Biblical Archaeology Review 36:1, January/February 2010

Strata: What Is It?

A. Pommel of Canaanite dagger

B. Herodian doorknob

C. Philistine saddle boss

D. Egyptian spool

E. Assyrian stamp seal

Answer: (C) Philistine saddle boss

This small, mushroom-shaped piece of ivory recovered from the Philistine site of Ashkelon is a rare example of an ancient chariot fitting known as a yoke-saddle boss. Measuring only 2.5 inches high and 2.25 inches in diameter, the boss was the terminal end of the handle of a special saddle that helped affix the chariot’s yoke to the horse’s neck. The boss was attached to the saddle by a nail that passed through a narrow half-inch hole running through the boss’s center.

The boss is one of only a handful of chariot fittings that have been recovered from archaeological excavations in Israel. But while other examples date to the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.), when chariot warfare was common in the Near East and the Aegean world, this piece dates to about 1100 B.C. when infantry forces had come to dominate the battlefield. That the Philistines used such fittings indicates that they, unlike their Israelite neighbors, continued to see advantages to chariot warfare. In fact, the Bible records that as many as 30,000 Philistine chariots were mustered against Saul and the Israelites in a battle that took place near the town of Michmash (1 Samuel 13:5).

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