Ilan Sztulman/Tel Miqne-Ekron Excavations

An iron knife with an ivory handle. Knives such as this have been recovered from Philistine temples at Ekron and Tell Qasile, and similar knives are known from Cyprus and Greece. In the 12th and 11th centuries B.C., when iron was a precious commodity, these knives are found only in cultic contexts. By the ninth through seventh centuries, iron objects became commonplace and were used for everyday purposes such as plowing.

Although not a matter of scholarly dispute, the Philistines have long been thought to have had a monopoly on ironworking, a capability they supposedly brought to Canaan from their Aegean homeland. 1 Samuel 13:19–20 states, “Now there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears’; but every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle.”