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Ancient bones cast new light on Goliath’s people

Excavation at ancient cemetery in southern Israel unearths fascinating insights into the biblical Philistines.

Daphne Rousseau

(AFP) With an excavation in southern Israel unearthing a Philistine cemetery for the first time, bones of the biblical giant Goliath’s people can finally shed new light on mysteries of their culture.

The cemetery’s discovery marks the “crowning achievement” of some three decades of excavations in the area, the expedition’s organizers say.

Some of the site’s finds were going on display Sunday at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem.

Almost three millennia since the Philistines were wiped off the face of the earth by Babylonian armies, a US archaeologist was hard at work crouched in one of their funerary chambers at the excavation in the Mediterranean city of Ashkelon.

Brush in hand he delicately extracted from the sandy soil the complete skeleton of a Philistine buried with a terracotta perfume flask, fused to the skull with the passage of time.

“This discovery is a crowning achievement, the opportunity to finally see them face to face,” said archaeologist Daniel Master, in charge of the site excavated since 1985 under the Leon Levy Expedition, affiliated with Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, among other institutions.

“With these 145 corpses we hope not only to understand their funeral customs, but to collect clues in the bones to understand how they lived, to bring the Philistines to life again,” he told AFP.

Bone samples taken from the site are currently undergoing DNA, radiocarbon and other tests to try to shed fresh light on the Philistines’ origin.

The first graves were discovered in Ashkelon in 2013 on the site of its ancient Philistine port city, which had 13,000 inhabitants at


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