Category Archive 'Archaeology'
24 Aug 2017

In Sweden, Officials Are Simply Recycling Bronze and Iron Age Artifacts

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One of the amulet rings from the Iron Age that archaeologists are recycling. Previously, this type of object was saved, says archaeologist Johan Runer.

Rough translation from Swedish language article in Svenska Dagbladet:

While the debate about burning books is raging in the media, Swedish archaeologists throw away amulet rings and other ancient discoveries. It feels wrong and sad to destroy thousands of years of ritual arts and crafts, and I’m not alone in feeling so.

“What you do is destroy our history! Says Johan Runer, archaeologist at Stockholm County Museum.

Amulet rings from the Iron Age, like Viking weights and coins, belong to a category of objects that, as far as Runer knows, were previously always saved.

He tried to raise the alarm in an article in the journal Popular Archeology (No. 4/2016), describing how arbitrary thinning occurs. Especially in archeological studies before construction and road projects, the focus is on quickly and cheaply removing the heritage so that the machine tools can proceed.

He works himself in these kinds of excavations. Nobody working in field archeology wants to get a reputation as an uncooperative “find-fanatic” but now he cannot be quiet any longer.

“It’s quite crazy, but this field operates in the marketplace. We are doing business,” says Runer.

Often, especially in the case of minor excavations, there is a standing order from the county administrative boards that as few discoveries as possible should be taken.

If you think it seems unlikely, I recommend reading the National Archives Office’s open archive, such as report 2016: 38. An archaeological preamble of settlement of bronze and iron age before reconstruction by Flädie on the E6 outside Lund.

In the finds catalog, coins, knives, a tin ornament, a ring and a weight from the Viking Age or early Middle Ages have been placed in the column “Weeded Out”.

Current research about weights and measures focusing on the Viking era is underway, “says Lena Holmquist, archaeologist at Stockholm University.

But one puzzle piece is gone.

At another dig in the millennial culture village Molnby in Vallentuna, several amulet rings from the Iron Age were found. Amulet rings were ritual items used during the Vendel and Viking times.

Johan Anund, Regional Director of the Archaeology Staff at the State Historical Museums who made the thinning, says that archaeologists at all times have to make priorities in order to avoid drowning in objects.

It is the county boards that hire archaeology staffs to carry out archaeological investigations. An easy way to lower the cost is to reduce the number of items to be preserved.

Ceramics require no preservation and are usually saved. However, iron and metal must be treated after perhaps a thousand years in the ground. So if the staff puts funds for conserving two metal objects in its bid but finds twelve then they have to discard ten. To metal recycling.

The historical museum now only deals with objects that have been preserved.

Weeding out typically occurs in the field, usually by an individual who must quickly decide: save or throw away? As a result, familiar objects are preserved.

Last year a sensational little dragon was found in Birka. It looked the more like a lump of rust when it was picked up, but the archaeologists in Birka are among the few who have the time and capabilities to investigate. On a commissioned archaeological dig, the dragon would probably have been thrown away.

Archaeologists do not give away or sell finds because they do not want to create a market for antiquities and encourage robbers with metal detectors, says Runer. Thus: the bin.

“It is troubling when in other countries everything is done to preserve their heritage …,” says archaeologist Lena Holmquist.

Conclusion: If society no longer believes it can afford to take responsibility for Sweden’s history, county councils should stop builders and developers from excavating ancient sites. One alternative is to stop outsourcing the cultural heritage to the lowest bidder with the largest waste bin.

Now the question is what the National Antiquarian Lars Amréus, or the cultural minister, are thinking? They are responsible for the cultural heritage of Sweden and the destruction of history takes place during their shift.

Isn’t it typical of academics and state bureaucrats that they’d rather throw artifacts in the recycling bin than release them into the hands of private collectors? God forbid, some private citizen with a metal detector, lacking a badge and the right university credentials should find anything!

HT: Jean-Batave Poqueliche, at Return of Kings, who found the story and spun it in the direction of deliberate Multicultural malevolence.

15 Jul 2017

Reading University Excavating Long Barrow

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Telegraph:

A “House of the Dead” dating back more than 5,000 years could contain the remains of the ancestors of people who built Stonehenge, archaeologists believe.

