First-Ever Philistine Cemetery Unearthed In Israel

Some of the remains have been found with perfume bottles next to their heads. Tsafrir Abayov / AP/Press Association Images
Josh Davis 11 Jul 2016, 15:41

Synonymous these days for being someone with little appreciation for the arts or culture, it seems that the original Philistines, who lived in what is now Israel, have had something of a bad rap. Apart from their role in the Bible, little else has been known about their culture other than an affinity for pottery. Well, now researchers have announced that they have unearthed a 3,000-year-old Philistine cemetery, the first ever discovered.

Revealed on Sunday, the find may finally give us a better glimpse as to how the Philistines really lived. The site contains the remains of at least 145 people, including goods that were buried alongside the bodies. While most of the graves did not contain personal items, some have been found with pots of perfume next to the heads, jewelry, food, and even weapons. “After decades of studying what Philistines left behind, we have finally come face to face with the people themselves,” explains Daniel M. Master, one of the excavation leaders, to AFP.

The discovery could help solve one of the longest-standing mysteries of the region: Where exactly did the Philistines originate? Some texts claim that they came from as far afield as mainland Greece, while others think they may have started out a little closer to home, on the island of Cyprus, and other still think they could descendants from Anatolia, now modern-day Turkey. It is hoped that by conducting DNA tests on the remains found in the cemetery, researchers will be able to settle this dispute once and for all.

The discovery of the burial ground comes after 30 years of excavations at the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, and was actually originally unearthed back in 2013. The team of archaeologists have been busily working in secret for the last three years to reveal the graves and their contents due to the fear that if it were known what they had found, they would be the target of ultra-orthodox Jewish protestors, who have previously been unhappy about researchers disturbing burial sites.

In the Bible, the Philistines are recounted as the archenemies of the Israelites. The giant warrior Goliath, who would eventually be killed by the future King of Israel, David, and his sling, is probably the best known Philistine and hailed from the ancient city of Gath, the gates of which were also recently unearthed by archaeologists working in the region. Now it seems that another mystery of the peoples may soon be settled, and perhaps the record will be set straight about the supposed "philistines".

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