Uncouth no more … Goliath and his gang loved perfume, pottery and jewellery

Philistines have had a pretty bad rap. For centuries they have been a byword for the uncouth and the unsophisticated, as well as being the bullies who sent giant Goliath out to defeat little David when he was armed with nothing more than a sling and a few pebbles. Well, not any more. The Philistines were anything but the rough and ready bunch, according to archaeologists who have unearthed a 3,000-year-old cemetery in Israel. Among the graves they found jewellery and perfumed oil and other signs that they were far more sophisticated than had been previously believed.

The Philistines have had some bad press, and this will dispel a lot of myths.

Archaeologist Lawrence Stager

Little was known about the Philistines prior to the recent excavation in the city of Ashkelon, where they flourished from the 12th century BC. U.S. researcher Prof Lawrence Stager’s team dug down about 3m (10 feet) to uncover the cemetery, which they found was used centuries later as a Roman vineyard. Decorated juglets believed to have contained perfumed oil were found in graves. Some bodies were still wearing bracelets and earrings. They also discovered some cremations, which were rare and expensive for the period. “The cosmopolitan life here is so much more elegant and worldly and connected with other parts of the eastern Mediterranean,” Prof Stager said.

This discovery is a crowning achievement, the opportunity to finally see them face to face

Archaeologist Daniel Master