A Neolithic long barrow burial mound at Cat’s Brain, in Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire, is being excavated by the University of Reading in the first full investigation of such a monument in the county for half a century.

The long barrow, lies in the middle of a farmer’s field halfway between the two major stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge, and its existence has been known for decades after a geological survey found the evidence of deep trenches.

The inner building, however, was thought to have been ploughed flat, and it was not until a drone was sent up recently that anyone knew part of it still survives.

The barrrow would have originally consisted of of two ditches flanking a central burial chamber which was probably covered with a mound made of the earth dug from the ditches.

Experts said it was surprising to find lasting evidence of the building and believe it may contain human remains buried there in around 3,600 BC.

It is hoped the Reading University Archaeology Field School investigation will provide crucial evidence from the early Neolithic period, which saw Britain’s first agricultural communities and monument builders.

RTWT

08 Jul 2017

Copper of Iceman’s Axe Came From Hundreds of Miles Away From the Tyrol

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Telegraph:

New research has shown that a copper axe carried by a Neolithic hunter known as Ötzi the Iceman came from southern Tuscany.

The find has surprised experts because hundreds of miles separate Tuscany from the Alpine pass where the mummified body of Ötzi was discovered 25 years ago.

It is known that copper was mined in the Alps so it is a mystery why the Iceman’s blade should have come from so far away.

Nor do scientists know whether the copper was acquired as a raw ingot, which then had to be fashioned into an axe, or as a ready-made blade.

The hunter-gatherer, nicknamed Ötzi after the Otztal mountains where he was found, died 5,300 years ago on what is now the border between Italy and Austria.

He perished after being shot in the back with an arrow by an unknown assailant, in one of the world’s oldest murder mysteries.

His body was frozen forever in the snow and ice of the mountains.

“Our results unambiguously indicate that the source of the metal is the ore-rich area of southern Tuscany, despite ample evidence that Alpine copper ore sources were known and exploited at the time,” scientists said in a report published in the research journal Plos One.

The fact that copper was being traded between central Italy and the remote Alps was “surprising”, said the experts, who are from Padua University and the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where the mummified body of the Iceman is on permanent display.

RTWT

23 May 2017

Shrapnel From Monmouth Battlefield Tests Positive for Human Blood

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Asbury Park Press:

It’s a hexagonal piece of lead, maybe the size of a fingertip. Canister shot, it was called, and the Continental Army used it to shred British lines at the Battle of Monmouth in June of 1778.

When his team of volunteer archaeologists found this and other pieces of ordnance in the ground at Monmouth Battlefield State Park last summer, Dan Sivilich suspected they were not your typical artifacts.

“Two appeared to have fabric impressions on them which suggested they might have hit a uniform,” Sivilich said.

He sent them to PaleoResarch Inc. in Colorado for testing. Nine months later his hunch was proven correct — and then some. One of the pieces tested positive for human blood protein.

“In other words, it hit a soldier,” Sivilich said. “This is the only piece of Revolutionary War canister shot ever found that’s been positively tested for human blood.”

That’s not all. Based on where they were discovered, Sivilich believes the pieces probably were fired by Proctor’s Pennsylvania artillery. One of its cannon is associated with the legendary heroine Molly Pitcher, whose real name likely was Mary Hays.

“It could have been a round that Molly Pitcher handled,” Sivilich said. “We can’t say for sure, but it makes for interesting speculation.”

RTWT

01 May 2017

New Research on Bog Bodies

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In 1950, Tollund Man’s discoverers “found a face so fresh they could only suppose they had stumbled on a recent murder.”

Smithsonian has a major update on the latest scientific news on researching Bronze Age and Iron Age bodies found in Northern European bogs.

Archaeologists have been asking the same questions since [peat-cutters in 1950] first troubled Tollund Man’s long sleep: Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you live? Who murdered you and why? But the way the researchers ask the questions, using new forensic techniques like dual-energy CT scanners and strontium tests, is getting more sophisticated all the time. There’s new hope that, sometime soon, he may start to speak.

