The Philistines were related to Greeks and other Europeans, according to DNA evidence in a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
Scientists looked at the genomes of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon, which is on the Mediterranean Sea about 40 miles west of Jerusalem and which was known in ancient times as one of five cities of the Philistines.
The ancient group, immortalized in the Hebrew Bible, arrived in the area in the 12th century BC.
They found that the Philistines were genetically distinct from human remains from other ancient groups who lived in the area because they had a set of genes linked to Europeans.
“Of the available contemporaneous populations, we model the southern European gene pool as the best proxy for this incoming gene flow,” the scientists wrote in the study.
The much-maligned group is regularly depicted as the enemy of the Israelites in Biblical texts. The giant Goliath was a Philistine. So was Delilah who entrapped legendary warrior Samson.
Varying theories had asserted their ancestors originated in the Aegean, or the northern Levant or that they were actually a local culture.
“Our study has shown for the first time that the Philistines immigrated to this region in the 12th century (BC),” said Daniel Master, director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, a coastal city where the first ever Philistine cemetery was found.
“We didn’t show it by showing similar styles of pottery, we didn’t show it by looking at texts, we showed it by looking at the DNA of the people themselves,” Master said. “We can see at Ashkelon new DNA coming in from this immigrant population that is really changing the whole region.”
The Ashkelon team sent more than 100 skeletal samples to Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. DNA was found in ten individuals, particularly in the inner ear bones that preserved it over the millennia.