Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Philistines and the Absence of Evidence

The latest entry in this ongoing series about how absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence can be found in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Apparently, the common view of historians and archaeologists was that the Pelishtim (Philistines) disappeared aound the beginning of the first millenium BCE. Based on a recent dig, there is reason to think they lasted until the early 6th century BCE. From the article summary on BAR's website:
The Philistines were the chief adversary of Biblical Israel in the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.E. They were also the conquerors of the Canaanite cities of the southern coastal plain. At the beginning of the first millennium B.C.E., however, the Philistine cities were destroyed and the Philistines themselves seem to have become a casualty of history, as they apparently disappeared from the archaeological and historical record. This was the conclusion of most historians and archaeologists—until we began to excavate the Philistine site of Tel Miqne (Biblical Ekron), on the border of the Israelite hill country, 22 miles southwest of Jerusalem.


What were regarded as the distinctive features of Philistine culture, indeed, did disappear. As the archaeological evidence piled up, however, it became clear that the Philistines continued to exist, although they had adopted features of other cultures. However—and this is the important point—they also retained their ethnic identity as Philistines, only to be obliterated in the path of the Babylonian assaults of the late seventh century and early sixth century B.C.E. ...

Update: I was a bit disappointed, though, that they did not dig up any golden mice or golden hemorrhoids. (See II Shmuel 6:4.)

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