Scholars tend to agree that Tollund Man’s killing was some kind of ritual sacrifice to the gods—perhaps a fertility offering. To the people who put him there, a bog was a special place. While most of Northern Europe lay under a thick canopy of forest, bogs did not. Half earth, half water and open to the heavens, they were borderlands to the beyond. To these people, will-o’-the-wisps—flickering ghostly lights that recede when approached—weren’t the effects of swamp gas caused by rotting vegetation. They were fairies. The thinking goes that Tollund Man’s tomb may have been meant to ensure a kind of soggy immortality for the sacrificial object.

“When he was found in 1950,” says Nielsen, “they made an X-ray of his body and his head, so you can see the brain is quite well-preserved. They autopsied him like you would do an ordinary body, took out his intestines, said, yup it’s all there, and put it back. Today we go about things entirely differently. The questions go on and on.”

Lately, Tollund Man has been enjoying a particularly hectic afterlife. In 2015, he was sent to the Natural History Museum in Paris to run his feet through a microCT scan normally used for fossils. Specialists in ancient DNA have tapped Tollund Man’s femur to try to get a sample of the genetic material. They failed, but they’re not giving up. Next time they’ll use the petrous bone at the base of the skull, which is far denser than the femur and thus a more promising source of DNA.

Then there’s Tollund Man’s hair, which may end up being the most garrulous part of him. Shortly before I arrived, Tollund Man’s hat was removed for the first time to obtain hair samples. By analyzing how minute quantities of strontium differ along a single strand, a researcher in Copenhagen hopes to assemble a road map of all the places Tollund Man traveled in his lifetime.

Fascinating stuff. RTWT

10 Apr 2017

Roman Settlement of Cataractonium Discovered in North Yorkshire

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Silver ring in the form of a snake.

Live Science:

A rare silver ring shaped like a snake that wraps around the finger hints at the great wealth of the people who lived at Cataractonium.

Construction work to upgrade Britain’s longest road into a major highway has revealed a treasure trove of rare artifacts from one of the earliest and wealthiest Roman settlements in the country.

The findings include ancient shoes, cups, a rare silver ring, keys, a high-relief glass bowl and an elaborately carved amber figurine, archaeologists with the public group Historic England announced yesterday (April 6).

Archaeologists uncovered the artifacts in North Yorkshire along the A1, which stretches 410 miles (660 kilometers) from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, during a major project to improve the existing roadway.

“It is fascinating to discover that nearly 2,000 years ago, the Romans were using the A1 route as a major road of strategic importance and using the very latest technological innovations from that period to construct the original road,” Tom Howard, project manager at the government agency Highways England, said in a statement.

Indeed, the newly found artifacts include a plumb bob used to build straight roads, which was likely utilized in the construction of Dere Street, a Roman road following the course of the A1, the researchers said.

The excavations have also led to the discovery of a major Roman settlement at Scotch Corner, one of the best-known junctions in the country.

Taking its name from an old Roman road called Scots Dyke, Scotch Corner links Scotland with England and the east coast with the west coast.

Right there, the archaeologists with the professional consultant group Northern Archaeological Associates unearthed the remains of a large settlement dating back to A.D. 60, thus predating settlements in York and Carlisle by 10 years.

The discovery proves that the Romans “possibly began their territorial expansion into northern England a decade earlier than previously thought,” according to Historic England.

The settlement at Scotch Corner was unusually large compared to others in northern England, and stretched over 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) from north to south — roughly the length of 13 football fields positioned end to end, according to Historic England.

Artifacts unearthed there suggest that the people who lived at Scotch Corner were rather wealthy. High-status imported items include the figure of a toga-clad actor carved from a block of amber, which is believed to have been made in Italy during the first century A.D.

“A similar example was found at Pompeii. Nothing like this has ever before been found in the U.K.,” representatives with Historic England said.

The archaeologists unearthed more than 1,400 clay fragments of molds used for making gold, silver and copper coins, thus making the site the largest known and most northerly example of coin production ever found in Europe, the researchers said. Those findings suggest that the settlement might have served as a sophisticated industrial and administrative center, the archaeologists said.

“It shows that the Romans were carrying out significant industrial activity in this part of England and potentially producing coins of high value,” Historic England representatives said in the statement.

