Wine from Rhodes was by far the most commonly imported commodity in the Southern Levant during the Hellenistic period. The study of the stamped handles of the amphorae that transported it provides various types of information, not only on the chronology of events but also on political and economic history. The study is at its best when the sample size is large, allowing one to distinguish significant profiles of chronological distribution.

Comparisons with written sources provide confirmation of the latter and even some additional nuances on the events. This applies to events linked with warfare such as conquest, destruction, abandonment, recession and even supply for the preparation for or during movements related to war. The precise understanding of and differentiation between these categories of events is generally possible with the help of other archaeological information such as destructions with burnt pottery, or finds such as coins, inscribed lead weights, sealed doors, etc.

A significant peak of imports occurs at the lower city of Akko in the period between the battle of Raphia (217 BCE) and that of Panion (Banias, 200 BCE), during the Fourth Syrian War. The same peak, however more discrete, appears at other sites in the Southern Levant. This might be understood as supplies for the soldiers, either by the Ptolemies to protect the area far from the border of Egypt proper, and/or by the Seleucids to strengthen their troops, explaining the location of their final victory.

A clear decline in the imports is seen at Maresha/Marisa following the battle of Judas the Maccabee (165 BCE) on his way from Hebron to the "Land of the Philistines." That decline seems to have lasted about 15 years. This is corroborated by the finds dating the construction and floruit of activity in the shops of the lower city insula in Area 100.

The construction of the Acra in Jerusalem with the introduction of a garrison there by Antiochus IV (since 169 BCE) is manifested in a huge peak in the supply of Rhodian wine. The complete cessation of that supply was caused by the blockade by Jonathan in 145 BCE 1. The occupation of Gezer by Simon seems to be reflected in an interruption in the supply of "non-kosher" wine (c. 142–138 BCE). The re-occupation by the Seleucids also finds expression in the presence of Rhodian stamps until c. 127 BCE.

A study of the dated finds, especially the Rhodian stamps, provides evidence for the conquests by John Hyrcanus I.2  At Tel Istabah, the actual destruction is confirmed by the massive conflagration of its buildings, burning all the amphorae found in situ. At Maresha/Marisa, not a single burnt object was found in all the areas excavated inside the Lower City. Traces of fire were due to the intense use of a large tabun (in Area 61) 3. If a battle was waged it probably took place only at the gates of the lower city and in limited (so far unexcavated) areas inside it. Sealed outer doors of houses in Area 100 suggest an organized abandonment, perhaps at the time of the ultimatum on conversion by Hyrcanus.

On the other hand, the claim for good relationships between John Hyrcanus I and Alexander II Zebinas by Josephus is manifested by the relatively large number of coins of the latter (number of coins/number of years) found in sites in the region of Samaria, which seems to have been part of the "territory" of the Seleucid king. 

1 See G. Finkielsztejn, Hellenistic Jerusalem : the Evidence of the Rhodian Amphora Stamps. In A. Faust and E. Baruch, eds., New Studies on Jerusalem 5. 23 December 1999:21*–36*.

2 See G. Finkielsztejn, More Evidence on John Hyrcanus I’s Conquests : Lead Weight and Amphora Stamps. Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 16, (1998):33–63.

3  See A. Kloner and E. Assaf, Maresha 1992 Hadashot Arkheologyiot 101–102 (1994):102–103 (Hebrew).