Archeologists who have been excavating the remains of a Philistine city for three decades believe that they have finally found a cemetery that belonged to the Philistines, the biblical archenemy of the Israelites.
The giant Goliath that the young David, who would later become king of Israel, battled with and killed in the famous Bible story, is the most famous of Philistine warriors.
Goliath's gruesome death was detailed in the Bible, but how this Philistine champion and his kin would have been laid to rest when they died has been a mystery.
Now, after more than 30 years of excavating, archaeologists have finally found a Philistine cemetery on the outskirts of Ashkelon in Israel that could shed light on the culture and burial practices of one of the most notorious villains in the Hebrew Bible.
Ashkelon was one of the five Philistine capitals along with Gaza, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron until it was destroyed by the army of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C.
"When we found this cemetery right next to a Philistine city, we knew we had it," said Wheaton College archaeologist Daniel Master. "We have the first Philistine cemetery that's ever been discovered."
Researchers found more than 200 men, women and children in the cemetery, but they did not find newborns, which suggest that the Philistines may have buried their babies who died at birth in their homes or somewhere else. Researchers also found evidence of multi-chambered tombs, pit interments and cremations.
The skeletons were found wearing jewelry such as bracelets and earrings. Some had weapons. The remains were individually buried with bowls, storage jars and jugs filled with perfumed oil.
By analyzing the pottery found in the graves through carbon dating, researchers were able to date the cemetery to between 10th century and ninth century B.C., which supports the theory that these people landed in ancient Israel around the 12th century B.C.
Further tests on the bone samples are set to be conducted to determine the origins of this population that the ancient Egyptian texts described as Sea People.
"So much of what we know about the Philistines is told by their enemies, by the people who were fighting them or killing them," Master said. "Now, for the first time at a site like Ashkelon, we'll really be able to tell their story by the things they left behind for us."