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A Philistine warship.

Kunulua: Homeland of the Philistine Sea Peoples Finally Found?


The Sea Peoples were a group of tribes that arose and battled against ancient Mediterranean communities from 1276-1178 BC. At the time the victims of their barrages called them: the Sherden, the Sheklesh, Lukka, Tursha, Peleset and Akawasha. Lack of concrete evidence has left the history of the Sea Peoples to be heavily debated in the archaeological community. Scholars believe that it is likely the identity of the warrior Sea Peoples is Etruscan/Trojan, Italian, Philistine, Mycenaen or even Minoan.

A new study focuses on one of these alleged Sea Peoples – the Philistines. The origin of where they came from has also been a longstanding question for archaeologists. The past assumption was that as they were after all, “sea” people, they must be based from a location near water. The new discovery goes against this previously held idea. Tel Tayinat/Tell Tayinat (ancient Kunulua), Turkey was previously thought to have been just one of the many locations invaded by the Philistines, however new research proposes that they may have their origins in the location instead. The common previously held belief was that the Philistines were originally from the Aegean or Cyprus regions.

If this new report of the Philistine “base” being the remote site in southeast Turkey is in fact true, than it would show that the Philistines were present when many of the great civilizations collapsed and somehow they were exempt from a similar fate.

Large amounts of pottery and items that are identified as Philistine have been unearthed at Tel Tayinat, a site located near the border of Turkey and Syria. These artifacts have been found amongst the ruins of an ancient city that archaeologists think may be the real hometown of the Philistines. The belief that Tel Tayinat was a Philistine capital came about from the finds of the pottery and other anomalous artifacts at the site, according to Haaretz.

Examples of Philistine pottery.

Examples of Philistine pottery. (Wikimedia Commons)

When Tel Tayinat was first excavated in the early 1900s the Philistine pottery was thought to be luxury goods imported by the Hittites. However, the Petrographic analyses completed by Professor Timothy Harrison of the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, and his team show that it is more probable that the pottery was locally made. 

Other supporting evidence for the Philistine hometown of Tel Tayinat according to the researchers is found in the mysterious "King Taita", ruler of "Walistin" or "Patin." At Tel Tayinat there are several inscriptions referring to the powerful Taita. A 2003 discovery by Kay Kohlmayer of the inscriptions "Taita, King and hero of Patastini" and "Taita, conqueror of Carchemish" led to the reinterpretation of one Luwian (the Hittite language) hieroglyphic sign. That was accompanied by the increasing evidence of John David Hawkins, a Luwian expert, showing that the W’s in the language should be instead read as P’s. Thus “Walistin” would become “Palistin.” Researchers from the current study believe  that the new interpretation corresponds with the information on the Peleset Sea Peoples documented by the Egyptians.

King Taita is shown on the right relief. Haddad temple, Aleppo, Syria

King Taita is shown on the right relief. Haddad temple, Aleppo, Syria (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the earliest writings on the Philistines are from the 12th Century BC in Egypt. The inscription discussed a battle and then defeat  (at the Battle of Delta) of the Sea Peoples. Petros Koutoupis wrote last year for Ancient Origins:

“In the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the inscription specifically identifies an ethnic group from within this confederation and in opposition to the Egyptians called the P-r-s-t which phonetically renders to the Peleset. This is synonymous to the Hebrew ethnic term given to these same peoples of Pelishtim; that is, the Philistines.”

Philistine captives, Medinet-Habu tomb, Egypt

Philistine captives, Medinet-Habu tomb, Egypt (Wikimedia Commons)

Hence there is a mix of evidence showing both Luwian (Hittite) factors as well as Philistine features overlapping in Tel Tayinat. Harrison asserts that this shows the Philistines did not quickly overtake the city, but instead assimilated with the rest of the population over time and eventually made Kunulua their home before setting off to battle with foreign lands.

Professor Gunnar Lehmann of Ben Gurion University, recently conducted a study on coastal sites in Turkey and speaking on Tel Tayinat said: "The inscriptions and the monuments of this king are all written in Luwian hieroglyphs, his reliefs are neo-Hittite but the pottery is Aegeanizing," this shows Aegean influences and “It would be very strange indeed if what we have at Tayinat wasn’t [a Philistine hub].”

Featured Image: A Philistine warship. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Alicia McDermott



It seems to me that too often, when talking about ancient European civilizations, the Thracians are missed, and even more, the proto-thracians, also known as pelasgians. The culture of the Lake City, known as the Blatnitsa' culture - the oldest phase of European Neolithic Culture Hamandjia - also is often omitted.
Here is the Wikipedia' archaeological reference about this city (in bulgarian and romanian only):
"The great island of Durankulak in Bulgara is known among the specialists as "European Troy" and "Lake City". At this important place of European history are found:
- artefacts from the Paleolithic (over 100 centuries BC),
- settlements of the first most ancient cultural, settled, agricultural and craftsmanship population in Europe (54th century BC),
- the first stone buildings in Europe (51st Century BC),
- the oldest processed gold in the world (50th century BC),
- the first written signs in human history (50th - 48th centuries BC) precursor of the prehistoric Danube proto-alphabet,
- the earliest forms of monetary-exchange values ​​(50-48 BC)."
There are also a lot of other topics in this direction, begining from the obvious identity of some thracians and ethruscians art-pieces; then - The City of The Salt (4700 B.C.) - just 100 km sud-west from Lake City, etc., etc. I would like to read about this in Ancient Origins.

Alicia McDermott's picture


Alicia McDermott holds degrees in Anthropology, Psychology, and International Development Studies and has worked in various fields such as education, anthropology, and tourism. She is the Chief Editor of Ancient Origins Magazine. Traveling throughout Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Alicia... Read More

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