Up close with Goliath's people

After spending more than 30 years of excavating the remains of a Philistine city, a team of archaeologists have discovered what is believed to be the first cemetery belonging to the ancient people.

The team has unearthed more than 150 skeletons dating from the 11th to the 8th centuries BC, as well as ceramic vessels, jewellery and some weapons that it suspects had rested for more than 3,000 years in the cemetery on the outskirts of Ashkelon in Israel.

The find potentially offers clues to the Philistines' lifestyle and perhaps will help provide some answers to the mysteries of where the Philistines came from.

Much has remained unknown about their origins. Ashkelon, which archaeologists think the Philistines entered around 1150 BC, is one of the five Philistine capitals along with Ashdod, Ekron, Gath and Gaza.

The cities and their people are mentioned in the ancient texts of the Babylonians, Egyptians and Assyrians. In the Hebrew Bible, they were the nemeses of the Israelites and sent Goliath to fight David.

Many tales tell of the great battles the Philistines fought and lost until their utter destruction at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army in 604BC.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Up close with Goliath's people'. Print Edition | Subscribe