Philistine cemetery found in southern Israel is historic discovery

(JTA) – Archaeologists in southern Israel have uncovered a Philistine cemetery, making an unprecedented discovery.

The discovery following 30 years of work in the Ashkelon National Park by the Leon Levy Expedition was announced Sunday.

The cemetery dates to the 11th to 8th centuries BCE. The findings may support the claim inferred from the Bible that the Philistines were migrants to ancient Israel.

Artifacts uncovered at the site, including ceramics, jewelry and weapons, as well as the bones themselves, hold the promise of being able to connect the Philistines to related populations across the Mediterranean.

Excavation there, particularly in areas where the burials were undisturbed, allows archaeologists and scholars to begin constructing a picture of the typical goods buried with the Philistines. 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. However, the majority were not buried with personal items.

The Philistines buried their dead primarily in pits that were excavated for each individual: male or female, adult or child. Later, additional individuals were sometimes placed in the same pit, which was dug again along roughly the same lines, but the new individuals were interred with their own grave goods. Cremations, pit interments and multi-chambered tombs were also found in the cemetery.

The Leon Levy Expedition, led by Lawrence Stager of Harvard University, has been conducting large-scale excavations in what was ancient Ashkelon since 1985 with the support of Leon Levy and Shelby White of New York. This summer is its final excavation season.

The expedition is organized and sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation, the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, Boston College, Wheaton College and Troy University.

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