But it was a short-lived glory. The settlement was occupied for just two to three decades. Its demise seems to coincide with the rise of Catterick, a town south of Scotch Corner known by the Romans as Cataractonium.

Finds at Catterick abounded. The archaeologists unearthed several well-preserved leather shoes, along with large sheets of leather, perhaps used for producing clothes. The artifacts suggest that Cataractonium was an important leatherworking center that likely supported the Roman military, the archaeologists said.

A rare silver ring shaped like a snake, which wraps around the finger, and a number of keys of various sizes suggest that the people who lived in Cataractonium were wealthy and that they locked up their valuable possessions, the archaeologists suggested.

Moreover, the many styli (Roman pens) and a pewter inkpot found at the site indicate that most of these ancient people were able to read and write, the researchers said.

“The sheer amount of exceptional objects found on this road scheme has been extraordinary,” Neil Redfern, principal inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, said in the statement. “This project has given us a unique opportunity to understand how the Romans conducted their military expansion into northern England and how civil life changed under their control.”

Photos

22 Mar 2017

Context 958 Lived in the 13th Century

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Facial reconstruction of Context 958 burial.

Gizmodo reports on the reconstruction of the face of a man who lived 700 years ago by Cambridge scientists.

[H]ere’s what we know about Context 958.

He was just slightly over 40 years old when he died. His skeleton showed signs of considerable wear-and-tear, so he likely lead a tough and hard working life. His tooth enamel stopped growing during two occasions in his youth, suggesting he likely lived through bouts of famine or sickness when he was young. The archaeologists found traces of blunt force trauma inflicted to the back of his head, which healed over before he died. The researchers aren’t sure what he did for a living, but they think he was a working-class person who specialized in some kind of trade.

Context 958 ate a diverse diet rich in meat or fish, according to an analysis of weathering patterns on his teeth. His profession may have provided him with more access to such foods than the average person at the time. His presence at the charitable hospital suggests he fell on hard times, with no one to take care of him.

“Context 958 was probably an inmate of the Hospital of St John, a charitable institution which provided food and a place to live for a dozen or so indigent townspeople—some of whom were probably ill, some of whom were aged or poor and couldn’t live alone,” noted John Robb, a professor from Cambridge University’s Division of Archaeology, in a statement.

Strangely, he was buried face down, which is rare but not unheard of in medieval burials.

Full story.

15 Feb 2017

The Middleham Jewel

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Vintage News had a feature article on a major historic find.

The Middleham Jewel is a late 15th-cenutry diamond-shaped gold pendant made by the finest medieval goldsmiths in London. It was found in 1985 near the Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire which was the childhood home of Richard III.

It is a remarkable piece of jewelry because of the engraving of the two scenes of the Trinity and Nativity.

There is a blue sapphire stone set on the front face which is connected with the Virgin Mary and it was believed that the jewel was made to assist childbirth. Another belief is that the jewel was providing protection against illness curing headaches and poor eyesight. Also, the sapphire may represent heaven or have acted as aid to prayer.

The circle of the sun surrounding the sapphire is in the shape of the letter “o” and it’s connected with the Greek word ”omega” which symbolizes the end, the completion. There are holes on the side of the jewel which indicate that there was a frame around it, possibly once decorated with pearls.

On the front side, there is a scene of the Trinity, including the Crucifixion of Jesus and there is a Latin inscription which was a common recitation by the priest in mass. There is one particular word ‘ananizapta’ for which it was believed that it is a magic word, intended to protect people from drunkenness or epilepsy.

On the back side of the jewel, there is an engraving of the Nativity, with fifteen saints around the Lamb of God. Only a few of the saints can be identified as St George, Catherine of Alexandria, St Peter, St Barbara, St Anne, Dorothea of Caesarea and St Margaret of Antioch.

There is evidence from the late 15-th century that this kind of jewel was worn by noble ladies. It may have been owned by Richard III’s wife, Anne Neville, his mother or his mother-in-law because they all spent time at Middleham.

When it was first found, the jewel was declared lost and was sold at Sotheby’s in 1986. In 1992, with support from many fundraisers, it was acquired by the Yorkshire Museum. There is a replica of the Middleham Jewel at Middleham and the original can be seen in the Yorkshire Museum.

