The Philistines have a three-millennia-old reputation for being a society of warlike pagans, devoid of aesthetic or intellectual values. What does the archaeological evidence say? BAS editors have arranged a special collection of articles on the Philistines exploring their origins, cities, Biblical ailments and even their status as modern fashion icons.

Scroll down to read a summary of these articles.

In the 1982 exposé “What We Know About the Philistines,” Trude Dothan reveals a stunning artistic repertoire that made the Philistine material culture shine above that of its Canaanite peers. The timeless study includes the discussions “Philistines in the Patriarchal Age,” “Did the Philistines Write?” and “Philistines after David.”

In “When Canaanites and Philistines Ruled Ashkelon,” Lawrence E. Stager marshals an impressive array of evidence from the 5,500-year-old city—ranging from lowly loomweights to Homeric epics—to answer the longstanding question of where the Sea Peoples came from. The answer belies the dictionary definition of “philistine.”

How did the Sea Peoples migrate from their Aegean homeland to the Eastern Mediterranean? In the lively discussion “How did the Philistines get to Canaan?” Tristan Barako presents “One: by Sea” while Assaf Yasur-Landau counters with “Two: by Land.”

What happened to the Philistines after the rise of the Israelites—Did they disappear after 1000 B.C.? In “Excavating Ekron,” Seymour Gitin disagrees with this widely held view, stating that the major Philistine city survived by absorbing other cultures.

Husband and wife Moshe and Trude Dothan worked so extensively with Philistine sites that BAR labeled them “Mr. and Mrs. Philistine.” In the second part of “The Philistines and the Dothans: An Archaeological Romance,” the couple describes the sites, legacy, history and chronology of the Philistines and Sea Peoples.

Archaeologists have long known the location of four of the five cities of the Philistine Pentapolis, but Gath, the home of Goliath, had eluded identification until recently. In “Excavating Philistine Gath,” Aren M. Maeir and Carl S. Ehrlich identify the site of Tell es-Safi as ancient Gath.

What was the embarrassing ailment that caused The Philistines to return the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites? For centuries, the painful affliction has been translated as “hemorrhoids,” but Aren M. Maeir argues that the Philistines were protecting their manhood in “Did Captured Ark Afflict Philistines with E.D.?”

This Philistines were not just enemies of the Israelites; they are also unwitting icons of style. In “Philistine Fashion,” Trude Dothan takes a look at two beautifully crafted objects that proved to be an unusual designer accessory.


What We Know About the Philistines
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1982 By Trude Dothan

The Bible is understandably hostile to the Philistines, describing them as a pleasure loving, warlike society of pagans ruled by “tyrants” who threatened ancient Israel’s existence. An unscrupulous enemy, the Philistines deployed Delilah and her deceitful charm to rob Samson of his power. In a later period, they slew King Saul and his sons […]

When Canaanites and Philistines Ruled Ashkelon
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1991 By Lawrence E. Stager

Ashkelon. The summer of 1990. The sixth season of the Leon Levy Expedition, sponsored by the Harvard Semitic Museum. In the waning days of the season, on the outskirts of the Canaanite city, we excavated an exquisitely crafted statuette of a silver calf, a religious icon associated with the worship of El or […]

Excavating Ekron
Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2005 By Seymour Gitin

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.1 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 […]

The Philistines and the Dothans: An Archaeological Romance, Part 2
Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1993 By Hershel Shanks

In our previous issue (“The Philistines and the Dothans—An Archaeological Romance, Part 1,” BAR 19:04), archaeologists Moshe and Trude Dothan spoke with Hershel Shanks about their early years together, as were embarking on careers in archaeology and at the same time beginning a family They shared their impressions of the great women and men […]

Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown?
Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2001 By Aren M. Maeir , Carl S. Ehrlich

Three of the five cities of the famous Philistine Pentapolis have long been known—Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gaza. A fourth, Ekron, has recently been confirmed by an inscription, locating it at modern Tel Miqne. Gath, the fifth, remains somewhat of a mystery. We believe we have found it—at Tell es-Safi, where we have been […]

Did Captured Ark Afflict Philistines with E.D.?
Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2008 By Aren M. Maeir

I’ve always been troubled by the Philistine hemorrhoids. The Hebrew word is ‘opalim (Mylpe). That was supposedly their affliction when they captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it before a statue of their god Dagon. The story is told about the Ark (sometimes called the Ark of God) when it was resting […]

Philistine Fashion
Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2003 By Trude Dothan

The Philistines settled on the coastal plain of what is now Israel around 1200 B.C.E. and established the famous five cities of their pentapolis—Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza. Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gaza all retained their names into modern times, so there is no question as to their ancient location. Current excavations at a […]

How Did the Philistines Get to Canaan? One: by Sea
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2003 By Tristan Barako

Armadas of sleek warships carrying Philistine marauders and other Sea Peoples storm the beaches along the entire Levantine coast. At the same time, columns of ox-drawn carts descend from the north, carrying more Philistine warriors along with their wives and children. In the wake of this combined naval and overland assault lay the […]

How Did the Philistines Get to Canaan? Two: by Land
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2003 By Assaf Yasur-Landau

There is much I agree with in the preceding article by my colleague Tristan Barako, including the belief that the seemingly Philistine levels at sites in modern Israel actually represent the remains of Aegean settlers, rather than of an international trading elite, in an age when international trade was at its lowest point […]