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Researchers say ancient Philistine town located in Israel
Archaeologists take part in excavations at a site claimed to be the Biblical town of Ziklag near the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat on July 8, 2019. Researchers in Israel said they have pinpointed the site of an ancient Philistine town mentioned in the biblical tale of David seeking refuge from the Israelite king Saul. Ziklag was a town under the rule of a Philistine king in nearby Gath after the ancient "sea peoples" began arriving in the region in the 12th century BC, the researchers say. MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP.

by Alexandra Vardi

QIRYAT GAT (AFP).- Researchers in Israel said Monday they believe they have pinpointed the site of an ancient Philistine town mentioned in the biblical tale of David seeking refuge from the Israelite king Saul.

Ziklag was a town under the rule of a Philistine king in nearby Gath after the ancient "sea peoples" began arriving in the region in the 12th century BC, the researchers say.

A biblical tale says the town became the unlikely seat of David before his anointment as king in Hebron following Saul's death.

"It is not 100 percent sure, but I think it's 90 percent that this was biblical Ziklag," said Yosef Garfinkel, head of the institute of archaeology at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

The excavation began in 2015 and the researchers plan to continue with further digs.

"I hope it will be enough to clarify all the important aspects of the site," Garfinkel said at the site on a hilltop near the city of Qiryat Gat in central Israel.

Today known as Khirbet al-Rai, the site faces surrounding hills and overlooks wheat fields below.

Ziklag's location has been the subject of scientific debate, with 12 possible locations named in southern Israel.

None of the sites, however, had the necessary evidence of consecutive Philistine and Israelite settlement to fit what is believed to be the historical narrative, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

'Open some discussion'
The researchers from the IAA, Hebrew University and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, say they have found a Philistine-era settlement under a rural one from the historical era linked to the biblical King David.

Those findings have led them to believe it is Ziklag, the statement said.

Researchers have excavated finds typical of the Philistine civilisation as well as pottery vessels connecting it to the historical era identified with the biblical David, the statement said.

Excavations occurred in three main locations over an area of more than 1,000 square metres.

Four houses were located, and in one of them a trove of more than 1,500 tools to cut wheat was found, said Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Ganor also presented around a dozen examples of the pottery found, including one he said was used to serve beer.

The Philistines are believed to have arrived in the region in the 12th century BC, with DNA tests on their bones recently suggesting their origin to be in southern Europe.

They ruled what is today part of central and southern Israel and the Gaza Strip and were a feared enemy of the Israelites.

In the biblical narrative, David sought refuge in Ziklag from Saul, who was trying to kill him.

David fled the boundaries of the Kingdom of Israel to the coastal area under the rule of the Philistines.

As relayed in the first book of Samuel, when Saul heard David was in the Philistine city of Gath, "he sought him no more".

David then requested -- and received -- the town of Ziklag, which remained property of Judean kings, the bible says.

"It raises the question of the accuracy of the biblical text, but the higher question is how do we bring the text and the archaeology together," said Kyle Keimer of Macquarie University.

"It's going to open some discussion."

© Agence France-Presse

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