The Philistines: A Confluence Archaeology and Biblical History

13-07-17-tes-d-2489(Photo credit Gath Archaeological Project)

To be called a Philistine is to evoke an image of one that is hostile or indifferent to culture and arts. The real story of these ancient people may suggest the contrary. The last thirty years has produced an abundance of new archaeological information about the Philistines during the biblical period. The Indy Team focuses on one area today, Goliath’s hometown Gath. Most scholars believe that biblical Gath was located at the site known as Tell es-Safi, one of the largest biblical sites in Israel. We start our interview today with the findings at Gath, a veritable mine of archaeological evidence ranging from the Chalcolithic period (5th mill. BCE) until modern times, and delve into the recent developments in biblical archaeology. Dr. Aren Maeir, director of the Gath/Tell es-Safi Project, shares with us the discoveries of this biblical site and how they may clarify or change our understanding of the history mythologized in scripture.

Dr. Aren Maeir was born in Rochester, NY, in 1958, and immigrated with my family to Israel in 1969. He completed elementary and secondary schooling in Jerusalem. Between 1977 and 1982 he served in the Israeli army, attaining the rank Minolta DSCof Captain.

He studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, attaining a B.A. in Archaeology and Jewish History (1986, summa cum laude), and a Ph.D. in Archaeology (1997, summa cum laude). His primary expertise is Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology. He has participated in excavations at numerous sites in Israel, including: Hazor, Jerusalem, Beth Shean, and Qasile, and have directed archaeological excavations and surveys in Jerusalem (The Western Wall Tunnels, Mamilla, Kikar Safra, Malha), Tell es-Safi/Gath, the Beth Shean Valley, and Tel Yavneh. Currently, his primary professional focus is the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project.

Over the years Dr. Maeir has published more than 100 scholarly and popular studies in various journals and books, and has written and edited several books. Dr. Maeir has served as the chairmen of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, where he teaches Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology. He also serve as the co-director of the Bar-Ilan University/Weizmann Institute of Science Joint Program in Archaeological Science.

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