Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)

Philistines were originally from Europe, research suggests

The Philistines, the people who in the Bible clashed with the Israelites on more than one occasion, have been studied by scientists and found to have probably migrated from southern Europe.

Analysis of ancient DNA from the ruined Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon suggests that the Philistines' ancestors possibly also had Greek roots.

Ashkelon is one of the five places associated with 'Philistine' alongside Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath in the Levant.

 

The Philistines, from whom Goliath came, are suggested to have experienced a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age (between about 1200-600BC), possibly because of a significant influx in people.

The report, published in Science Advances magazine, said: "We find that all three Ashkelon populations derive most of their ancestry from the local Levantine gene pool.

"The early Iron Age population was distinct in its high genetic affinity to European-derived populations and in the high variation of that affinity, suggesting that a gene flow from a European-related gene pool entered Ashkelon either at the end of the Bronze Age or at the beginning of the Iron Age."

The findings are based on ten skeletal remains from Ashkelon, three from the Bronze Age, four children recovered from burials beneath 12th century BC houses and three later Iron Age individuals from a cemetery adjacent to the city wall of Ashkelon.

DNA was extracted from the inner ear bone and teeth.

They concluded: "Our analysis suggests that this genetic distinction is due to a 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. We find that, within no more than two centuries, this genetic footprint introduced during the early Iron Age is no longer detectable and seems to be diluted by a local Levantine-related gene pool."

 

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