Formation processes in Philistine hearths from Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel): An experimental approach

Shira Gur-Arieh, Elisabetta Boaretto, Aren Maeir, Ruth Shahack-Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ancient cooking installations yield important evidence for cooking technology and human diet. A cooking installation termed the Philistine pebble hearth is associated with the arrival of the Philistines at the beginning of the Iron Age in the southern Levant (ca. early/mid-12th century B.C.). These installations have been studied using traditional methods, focusing on a description of form and style in relation to the pottery of the period. Here we present a study using an experimental approach. We prepared three sets of experimental pebble hearths to study the pebbles' thermal behavior in relation to their volume. The comparison of these results with observations of Iron Age I archaeological hearths reveals different patterns in pebble shattering and soot patterns, indicating that the archaeological hearths were used in a different manner than the experimental ones. The experiments highlight the utility of shattered pebbles as an indicator of the use of fire directly on Philistine hearths, even in the absence of ash and/or charcoal. They also demonstrate that these installations may have been used with open fire or live embers. The results are applicable to the study of hearths worldwide, with implications for appropriate excavation methods and basic identification of ancient pyrotechnologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-131
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Experimental archaeology
  • Iron Age
  • Pebbles
  • Philistine hearth
  • Tell es-Safi/Gath

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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