Archeologists announced the discovery of a Philistine cemetery from between the 11th and 8th centuries BC, close to Ashkelon in southern Israel, the expedition reporting to have found the remains of over 200 Philistines in the first discovery of its kind.
The expedition has been underway at Tel Ashkelon- one of the five known ancient Philistine cities- for over 30 years by archeologists from the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. The cemetery was reportedly found in 2013, information on the expedition withheld from the public. The discovery of the cemetery and Philistines’ remains will provide what head of the excavation Daniel Master described as “After decades of studying what Philistines left behind, we have finally come face to face with the people themselves. With this discovery we are close to unlocking the secrets of their origins.”
The findings are historical and significant as it is the first Philistine cemetery to have been found and provides details of the origins of the Philistines and information about their culture. Most importantly, it confirms and validates the Biblical description of the Philistines, or “Invaders”. According to Master, the discovery proves “that the Philistines were migrants to the shores of ancient Israel who arrived from lands to the west around the 12th century BC.”
Initial information released from the expedition point out the cultural differences of the Philistines to the Canaanites. According to Master, the discovery “forms a baseline for what ‘Philistine’ is. We can already say that the cultural practices we see here are substantially different from the Canaanites and the highlanders in the east.”
Thus far, the burial practices understood from initial observation and study are similar to the Aegean cultural sphere, with corpses having been buried in pits individually and some cremated. Some of the remains were found with jewelry, storage jars and bowls and arrow heads, the findings of the remains shedding light on the Philistines’ burial practices which have been unknown until now.
During an exhibition at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem Sunday, Harvard Professor of Archeology Lawrence E. Stager stated that “Ninety nine percent of the chapters and articles written about Philistine burial customs should be revised or ignored now that we have the first and only Philistine cemetery found just outside the city walls of Tel Ashkelon, one of the five primary cities of the Philistines.” Stager pointed out that “When we compare the living quarters with the dead Philistines, this will give us a picture that has never been seen before. The uniqueness of Ashkelon is that we now have both places where we can study the living and the dead.”
Archeologists will continue to study the remains using radiocarbon dating and analysis, as well as DNA testing.