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Philistine Religion Maeir, Aren


Evidence for religious praxis in the Philistine culture of the Iron Age Southern Levant, based on archaeological finds, and some information from biblical literature and ancient near eastern texts. The Philistine culture appeared in the southern Coastal Plain ("Philistia") of the southern Levant (modern Israel/Palestine) ca. 1200 BCE during the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. This culture is a combination of migrants from various regions in the eastern Mediterranean (with significant Aegean components), of various socio-economic backgrounds (including perhaps pirate groups), who settled in the Philistia alongside local Canaanites. Together, they formed a unique "entangled" culture, which combined attributes of various origins. This culture continued to exist in the region until ca. 600, when the last Philistine cities were destroyed by the Babylonians. The Philistine culture is well-known from excavations in the last century, at major cities such as Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath, and smaller sites such as Nahal Patish, Tel Qasile and Tel Yavneh. Important finds relation to cultic practices have been found at these sites, including public temples (Ekron, Gath, Patish and Qasile), domestic cult (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath), and cultic repositories of various types (Gath, Qasile and Yavneh). The Philistine culture was not rich in written materials, and the small corpus of inscriptions from the Iron Age II (ca. 1000-600) is written in an alphabetic script, using a language similar to Phoenician, and contains minimal information on Philistine religion, including a few names of deities (e.g. Patgaiah, Baal), but very little other information. The Philistines are mentioned often in the Bible as neighbors and enemies of the Philistines, often in a negative manner. While the biblical texts may have been written, for the most part, later than the events they depict, they nevertheless seem to mirror the complex relationships that existed between the Israelites and the Philistines during the Iron Age.

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