the theoretical aspects of archaeological interpretation went through dynamic changes. Understandably, then, some interpretations given to the Philistines and related phenomena were tied to the dominate lines of thought at the time of writing.

Some views postulated during the 1980’s and later were motivated by the anti-diffusionist position of the “processual” or “New Archaeology” school or from socio-economic paradigms (Brug 1985; Buni-MOvItz 1990; Sherratt 1998), while other recent writers feel free from such paradigms and return to older models, though using new data and new theoretical frameworks. My own ideas on these issues have been expressed in the past (Mazar 1985a; 1985b; 1988; 1991; 1994; 2000; 2001) and I still adhere to most of them.

In this paper I will briefly explore the following subjects - all of which are related to the appearance of imported and locally-produced Myc IIIC in the Land of Israel:

1.  Myc IIIC pottery from Beth Shean and other sites in northern Israel

2.  Locally-made “Myc IIIC inspired” pottery from Beth Shean and other sites in northern Israel

3.  The date and meaning of the locally-produced Myc IIIC of Philistia (“Philistine Monochrome”)

4.  The origin and nature of the Philistine settlement

1. Myc IIIC pottery from Beth Shean and


Until recently, the small corpus of Myc IIIC or related pottery found in northern Israel was restricted to a complete or almost complete stirrup jar, a few sherds from Beth Shean (Hankey 1966; Warren and Hankey 1989: 164-165), a stirrup jar from Tel Keisan (Balensi 1981), and a small number of sherds from Akko. A few sites along the northern Levantine coast (Tyre, Sarepta, Byblos, Tell Sukas, and Ras Ibn Hani) yielded additional small quantities of such sherds, except for the latter site where a large quantity of locally(?) produced pottery of this kind was found. NAA analysis has shown that the stirrup jar from Tell Keisan originated in the Kouklia region on Cyprus (for references see Warren and Hankey 1989: 162-163; Yasur-Landau 2003b: 235-239).

In the new excavations at Tel Beth Shean from 1989-1996 we discovered an additional 27 sherds of this pottery, representing at least 10 different vessels (for the excavations see Mazar 2003; fig. 1 shows a selection of these sherds). The comments that follow are based on a study of these sherds by S. Sherratt and me (in press).

The Beth Shean sherds were found in two distinct strata (S-4 and S-3), both equivalent to Level VI of the University of Pennsylvania and clearly dated to the time of the Egyptian 20th Dynasty. The uppermost level (S-3) was destroyed in severe fire that brought an end to the Egyptian garrison at Beth Shean. Suggested dates for these two strata are as follows:

Stratum S-4: the time of Ramesses III (1184-1153 BCE according to Trigger, Camp and O’Connor 1983: 184 and Kitchen 2000: 49).

Stratum S-3: the time of Ramesses IV-VI (1163-1143 or 1153-1136 BCE).

Ten of the sherds (including the most elaborately decorated ones) came from the earlier Stratum S-4 and seventeen from Stratum S-3. Thus, Beth Shean provides the best stratigraphic/chronological anchor for dating this pottery. Stylistic analysis has shown that there is no difference between the Myc IIIC sherds of S-4 and S-3. It therefore appears that

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Fig. 1 Selected Myc IIIC sherds from Beth Shean Strata S4 and S3

This pottery was in use at Beth Shean throughout the lifetime of the 20th Dynasty.726 Thirteen of the 27 sherds belong to stirrup jars, while two belonged to a jug, three to a small closed vessel,727 four to skyphoi, and nine unidentified. The ratio between closed vessels (particularly stirrup-jars) and open vessels contrasts sharply with the assemblage of locally-made “Myc IIIC” in Philistia where stirrup jars are very rare.

Stylistic analysis of the sherds led Sherratt to conclude that the vessels arrived at Beth Shean from Late Cypriot III production centers in Cyprus and that they belong to the locally-produced Cypriot variation of Myc IIIC pottery that some call “Cypriot White Painted Wheelmade III”. According to Sherratt, the stirrup jar published by Han-

KEY and the two large fragments of stirrup jars from the new excavations at Beth Shean came from eastern Cyprus and have parallels at Enkomi in late Stratum IIIa and early Stratum IIIb, though some of the motifs are variants of motifs on LH IIIB-C stirrup jars. Two jug sherds from Beth Shean are decorated in the Sinda-style typical of this period, which appears at Kition on the earliest LC IIIA floor. All these distinct sherds came from Stratum S-

4. Stylistically, none of the other fragments can be regarded as later than these well-defined sherds.

Petrographic analysis carried out by Cohen-Weinberger has shown that the vessels could have come from Cyprus, Cilicia, or the northern Syrian coast. This conclusion is now also confirmed by NAA analysis.728

NAA analysis of the Beth Shean sherds was part of a wider study by A. Yasur-Landau, H. Mommsen, Y. Goren and AL. D’Agata. The results point to Cyprus as the country of origin for these sherds. I thank A. Yasur-Landau for this information.


