Reports on Philistine Cemetery at Ashkelon

The “lid is off” for media coverage (such as here, here and here) of the very exciting discovery and excavation of a Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon. The cemetery, which has been excavated in the last few years, and now with the end of the Ashkelon project is the last major find to be announced, is quite an important find. I had the pleasure of visiting the site last week, hosted by the project director, Prof. Daniel Master (Wheaton), just before the excavations were finished and the cemetery was closed up.

The cemetery contains perhaps more than 1000 burials, of which 160 were excavated. Most of the burials date to the 10th and 9th cent. BCE, with some going later to the Iron IIB. Almost all the burials are simple inhumations, with relatively few burials items. Interestingly, the burial methods are different from Canaanite or Israelite/Judahite methods.

Clearly, this will provide a lot of information on the Philistines: their culture, demography, health, diet, genetics and otherwise. Since this is the first large cemetery that has been found that is associated with one of the large Philistine cities (but definitely not the first – part of the Philistine cemetery at Gath has already been excavated), this is an excellent opportunity to find out a lot of new data on a broad range of issues. Up to now, we did not have enough Philistine burials to study!

All told – a very important and worthy discovery!


4 thoughts on “Reports on Philistine Cemetery at Ashkelon

  1. ryan

    Just wondering – I get that journalists sometimes miss or misstate subtle parts of the stories they cover, because they aren’t immersed in the issues day in / day out like the people from whom they’re trying to get the story. But they rarely just make things up important facets out of whole cloth on their own. Several articles including the National Geographic piece say that no other conclusively Philistine cemetery had been found. I doubt the writers are making it up for themselves independently.

    Is one of the archaeologists at Ashkelon telling the press this? Is he/she just BS-ing? Or are those folks unaware that part of the cemetery at Gath has been excavated? Or is there some other sense in which both things are true? (Eilu v’eilu and all.) For instance, is there some doubt among at least some of the academics involved that the burials thus far excavated at Gath were from a time when Philistines were the primary culture inhabiting the city? Or what do you think is up?


    1. arenmaeir

      The cemetery from Ashkelon is the first large cemetery from a major Philistine site. Definitely not the first Philistine cemetery, and not the first tombs found at a major Philistine site. Whatever the case, it is a major contribution to the study of the Philistines, in many ways. As always, in media releases, you have to take into account media hype (purposeful or accidental) from the archaeologists’ side, and mistakes on the part of the media. But with all that – it is a very important find – and I’m sure very important results will be published over the next few years.


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