25 Jan 2017

Viking Ax Found in Danish Tomb

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Vintage News:

Inside an ancient Viking “death house,” a type of large tomb, Danish archaeologists recently made several important discoveries. The tomb, measuring 13 feet by 42 feet, was first unearthed in 2012 during a construction project in Denmark’s southwestern Hårup region.

Archaeologists have been studying the tomb ever since – burial sites are currently the only way archaeologists can study Viking history since remains of Viking settlements have yet to be excavated.

Constructed circa 950 AD, the “death house” contains three separate graves. Inside two of the graves, researchers found the remains of a male and female “power couple” likely of high birth or strong community influence. However, lead archaeologist Kirsten Nellemann Nielsen of the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark, cannot say for sure whether the “power couple” is a brother and sister or husband and wife. Clothing items found with the remains show that the man and woman were nobility.

The female’s clothing had silver threads in it, and she was buried with a key, which was a Viking status symbol.

The male remains found in the main tomb yielded an amazing discovery – one of the largest Viking axes found to date. The extremely heavy, giant ax could have been used in combat, but it would have taken two hands to fight with it. Experts believe it was probably used to terrify Viking enemies. As Nielsen explains, “People across Europe feared this type of ax, which at the time was known as the Dane Axe – something like the ‘machine gun’ of the Viking Age.” The ax did not have many decorative markings, which also suggests it was used in battle. The man it was buried with was probably quite strong to wield the ax successfully. The fact that he was buried with the ax and nothing else leads researchers to conclude that he identified himself solely as a strong and competent warrior.

23 Sep 2016

Ötzi the Iceman Speaks

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otzi

Science Alert:

We already know what Ötzi the Iceman was wearing when he died more than 5,000 years ago in the Italian Alps, as well as how many tattoos he had.

But now scientists have taken things one step further: they’ve managed to recreate the “best possible approximation” of his voice.

By using CT scans to measure the structure of the famous mummy’s vocal cords, throat, and mouth, scientists from Bolzano’s General Hospital in Italy have been able to digitally reconstruct what Ötzi might have sounded like while pronouncing vowels in Italian.

12 Sep 2016

Apparent Gold-Handed Bronze Sword Found Under Scottish Soccer Field

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bronzeswordgoldhandle

Daily Mail:

A suspected Bronze Age sword with a gold hilt that may be up to 4,000-years-old has been uncovered on the site of a new community football pitch.

Diggers moved into the site in Carnoustie, Angus, in Scotland after a collection of relics were unearthed while workmen began laying foundations for the new sports field.

Work to the playing fields has now been halted while archaeologists scour the site.

The find appears to be a sword with a gold hilt, or handle, dating back to the Bronze Age.

It looks as though it could be two items – possibly a spear point or a broken sword.

Early excavations have revealed a trove of ancient artefacts, which the archaeologists believe could date back thousands of years. …

Due to the fragile nature of the find it has to be specially lifted out in order to conserve it for experts to examine in a laboratory.

26 Aug 2016

Possible Crusader-Era Hand Grenade

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CrusaderGrenade
Centuries-old hand grenade found in the sea just off the coast of Northern Israel.

Fox News:

A centuries-old hand grenade that may date back to the time of the crusaders is among a host of treasures retrieved from the sea in Israel.

The metal artifacts, some of which are more than 3,500 years old, were found over a period of years by the late Marcel Mazliah, a worker at the Hadera power plant in northern Israel.

Mazliah’s family recently presented the treasures to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Experts, who were surprised by the haul, think that the objects probably fell overboard from a medieval metal merchant’s ship.

The hand grenade was a common weapon in Israel during the Crusader era, which began in the 11th century and lasted until the 13th century, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Grenades were also used 12th and 13th century Ayyubid period and the Mamluk era, which ran from the 13th to the 16th century, experts say.

Haaretz reports that early grenades were often used to disperse burning flammable liquid. However, some experts believe that so-called ancient grenades were actually used to contain perfume.

