Abstract: Philpacolypse Now: The University of Melbourne Excavations at the Philistine Site of Tell es-Safi/Gath


To be a ‘Philistine’ has entered our language to mean uncouth or barbaric, a perception deeply situated in biblical thought. Just as the Greeks described non-Greek neighbors as ‘Barbarians,’ so too did the biblical writers describe people settled along the southern coast of the Levant in derogatory terms. Current scholarship regards them as Sea People migrating from Greece (ca. 1180 BC) and colonizing the coast of southern Canaan. I will present recent results from the University of Melbourne’s excavations in the early Philistine levels at Tell es-Safi/Gath, undertaken in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University.  It will be argued that the archaeological remains of the Philistines reveal them to be a culturally mixed group that resulted as an outcome of multiple groups of migrants that settled among the local Canaanite population creating a socially and economically advanced, technologically innovative (iron production), artistically sophisticated (decorated Mycenaean-Greek style pottery), and cosmopolitan culture. Preliminary findings suggest a multi-generational reuse of architecture and use of open spaces to promote cultural identity in the early centuries of Philistine habitation, followed by a reorientation of the community in the 9th c. BCE.

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