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Archaeological Discoveries: Evidence of Goliath Possibly Found at Tel es-Safi

(November 2005)

Archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University have found evidence that may prove the existence of the Philistine man named “Goliath” from the biblical narrative. While digging at Tell es-Safi, the biblical city “Gath of the Philistines,” the archaeologists discovered a small pottery sherd that mentions two names very similar to the name “Goliath.” This sherd is the oldest Philistine inscription ever found.

The remarkable part of the find is that Tell es-Safi (Gath), located on the Israeli coast between Ashkelon and Jerusalem, is the same town that the Bible claims is the birthplace of Goliath, the biblical figure that David meets and kills in battle. The inscription may give evidence that the legendary biblical battle between the Philistines and the Israelites actually did occur. Written in “Proto-Canaanite,” archaeologists placed the date around the 10th or 9th centuries BCE, which falls in the same time period as the United Kingdom of ancient Israel.

Two non-Semitic names appear on the sherd (Alwt and Wlt), and after a careful examination, some archaeology experts “concluded that the two names which appear in the inscription are remarkably similar to the etymological parallels of Goliath,” which itself is a non-Semitic name. The letters are Semitic, but the names come from a language of Indo-European origin, the language family that encompasses ancient Greek and other related languages. Most scholars believe that the Philistines migrated from somewhere in the Aegean region near Greece to ancient Israel, bringing some of the Aegean culture with them. Over time, the Philistine culture became infused with the cultures of their neighbors, while still keep some aspects of their Aegean culture. This discovery, with Semitic letters and Indo-European names, may prove this theory to be true.

According to Professor Aren Maeir, Chairman of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, “...this (inscription) appears to provide evidence that the biblical story of Goliath is, in fact, based on a clear cultural realia from, more or less, the time which is depicted in the biblical text, and recent attempts to claim that Goliath can only be understood in the context of later phases of the Iron Age are unwarranted.”

Sources: IMRA (November 10, 2005)