Ekron Royal Dedicatory Inscription

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Ekron Inscription
JRSLM 300116 Ekron inscription.jpg
The inscription in its current location
Material Limestone
Size H: 39; W: 60; D: 26 cm
Writing Paleo-Hebrew alphabet[1]
Created c. 600 BCE
Discovered 1996
Present location Israel Museum
Identification IAA 1997-2912

The Ekron Royal Dedicatory Inscription, or simply the Ekron inscription, is a royal dedication inscription found in its primary context[2] in the ruins of a temple during the 1996 excavations of Ekron.[3]

It is incised on a rectangular-shaped limestone block, has five lines and 71 characters,[1] and mentions Ekron, thus confirming the identification of the site, as well as five of its rulers, including Ikausu (Achish), son of Padi, who built the sanctuary. Padi and Ikausu are known as kings of Ekron from the 7th-century Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals.[4]

It is the first connected body of text to be identified as "Philistine",[5] on the basis of Ekron's identification as a Philistine city in the Bible.[6] However, it is written in a Canaanite dialect similar to Phoenician and Old Byblian, such that its discoverers referred to it as "something of an enigma".[7][8]


The inscription was discovered in the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research Tel Miqne excavations of Ekron led by Seymour Gitin and Trude Dothan.

The inscription is one of the primary documents for establishing the chronology of events relating to the end of the late biblical period, especially a possible late history of the Philistines.[9][10][11] The inscription has therefore been referred to as one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century in Israel.[12]


The text is written from right-to-left in the style and dialect of Phoenician inscriptions from Byblos.[13] It has been transcribed and translated as:

1. bt.bn.ʾkyš.bn.pdy.bn. The temple (which) he built, 'kys son of Padi, son of
2. ysd.bn.ʾdʾ.bn.yʿr.šr ʿq Ysd, son of Ada, son of Ya'ir, ruler of Ek-
3. rn.lpt[ ]yh.ʾdth.tbrkh.wt ron, for Pt[ ]yh his lady, may she bless him, and
4. šm[r]h.wtʾrk.ymh.wtbrk. prot[ec]t him, and prolong his days, and bless
5. [ʾ]r(ṣ)h his [l]and


The language and form of writing of the Ekron inscription show a significant Phoenician influence, and the name Ikausu is understood as Achish.

The inscription contains a list of five of the kings of Ekron, fathers to sons: Ya'ir, Ada, Yasid, Padi, and Ikausu, and the name of the goddess Pt[ ]yh to whom the temple is dedicated, two of whom (Padi and Ikausu) are mentioned in the Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals, with these references have provided the basis for dating their reigns to the late 8th and 7th centuries BCE.[1]

The inscription also securely identified the site by mentioned the name Ekron.

The identity of "pt[g/r/-]yh" has been subject to scholarly debate, with the third letter being either a very small gimel giving "ptgyh" which could be a previously unknown deity,[14] or a resh giving ptryh or "Pidray" the Semitic daughter of Baal,[15] or a nun giving "ptnyh",[16][17] or no letter at all giving "ptyh".[18]

