"Philistine Captives at Medinet Habu" by Henri Faucher-Gudin / Public Domain

DNA Begins to Unlock Secrets of the Ancient Philistines

Jul 5, 2019

By Nicholas St. Fleur

For thousands of years, the story of the Philistines has been told through the lens of their enemies, such as the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians and the writers of the Hebrew Bible — who described David’s defeat of Goliath, the mighty Philistine warrior.

While little of the Philistines’ stories about themselves endure, ancient DNA from Bronze and Iron Age skeletons, uncovered in the ruins around the seaport city of Ashkelon in Israel, is providing clues to the mysterious origins of these long gone people.

A team of archaeologists and geneticists who have spent more than 30 years excavating the city retrieved, for the first time, genetic data from ten Ashkelon skeletons, from about 3,600 to 2,800 years old.

Their analysis suggests early Iron Age Philistines shared some genetic heritage with Mesolithic, or Stone Age, hunter-gatherers from Southern Europe. That contributes genetic evidence to the idea that people migrating eastward from the Mediterranean sailed to the shores of the Levant and helped contribute to the beginnings of the Philistines.

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