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18 April 2018
Ancient history

At www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-ancient-records-indicate-philistine… … (July 2017) as reported by Ariel David. It is claimed that recent research may indicate the enigmatic Philistines may have been a native Near Eastern population group rather than invading Aegean pirates (as mainstream would have us believe). As such, they can hardly be blamed for the LB destructions in the Levant, Anatolia, and the Aegean etc. The Philistines are traditionally bound up as one of the so called sea peoples. The new evidence contradicting this line of argument is said to come from a Philistine graveyard in Ashkelon. According to the Harris Papyrus, a biography of Ramses III written by Ramsess IV, his son, the pharaoh defeated a group of people known as the Peleset, a term of unknown derivation but often associated with the Greek people known as Pelasgians. Obviously, there are problems with this identification but one cannot deny that the widespread site destructions may have created a lot of displaced people – from the Aegean, or even further west, from Anatolia and from Syria – so yes, the new findings are not particularly controversial. The Philistines were defeated and employed by the Egyptian s to man the frontiers – and the garrison in Beth Shan seems to have had the role of controlling unruly elements in the southern Levant. This would most certainly have included the Habiru (Hebrews) which is why the Philistines had a bad press in the Bible.

The sceptic view begins with a an interpretation of the wording of the Harris Papyrus – in that the captives are said to have been brought to Egypt (not Canaan). This is of course a matter of opinion as Egypt during dyn 18, 19 and a large portion of dyn 20 included most of the southern Levant. Presumably the authors are arguing against the Sea Peoples theory (which are blamed for the elimination of the Hittite empire which included a large slice of what is now Syria). However, in a catastrophist scenario we have a situation not too distant from this new idea. Whatever may have caused the LB destructions, which most certainly included widespread tectonic activity in what is a heavily tectonically sensitive zone, it created a mass of refugees – in the Aegean, Anatolia, and Syria, and if this mass of humanity moved southwards in order to escape the devastation they would invariably have crossed the frontier into Egyptian territory in the southern Levant, as accurately described in the Harris Papyrus. In fact, taking into account all the words written in that papyrus may help to understand the nature of the catastrophe (or sequence of catastrophes). The whole idea of attributing these site destructions to human agency is long overdue being rubbished and this new paper on the subject seems to go some way to doing just that. What I find amazing is that Velikovsky, who proposed a sequence of catastrophes in the 9th, 8th and 7th centuries came up with a revision that identified the Sea People with the Persians – long after the end of the LB period. He actually ignored the catastrophism central to the end of LB site destructions. This suggests he had an overriding different perspective on ancient history – one that was nationalistic (in the spirit of the times he was writing).

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