Philistines of Gath… Today

Hot as it is, summer in Israel sees an increase in archaeological activity, not least because it’s a great opportunity for students on break to get course credit volunteering at one of the many fascinating dig sites. At Tel es-Safi, archaeologists believe they’ve uncovered the ancient Philistine city of Gath, complete with a pillared temple — great backdrop for the biblical Samson’s heroic last stand. The Philistine presence on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean brought them into proximity, and conflict, with the Israelites. In the Bible’s books of history, they are the quintessential “other,” frequently portrayed as backward and barbaric. The archaeological record does suggest cultural difference, including diet (e.g., Philistines ate pigs and dogs; Israelites, not so much). But the quality of artifacts associated with the Philistines is generally much higher than that associated with the Israelites — finer, more deocrative pottery, e.g. — and shows a more cosmopolitan nature, in keeping with the Philistines’ travel and trade in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, both peoples were subjected to the inexorable strength of Nebuchadnezzar at the end of the seventh, beginning of the sixth centuries BCE. It’s there — in Babylon, especially, that I’m spending my (armchair) archaeological time these days. Back, then, to the “Gate of the Gods.”

Comments

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