An archaeological discovery this week unveiled some of the most notorious and feared people of the Bible: the Philistines.
Until recently, it seemed that the Philistines were a people that vanished without a trace. In the approximate geographic location of Ashkelon (southern Israel), weapons, tools, pottery, homes, a writing system, and more had been uncovered, but the Philistine civilization was missing just one important thing: the Philistines! Unlike other civilizations, the Philistines seemed to have no record of human remains. Where did they go? Alien abduction? Iron-Age rapture? Probably not…
Delilah, temptress of hair-cutting fame, and Goliath, soldier of gigantic proportions, were some of the notable Philistines in biblical history. Thanks to the work of archaeologists of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, one of the four known city-states of the Philistines, we now have historic proof of these fierce enemies of Israel.
It was just in 2013 that a team was able to find the Iron Age cemetery and in 2014 excavation of the burial ground began. As of July 2016, this cemetery finding led to the discovery of over 210 individuals where the Philistines were recorded to have lived. This finding has massive implications for biblical and archaeological scholarship.
“So much of what we know about the Philistines is told by their enemies, by the people who were fighting them or killing them,” says Daniel Master, Professor of Archaeology from Wheaton University and co-director of the excavation. “Now, for the first time at a site like Ashkelon, we’ll really be able to tell their story by the things they left behind for us.”
Because no bodies had ever been found before this, historians assumed that the Philistines burned their dead as part of their burial rites. “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,” said Lawrence E. Stager, dig co-director and Professor of Archaeology of Israel at Harvard University.
Maybe these archaeologists are on their way to finding Goliath’s tomb!
FREE “10 Important Bible Archaeological Finds” eChart
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This “10 Important Bible Archaeological Finds” eChart highlights 10 of the most significant archaeological finds that give evidence for events and customs described in the Bible. This eChart describes the find, includes a picture, and explains the find’s importance for our understanding of biblical people and places.
This FREE eChart contains 10 out of 50 archaeological finds included in the pamphlet 50 Proofs for the Bible: Old Testament. The full pamphlet includes finds, such as The Tel Dan Inscription, which proves King David’s existence; the Nuzi Tablets, which describe customs and stories similar to those found in Genesis 15-31; Merneptah Stele, which provides the earliest evidence of the nation of Israel (apart from the Bible); and Shishak’s military invasion record, which refers to the events in I Kings 14.