Other inscriptions from Ekron

The excavations also produced 16 short inscriptions including kdš l’šrt (“dedicated to [the goddess] Asherat”), lmqm (“for the shrine”), and the letter tet with three horizontal lines below it (probably indicating 30 units of produce set aside for tithing), and silver hoards.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Gitin, 1999, "The inscription is composed of five lines and seventy-one characters, written in a script similar to Phoenician, and to Old Hebrew, and is perhaps, as Naveh has suggested, a can- didate for a local late Philistine script."
  2. Aaron Demsky (2007), Reading Northwest Semitic Inscriptions, Near Eastern Archaeology 70/2. Quote: "The first thing to consider when examining an ancient inscription is whether it was discovered in context or not. It is obvious that a document purchased on the antiquities market is suspect. If it was found in an archeological site, one should note whether it was found in its primary context, as with the inscription of King Achish from Ekron, or in secondary use, as with the Tel Dan inscription. Of course texts that were found in an archaeological site, but not in a secure archaeological context present certain problems of exact dating, as with the Gezer Calendar."
  3. Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh, 1997, p. 1
  4. Gitin, Seymour (2003), Israelite and Philistine Cult and the Archaeological Record, in Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past, p. 287, “Two of the five names of city’s rulers mentioned in the inscription - Padi and Ikausu - appear in the Neo-Assyrian Annals as kings of ‘amqar(r)una, that is, Ekron, an Assyrian vassal city-state in the 7th century B.C.E. (Gitin 1995: 62). Padi is known from the Annals of Sennacherib in the context of the Assyrian kings 701 B.C.E. campaign, at the end of which he gave the towns of the defeated Judean King Hezekiah to Padi and others (Pritchard 1969: 287-88). Padi is also cited in a docket dated to 699 B.C.E., according to which he delivered a light talent of silver to Sennacherib (Fales and Postgate 1995: 21-22). Ikausu is listed as one of the 12 coastal kings who transported building materials to Nineveh for the palace of Esarhaddon (680-669 B.C.E.), and his name also appears in a list of kings who participated in Ashurbanipal’s first campaign against Egypt in 667 B.C.E. (Pritchard 1969: 291, 294).”
  5. Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh, 1997, p. 15, quote: "Until now, the inscriptions found in Philistia have contained mainly proper names; hence, the Ekron dedication is the first fluent text containing two whole phrases”
  6. See Joshua 13:3 and 1 Samuel 6:17
  7. Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh, 1997, p. 15, quote: "If so, one may ask why should a seventh century BCE be written at Ekron in a language close to Phoenician and reminiscent of Old Byblian. Phoenician was the prestige language in the tenth and ninth century BC To find an inscription, however, in seventh century BCE Philistia, where a script from the Hebrew tradition was used, is something of an enigma."
  8. Jaacob Callev, "The Canaanite Dialect of the Dedicatory Royal Inscription from Ekron".
  9. Wilford, John Noble (July 23, 1996). "Inscription at a Philistine City Shows: This is the Right Place". The New York Times. 
  10. Amnon Ben-Tor, Seymour Gitin,, Sidnie White Crawford (2007). "Up to the Gates of Ekron": Essays on the Archaeology and History of the Eastern Mediterranean in Honor of Seymour Gitin. ISBN 9789652210661. 
  11. Gitin, Seymour (Mar–Apr 1990). "Ekron of the Philistines, Part II: Olive-Oil Suppliers to the World". BAR Magazine. 
  12. Archeology. "Special Report: Ekron Identity Confirmed". 
  13. Berlant, 2008, p.15, "According to the excavation leaders Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh, the inscription, written from right to left in a style reminiscent of tenth century b.c.e. Phoenician inscriptions from Byblos, records the temple’s dedication by Ekron’s ruler Ikausu in a West Semitic dialect resembling Phoenician and Old Byblian, apparently spoken at Ekron and perhaps other Levantine Philistine city states. Comprised of some seemingly Hebrew letters, some seemingly Phoenician letters, and some letters that seem to have been unique to Ekron"
  14. Berlant, 2008, p.15-16, "Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh went on to state that the questionable letter... is undoubtedly an ancient form of the Hebrew letter gimmel. Yet this letter would be a remarkably small gimmel, and no Semitic goddess named Ptgyh has ever been identified. Nevertheless, Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh concluded that Ptgyh was “surely” a previously unknown Philistine and Indo-European deity based on: (1) the presence of terminal -yh in two feminine personal names in a Philistine name list found in the excavation of Tel Jemmeh; (2) the belief that Ikausu is a form of the Greek name Anchises, Achean or both; and (3) the generally accepted belief that the Philistines were known biblically as the Caphtorim, who presumably migrated from Crete and other parts of what is now Greece to the Levant in the late second millennium b.c.e."
  15. Berlant, 2008, p.21, "...Görge’s suggestion that the letter may have been a resh in Ptryh, a variant of Pidray, Baal’s daughter’s name... In view of the preceding evidence and analysis, the hypothesis that the questionable letter is a resh is certainly no less founded than the hypotheses that the letter was supposed to be a nun... The resh hypothesis is also more supportable, instructive, and ultimately important than the other hypotheses because the resulting name is a highly attested Semitic and, more broadly, Afro-Asiatic word that more aptly fits the inscription’s setting. Görge’s hypothesis therefore melds quite well with the hypothesis that the Ekron goddess was Pidray/Ptryh, rather than some previously unknown Semitic, much less Greek, goddess."
  16. Demsky Aaron, 1997. The Name of the Goddess of Ekron: A New Reading, JANES, 25, p. 3. " I therefore propose to read the word pt[n]y.h, which in Canaanite letters would represent the Greek term potni’, potnia (ποτνι', ποτνια), i.e., “mistress,” “lady,” the formal title of various goddesses in the Minoan, Mycenean and archaic Greek writings. The root is pot, meaning “lord, master,” as in despot. The term is found already in Myceanean documents written in Linear B dated to the 14th–12th centuries BCE, from Knossos (Crete) and Pylos (Peloponnesus)(Ventris & Chadwick, 1973). After making a search, I find that the term appears 90 times in the Homeric epics and hymns..."
  17. Finkelberg Margalit, (2006) Ino-Leucothea between East and West, J. of Ancient Near Eastern Religions, 6:105-121, referred in Lopez-Ruiz C., Mopsos and Cultural Exchange between Greeks and Locals in Cilicia, in Ueli Dill, Christine Walde (eds.) "Antike Mythen: Medien, Transformationen und Konstruktionen," Walter de Gruyter, 2009, p. 497.
  18. Berlant, 2008, p.16-18, "After inspecting the questionable letter closely, however, Demsky concluded that it “is no more than a wedge shaped chip in the porous stone,” and that Yardeni had drawn the letter’s left line “too concave” In addition, Demsky concluded that what Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh had interpreted and Yardeni had drawn as the letter’s right line was nothing but an unintended “spur,” rather than a real line. On the other hand, after comparing the questionable letter to the inscription’s nuns, Demsky went on to hypothesize that the name of this deity is Ptnyh, presumably representing the Greek word potni or potnia for “mistress” or “lady,” in agreement with what Demsky identified as the archaic Greek practice of denoting various deities in Linear B sometimes simply as “Mistress” or “Lady,” and sometimes more specifically as “Mistress or Lady So and So.”... Schäeffer-Lichtenberger argued that, among other problems with Demsky’s hypothesis: (1) “there is no known example of potnia hitherto as a name”; (2) all the nuns begin at the top of lines, but the questionable letter begins six mm. below the line; (3) the letter’s left line was indeed curved, as Gitin, Dothan, and Naveh had claimed; and (4) the space available below the questionable letter would not have allowed the scribe to chisel the tail of a nun or, for that matter, a resh"

Additional reading