Baylor University Professor and Colleagues Discover Philistine Cemetery


An assistant professor of Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Deirdre Fulton, and her colleagues in the Leon Levy Expedition, discovered a Philistine cemetery outside an ancient city in Israel.

The place had been occupied for more than 3,000 years, but this was the first cemetery explorers had discovered in the area. It contained around 200 bodies.

Fulton said that this was an exemplary find and that it would help scholars learn more about Philistine customs and traditions.

Most things that people know about the Philistines stemmed from accounts and records kept by their enemies, the Israelites. This meant that there was a huge gap in research about Philistine history in terms of first-hand written accounts.

Discovering this burial site, according to Fulton, was vital to helping historians and researchers everywhere understand the customs of the people who used to live at Ashkelon, the ancient Israeli city, during the Iron Age.

The team discovered that the Philistines primarily buried their dead in separate pits or individual holes, but during the later years, other bodies were placed in the same holes.

The burial grounds also revealed small jars, bowls, or perfumed oil jugs. Many of the dead had been buried without personal goods, although some remains were found with jewelry or weapons.

The discovery could help researchers learn where the Philistines originated from, and how they relate to other populations in the Mediterranean.

Daniel Master, professor of Archeology at Wheaton College, and co-director of the excavations, said that historians have only known the Philistine people through second-hand stories.

Their discovery is the first time for anyone to actually come in contact, albeit posthumously, with the Philistines.

Fulton also said that the Philistines had appeared in the Bible during major events in the timeline, like the stories of Samson and King David.

As the expedition’s zooarchaeology specialist for seven years, Fulton worked to unearth animal bones on the site. She worked with 30 staff members and 40 volunteer college students.

Although this was the biggest find for the expedition, this would also be the last.

For 31 years, the team has unearthed various artifacts and remains in Ashkelon, and now that the cemetery has been found, the team will have to move on to other excavation opportunities.

Fulton is excited about new prospects, as most of the expedition members will be moving on to the Tel Shimron project.

 The Leon Levy Expedition, the team conducting large-scale excavations in Ashkelon since 1985, is composed of notable professors from universities in the United States:
  • Lawrence Stager, a research professor of the Archeology of Israel and director of the Semitic Museum in Harvard University
  • Daniel Master, professor of Archeology at Wheaton College
  • Dr. Adam Aja, assistant curator at the Semitic Museum and member of Harvard’s summer school faculty
  • Dr. Kate Birney, assistant professor at Wesleyan University

Other members of the staff are from the University of Chicago, Luther College, University of Wisconsin, University of Oregon, Ohio State University, Brigham Young University, Boston University, Pennsylvania State University, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and of course, Baylor University.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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