Warren and Hankey (1989: 164-165) defined the stirrup jar from Beth Shean as “LH IIIC Middle,” and made this definition their cornerstone for dating LH IIIC Early and Middle. The generally accepted date of ca. 1190 BCE for the destruction of Ugarit and Tell Deir ‘Alla (where the latest datable Myc IIIB pottery was found) left a time span of roughly one generation in WARREN and Hankey’s view for “LH IIIC Early” (i. e. from ca. 1185/80 BCE to ca. 1150 BCE). LH IIIC Middle, on the other hand, was dated by them based on Beth Shean to the short time span between the last years of Ramesses III and Ramesses V/VI (the latest date being 1136 BCE). In contrast, Sherratt’s stylistic analysis of the Beth Shean group led her to conclude that:

“the use of the term ‘LH IIIC Middle’, when applied to the pottery recovered at Beth Shean, is essentially meaningless. Though it may well have a ‘LH IIIC Middle’ look about it, in the sense that some of its decoration is relatively elaborate and that it includes some motifs which, in certain parts of the Aegean, would normally be classified as ‘LH IIIC Middle’, the use of this label represents an ultra-normative form of classification based on general stylistic considerations alone, which of itself says nothing about the relative or absolute chronology of the Beth Shean fragments” (SHERRATT in: Sherratt and Mazar in press).

This “release” of the Beth Shean vessels and sherds, as well as their Cypriot counterparts from the definition “LHIIIC Middle”, fits their appearance in two separate strata dated to the time of the Egyptian 20th Dynasty. As mentioned above, the earlier level which must belong to the time of Ramesses III, yielded some of the largest and more elaborate sherds in our collection. This pottery originated from “a horizon which covers the later part of Level IIIa at Enkomi and perhaps also the early stages of Level IIIb” (Sherratt, op. cit.), which should be dated to the first half of the 12th century BCE (see also Yasur-Landau 2003b:237-239). This date also fits the radiometric dates of ca. 1200 BCE for the transition from LCIIC and LCIII (MANNING et. al. 2001).

Sherratt suggests that this Cypriot “Myce-naean-related” pottery arrived through limited and casual trade between Cyprus and the Levant during the 12th century, most probably via the ports of Akko and/or Tyre. Thus, during the time of the 20th Dynasty, Beth Shean retained trade relations of some sort with the coast. This explanation is preferred by Sherratt as part of her concept of trans-

Mediterranean trade developed by Cypriots and other entrepreneurs after the collapse of the centralized authorities, ca. 1200 BCE (Sherratt 1998; 2003: 44-51).

In my opinion, the imported pottery from Beth Shean is an isolated phenomenon that should be tied to specific circumstances. A possible explanation is that such pottery was brought as a luxury item by Cypriot mercenaries who served in the Egyptian garrison at Beth Shean. Such an import could have been part of a framework of local profit-making initiatives. This would explain why such pottery is so rare at Beth Shean itself and absent at major sites like Megiddo and Dor. At Beth Shean, this pottery is rare compared to the large amount of locally-produced Egyptian and Canaanite pottery.

At this time, Beth Shean was an Egyptian garrison and it is reasonable to assume that the imported Myc IIIC pottery was associated with Egyptian activity at the site. It seems that the wide scale trade system of the 13th century came to an end in the 12th century to be replaced by local, small scale and exceptional initiatives which cannot be explained as part of a larger trade system.

The lack of Myc IIIC in Stratum VIIA Megiddo was interpreted by Finkelstein (1996) as reflecting chronological differences between Megiddo and Beth Shean. In his view, both Strata S-4 and S-3 at Beth Shean postdate Megiddo VIIA. This view cannot be accepted, however, since the Myc IIIC sherds of Cypriot origin from Beth Shean were found in two distinct levels of a dwelling area contemporary with the Egyptian 20th Dynasty, a time range of about 60-70 years in the 12th century BCE. Finkel-stein’s view would leave no time slot for Megiddo VIIA, a city which must also be contemporary with the Egyptian 20th Dynasty. Therefore, Megiddo VIIA and Beth Shean VI (our Strata S-4 and S-3) must have been contemporary.

The lack of Myc IIIC imports at Megiddo should be understood in light of the limited import of such pottery to Beth Shean as explained above. unlike the Egyptian garrison of Beth Shean, Megiddo VIIA was a major Canaanite city of the 12th century BCE, and belonged to a period postdating the intense trade connections with Cyprus and the Aegean (Mazar 2001). A lack of imported Myc IIIC at Megiddo should be viewed as the normal state of affairs in the period following the demise of the international trade of the 14th and 13th centuries BCE. The phenomenon of small-scale imported Cypriot “Myc IIIC” at Tel Keisan, Beth Shean, and few other sites along the Levantine coast is the