New DNA testing has revealed that the Philistines originated in southern Europe over 3,000 years ago before moving to the Middle East. The origins of the Biblical “bad guys” had puzzled researchers for years, so this new DNA analysis has now put the debate to rest.
In Biblical texts, the Philistines were described as enemies of the Israelites. Two well-known examples of Philistines were the giant Goliath, as well as Delilah who entrapped the warrior Samson. While it’s common knowledge that they were “bad guys” so to speak, how they came to live on the coast which is now southern Israel and Gaza remained a mystery for a very long time. Until now.
In 2016, archaeologists in Israel discovered several skeletons (including children) who were buried underneath Philistine houses. Daniel Master, who is the director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon (a coastal city where the first Philistine cemetery was discovered), explained the findings, “Our study has shown for the first time that the Philistines immigrated to this region in the 12th century (BC).”
He continued by stating, “We didn’t show it by showing similar styles of pottery, we didn’t show it by looking at texts, we showed it by looking at the DNA of the people themselves.” Over 100 skeletal samples were sent to Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and what they found was that in ten of those people, their inner ear bones had been preserved over time.
There, are, however, some limitations in testing DNA from 3,000 years ago. “This ancestral component is derived from Europe, or to be more specific, from southern Europe, so the ancestors of the Philistines must have traveled across the Mediterranean and arrived in Ashkelon sometime between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age,” explained Michal Feldman, who is an archaeo-geneticist who worked on the study, adding, “There would be a lot more that we can say if we had more data, for example, we could maybe more precisely pinpoint the source of this migration.”
Their published findings can be read here.
While some questions still remain, the fact that the Philistines originated from southern Europe is a major discovery in regards to one of the many Biblical mysteries.