After thirty years of excavations, the final season at Ashkelon ended on Friday. As the excavation closed, a new Ashkelon exhibit opened at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and a sensational find was announced at the press conference. For the last four seasons, they have been excavating a large Philistine cemetery that sheds new light on this ancient people. From National Geographic:
While more than a century of scholarship has identified the five major cities of the Philistines and artifacts distinctive to their culture, only a handful of burials have been tentatively identified.
Simply put, archaeologists have found plenty of pots, but very few people.
Now, the discovery of a cemetery containing more than 211 individuals and dated from the 11th to 8th centuries B.C. will give archaeologists the opportunity to answer critical questions regarding the origin of the Philistines and how they eventually assimilated into the local culture.
Until this discovery, the absence of such cemeteries in major Philistine centers has made researchers’ understanding of their burial practices—and by turn, their origins—”about as accurate as the mythology about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree,” says Lawrence Stager, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Harvard University, who has led the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon since 1985.
For background and more details, see the full story or other reports in The Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post. Aren Maeir, director of the excavations of Philistine Gath, has some additional comments.
HT: Jared Clark, Chris McKinny, Joseph Lauer