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Tel a-Rai, site postulated for Ziklag, where David found sanctuary under the Philistine wing.

Lost Biblical City Where Philistines Gave Refuge to King David Found, Archaeologists Say


Archaeologists digging in southern Israel near the modern city of Kiryat Gat claim to have found an ancient biblical city from the time of the legendary King David.

The ancient Philistine city was discovered by researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Macquarie University in Australia. In the research paper published in the journal Radiocarbon, the researchers note that the city of “Ziklag” is mentioned in the Bible in association with King David when Achish, King of Gat, allowed David refuge while he was fleeing King Saul.

According to an article about the discovery in Haaretz, “12 other sites in Israel have been considered as the possible location of Ziklag” but where this new site near Kiryat Gat differs is that none of the previous sites has “a continuous Philistine settlement and a settlement from the time of King David.” Among the first discoveries when excavations began in 2015 were “spacious, massive stone structures” containing artifacts of the Philistine civilization” dating between the 12-11th centuries BC.

What Has Been Discovered?

Beneath the structures, archaeologists found stone and metal tools and nearly 100 complete pottery vessels which the paper says were used for storing oil and wine. These vessels were found to be ”almost identical to pottery vessels discovered in the Judaean city of Khirbet Qeiyafa”, which were Carbon-14 dated to the reign of King David.

Beneath the buildings the researchers found “good luck offerings” including  an oil lamp, and above the remains of the Philistine settlement a rural settlement was discovered from the early 10th century BC about which the scientists said; “it came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings.”

The creators of the Hebrew Bible were perfectly clear that Philistines were not like them, and these "uncircumcised" farmer-warriors were recorded as having come from the “Land of Caphtor" (Crete).

According to an article in National Geographic, after battling with their Israelite neighbors, “the Philistines seized the Ark of the Covenant" and it was from their ranks that the giant Goliath emerged who was killed by the future King David.

Ancient Navigators from The Land of Caphtor

Regarding the origins of the Philistines, who featured in the Hebrew Bible as having come from the “Land of Caphtor", a scientific paper published on July 3 in the journal Science Advances revealed new research on ancient DNA establishing that the Philistines “descended from Greece, Sardinia or even Iberia (present-day Spain and Portugal).”

In an article in Live Science discussing this new paper, lead researcher Michal Feldman, a doctoral student of archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History said that these ancient navigators “migrated across the Mediterranean during the late Bronze Age or early Iron age, about 3,000 years ago”.

Image from page 129 of "The Philistines : their history and civilization", 1913

Image from page 129 of "The Philistines : their history and civilization", 1913 (Internet Archive Book Images / flickr)


Not Every Scientist Agrees

While the team of scientists are celebrating their biblical discovery, we must report that not everyone is convinced that this is actually the legendary biblical city.

An article in IFLScience says “some independent experts not involved in the project are hesitant to jump to the conclusion that this site really is the noteworthy town of Ziklag.” 

One open skeptic is Professor Aren Maier, a US-born Israeli archeologist from Bar-Ilan University, who told reporters at Haaretz: “It's very hard to accept.” 

The primary reason the discovery is doubted is that that “references to this site in the biblical texts are consistently much more south, relating to the Negev, the tribe of Shimon, or the southern border of Judah," Maier added. He also maintains that just because you have “Philistine finds and then 10th century BCE destruction, that does not make it Ziklag.”

Only time and further research will reveal whether it is the famed city or not.

Top image: Tel a-Rai, site postulated for Ziklag, where David found sanctuary under the Philistine wing. Emil Aljem, Israel Antiquities Authority

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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