Big archaeological find: a Philistine cemetery in Israel

Archaeologists in southern Israel have uncovered a Philistine cemetery dating to the 11th to 8th centuries BCE. Located in Ashkelon, it is the first Philistine cemetery ever discovered. 

Archaeologist Aren Maeir picks through pottery shards. photo/rns-michele chabin

Announced on July 10, the discovery followed 30 years of work in the Ashkelon National Park by the Leon Levy Expedition, led by Lawrence Stager of Harvard University.

Artifacts uncovered include bones, ceramics, jewelry and weapons. Small decorated jugs filled with what is assumed to have been perfumed oil, storage jars and small bowls make up the bulk of the goods. A few individuals were found wearing bracelets and earrings, and some were accompanied by their weapons.

Archaeologists hope to be able to use the artifacts to connect the Philistines to related populations across the Mediterranean. They were an Aegean people — more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically to modern-day Palestinians.

Skeletal remains are among artifacts found on Ashkelon site photo/rns

Aren Maeir, director of the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath, a site near Ashkelon, said that from the artifacts being discovered, it appears the ancient Israelites and Philistines were in contact.

“Although they sometimes fought each other they also traded with each other and in some cases intermarried,” he said.

The Philistines, arch-enemies of the Israelites, lived in what is now southern Israel from around 1,200 BCE until 604 BCE when they were destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. Ashkelon is one of the five Philistine cities mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and other ancient texts. — jta & religion news service