This silver pendant depicts the goddess Ishtar standing on the back of a lion, beneath the symbols for the stars and the winged sun. Lower down is the symbol for the crescent moon. A worshipper stands with arms outstretched, facing the goddess and in between them is a small cult stand. The hands of the worshipper are facing the goddess in supplication. The iconography is reminiscent of Phoenician craftsmanship, rather than the Mesopotamian iconography expected of the Mesopotamian goddess. This together with the crude workmanship suggests that it was locally made, with Mesopotamian influence.
The pendant was found in a silver hoard, hidden in the hole of a hewn, perforated, stone olive press. This hoard, along with five others, were sealed in a destruction layer dated to 604 BCE. The silver hoards are highly unusual for a Levantine city at this time and probably reflect the growing economic status and expanding needs of Ekron’s population.
Ekron was located on the border between Philistine and Judean territory. In the seventh century BCE it flourished under Neo-Assyrian influence, becoming a major olive oil production centre. Prosperity came with cultural strings attached, however, as the pendant’s use of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar suggests. A similar depiction of Ishtar on a pendant was found at Zinçirli, while seals depicting Ishtar have been found throughout Israel. Ishtar was widely venerated across the ancient Near East in the seventh century, with depictions of her most commonly found on personal items, such as seals or jewellery, rather than monumental inscriptions.
During the period of Neo-Assyrian expansion between the ninth and seventh centuries BCE, the development of trade routes and exchange of peoples and goods across the ancient Near East meant that cultural and religious ideas and goods were exchanged at a notable rate, which led to a diversification of local cultures. As the pendant from Ekron attests, foreign religious and cultural ideas were present among Judah’s closest neighbours during the seventh century; it seems very likely that they were known also in Judah itself.
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