The Philistine culture (Iron Age, ca. 1200-604 BCE) profoundly impacted the southern Levant's cultural history, agronomy, and dietary customs. Nevertheless, our knowledge of the Philistines’ cultic praxis and deities, is limited and uncertain. Here, we combine archaeological data with a meticulous study of plant use at two successive temples at Tell eṣ-Ṣâfī/Gath. We provide a list of the plants used, their time of harvest, mode of offering, and possible symbolism. Analysis of the temples' macrobotanical (seed and fruits) plant assemblage reveals the offerings; that the inception date for rites was early spring; and sheds light on the date of the final utilization of the temples (late summer/early fall). Besides food crops, we note the earliest cultic use of chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria), and scabious (Lomelosia argentea). These wide-spread Mediterranean plants were known so far only in later cults—of early Greek deities, such as Hera, Artemis, Demeter, and Asclepios. We discuss the data as reflecting that the Philistine religion relied on the magic and power of nature, such as fresh water and seasonality, which influence human life, health, and activity. In sum, our results offer novel insights into the culture of the Philistines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3513
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 Feb 2024

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