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According to Sennacherib’s prism, a part of Hezekiah’s kingdom was given to Gaza. Before today, I had no idea what specific ruins were given to Gaza. However, I now have a good candidate for one of those ruins:  Tell el-Hesi. Though before today I thought 8th C BC Tell el-Hesi should be considered Gazite due to the lack of characteristic Judahite artifacts found there, Rollston, Hardin, and Blakely’s analysis of the Hesi material has demonstrated to me that Hesi was a Judahite, rather than Gazite, border post built to prevent Ashdodite expansion. Hardin and Blakely pointed out that Hesi (and, indeed, every fortified site nearer to Judah than Kh. Summeily) lacks 8th C BC Philistine pottery, has some architectural parallels with Lachish (including measurement units), and contains a nearly identical ceramic repertoire to Lachish III. Perhaps, the most convincing pieces of evidence for Hesi’s Judahiteness were the Judahite bulla and paleo-Hebrew ostracon found at the site. Before today, I had strong doubts about Hesi’s Judahiteness, or even whether its City VI survived into the late 8th C BC, due to the surprising lack of lmlk impressions, pillar figurines, or horse and rider figurines found at the site. The situation with the lmlk impressions is paralleled at Tel Burna-the only lmlk handle found there had an H2D impression, the most common of the late types. Indeed, considering the amount of area exposed, it is a surprise to me that not a single early lmlk impression has been discovered at Burna, which is, like Hesi, effectively a fort/watchtower. This suggests to me that the lmlk impressed jars were used for civil government purposes, although we must remember that Tel ‘Erani, also a part of the Judah-Ashdod fortress line, yielded thirteen lmlk impressions (including some early ones), and that Tel Shokef, only a mile NW of Hesi, yielded, like Burna, a single late (S2DW) lmlk impression (note that, unlike Burna, Shokef was Gazite in the 7th C BC). However, while at least one pillar figurine has been discovered at Burna, such pillar figurines are found in not just Judahite, but Israelite and Philistine sites as well.

The surprising lack of early lmlk impressions at Hesi and Burna also makes me suggest Tel Sera VI (see this book, although its stratum numbers and site history description are incorrect, as shown by this book) was also an 8th C BC Judahite fortress. Judahite presence W. of Tel Sera in the reign of Hezekiah is suggested by 1 Chronicles 4 (Gedor=Gerar/Tel Haror; this is confirmed by Tiglath Pileser III’s mention of Meunites at the Brook of Egypt). However, as the Tel Sera VI material has not yet been evaluated by competent scholars and demonstrated Judahite by them, I cannot comment on this matter.

If Hesi City VI was Judahite, it destroys my presupposition that all Assyrian Palace Ware-using sites must have been founded by Sargon II. Perhaps, if not Sargon II, it was Esarhaddon who built up the Assyrian Palace Ware-bearing strata at Hesi and Tel Sera.