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!