The ancient Philistines came from Europe, scientists claim

DNA analysis performed on skeletons excavated by archaeologists in Israel in 2016, Photo: Reuters

The ancient Philistines, whose origins have been a mystery to scientists for decades, came to the Middle East from southern Europe more than 3,000 years ago, new DNA testing has shown.

DNA analysis was conducted on skeletons excavated by archaeologists in Israel in 2016, according to a study published in the scientific journal Science Advances.

The Philistines are described in the Bible as the greatest enemies of the Israelites. The giant Goliath was a Philistine, as was Delilah, who killed the legendary warrior Samson.

Due to their bad reputation, their name has become synonymous with uncivilization. Despite the fact that they were known, where they came from before they inhabited the area that is now southern Israel and Gaza remained a mystery, reports the Hina agency.

There were various theories, from whether their ancestors were from the Aegean or the northern Levant or that they were actually a local culture.

“Our study showed for the first time that the Philistines came to this region in the 12th century BC,” said Daniel Master, leader of the archeological team at Ashkelon, a coastal city where the first Philistine cemetery was discovered.

More than a hundred skeleton samples were sent to the German Max Planck Institute. DNA was found in 10 of them, mostly in the inner bones of the ear.

“Although the DNA suggests that it originated in southern Europe, it should still be taken into account that there are some limitations related to testing 3,000 years old DNA,” said Michal Feldman, an archaeo-geneticist who worked on the study.

“The component inherited from our ancestors comes from Europe, or more specifically from southern Europe, so the ancestors of the Philistines had to cross the Mediterranean and came to Ashkelon somewhere between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age,” she pointed out.

Who were the Philistines?

The Philistines were the “people of the sea”, a name used by their Phoenician contemporaries, and the Bible describes them as the mortal enemies of the Israelites, according to Hina.

Merchants and sailors did not practice circumcision and ate pork and dogs, for which there is evidence discovered at other sites in four other Philistine cities, Gaza, Gath, Ashdod and Ekron.

After the discovery of their cemetery in 2016, Israeli archeology professor from Harvard Lawrence Stager said that the Philistines have a reputation of “uncivilized drunks”, but he determined that they are actually a very cultured people, specialized in the production of wine and oil.

Since their culture was described by enemies, they turned it into savagery. Hence the modern use of the term “philistine” (philistine) for an uncultured person.

The Philistines are best known from the Old Testament, from texts written by their neighbors and sworn enemies, the ancient Israelites.

The book of Samuel describes how the Philistines seized the Ark of the Covenant and then the duel of the warrior Goliath and the resourceful David who defeated him with a stone fired from a slingshot.