DNA shows that the Philistines, arch-enemy of the Israelites, came from Europe

DNA remains extracted from 10 individuals buried in Ashkelon display molecular links showing “an affinity with European-related populations,” say researchers.

By World Israel News Staff 

A study to determine the place of origin of the Philistines has shown that “a substantial proportion of their ancestry was derived from a European population,” according to the international team from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.

DNA extracted from the remains of 10 individuals buried in Ashkelon, along Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast where the Philistines were known to be based, displayed molecular links which “showed an affinity with European-related populations,” say the researchers.

Using advanced technology, the researchers analyzed genome-wide data that had been retrieved from people who lived in Ashkelon during the Bronze and Iron Age. The European-derived ancestry that was discovered by the team was said to have been introduced into the Ashkelon area around the time of the estimated arrival of the Philistines in the 12th century BCE.

A paper by the researchers was published Wednesday in Science Advances magazine.

“This genetic distinction is due to European-related gene flow introduced in Ashkelon during either the end of the Bronze Age or the beginning of the Iron Age. This timing is in accord with estimates of the Philistines’ arrival to the coast of the Levant, based on archaeological and textual records,” explains Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, leading author of the study.

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The Philistines are known from their biblical battles with the ancient Israelites, including the Philistine Goliath’s defeat at the hands of the young David. “However, the ancient texts tell little about Philistine origins,” the researchers noted.

From 1985 to 2016, the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, a project of the Harvard Semitic Museum and under license from the Israel Antiquities Authority, took up the search for the origin of the Philistines at Ashkelon, one of the five Philistine cities mentioned in the Bible. The excavations culminated in the discovery, between 2013 and 2016, of the first Philistine cemetery ever to be found, according to the team involved in the work.