The oldest items found in the sea by Mazliah are a toggle pin and the head of a knife from the Middle Bronze, which date back more than 3,500 years. Ayala Lester, a curator at the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained that other items, such as two mortars, two pestles and candlestick fragments, date to the 11th-century Fatimid period. “The items were apparently manufactured in Syria and were brought to Israel,” she said, in a statement. “The finds are evidence of the metal trade that was conducted during this period.”

17 Jul 2016

Mayan Zoomorph

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Quirigua
Zoomorph B photographed at Quiriguá, Guatamala in 1902. This monument was dedicated in 780 by K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat, and is a multi-ton boulder sculpted into a half-crocodile half-mountain beast. The hieroglyphic text on this monument consists entirely of full-figure glyphs. Traces of red pigment have been found on the zoomorph, which is 4 metres (13 ft) long. A dedication cache was found buried in a pit under Zoomorph B, including seven flint blades between 14 and 46 cm (5.5 and 18.1 in) in length.

12 Jul 2016

Identifying the Philistines

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PhilistineCemetery

AP:

An archaeological discovery announced on Sunday in Israel may help solve an enduring biblical mystery: where did the ancient Philistines come from?

The Philistines left behind plenty of pottery. But part of the mystery surrounding the ancient people was that very little biological trace of them had been found — until 2013.

That’s when archaeologists excavating the site of the biblical city of Ashkelon found what they say is the first Philistine cemetery ever discovered. They say they have uncovered the remains of more than 200 people there.

The discovery was finally unveiled Sunday at the close of a 30-year excavation by the Leon Levy Expedition, a team of archaeologists from Harvard University, Boston College, Wheaton College in Illinois and Troy University in Alabama.

The team is now performing DNA, radiocarbon and other tests on bone samples uncovered at the cemetery, dating back to between the 11th and the 8th centuries B.C., to help resolve a debate about the Philistines’ geographical origins. The archaeologists have not announced any conclusions, saying they are taking advantage of recent advances in DNA testing to get the most accurate results.

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Times of Israel:

The discovery of a sizable cemetery, with over 210 individuals, at a site conclusively linked to the Philistines, was a “critical missing link” that allows scholars “to fill out the story of the Philistines,” said Master, a professor of archaeology at Wheaton College.

The cemetery, discovered just outside the ancient city walls and dated to between the 11th and 8th centuries BCE — a period associated with the rise of the Israelites — may contain thousands of individuals, providing an abundance of material to study, he said.

With that broad a population, “we’re going to be able to reconstruct what the Philistines as a group were like,” Master said.

The announcement was timed to coincide with the opening of an Israel Museum exhibit showcasing finds spanning 6,000 years from Ashkelon at the Rockefeller. Among the items on display are 3,800-year-old city gates, gold and silver jewelry demonstrating its commercial prominence, and a Roman marble slab etched with Crusader and Fatimid inscriptions.

Throughout much of its 22 layers of settlement, Ashkelon was a “great seaport,” situated on the Mediterranean and on the main coastal trade route,” Harvard University’s Larry Stager, co-director of the dig, said. It was significantly larger than cities inland during the Bronze and Iron Age, with 10-12,000 people, because it could sustain greater population through commerce.

Ashkelon was one of the five main Philistine cities for six centuries — , along with Gaza, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron — from the 1100s BCE down to Ashkelon’s destruction by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 604 BCE.

“We’ve uncovered their houses, we’ve uncovered their trading networks, we’ve uncovered all aspects of their culture,” Master said. With the discovery of the cemetery, “we’re finally going to see the people themselves.”

“There have been other random finds of people caught in Philistine destruction on occasion,” he explained, “but nothing like this. No systematic example of what they thought about death and how they treated people in that process.”

Isolated graves containing Philistine style pottery were thought to be possible examples of their practices, but the few cases were not enough to convince most scholars.

“What we needed for a Philistine cemetery was to find a large one that was directly connected to one of the cities we know as a Philistine city,” Master said. “And Ashkelon is exactly that.”

Scholars believe the Philistines were among a number of tribes of non-Semitic peoples who migrated across the Mediterranean — possibly from modern Greece and Turkey — and settled the Canaanite coast in the early Iron Age.

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