S. & J.Rosenberg/Tel Miqne-Ekron Publication Project

In the innermost sanctuary of Biblical Ekron’s “Temple Complex 650” lay the early seventh-century B.C.E. inscription. The inscription beseeches a goddess to protect Achish, ruler of Philistine Ekron (modern-day Tel Miqne), and to bless him and his land. Ekron’s excavators have translated the name of the goddess as Ptgdyh (Pata-Gea), an otherwise unknown name. Differing with the excavators over one letter, author Aaron Demsky argues that the divine name should be rendered Pt[n]yh (Potnia)—a common Greek term for a “divine mistress” or “lady.” This would indicate that the Philistines were incorporating Greek (and, perhaps, Canaanite) religious symbols into their culture.

The huge temple complex, 185 feet long and nearly 125 feet wide, is designed like neo-Assyrian royal palaces and temples, with a courtyard (J on the plan) surrounded by a number of smaller rooms (C-I), and a throne room (M). To the west of the throne room is a large cultic area (not common in Assyrian structures) centered around a sanctuary where the inscription was found (Room U). The shape and size of the inscribed stone (a rectangular block similar to those used in the construction of other monumental buildings at Ekron), and its location near a partially paved cella at one end of the room, suggest that it was once part of the sanctuary’s western wall—perhaps even the focal point. Other cultic objects found in the sanctuary confirm that the space was used for ritual ceremonies.