Munich shopping centre shooting: everything we know on Saturday afternoon

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Munich shopping centre shooting: everything we know on Saturday afternoon

Munich shopping centre shooting: live updates

What happened in Munich?

Police say at least 10 people, including the gunman, were killed after a shooting spree at a shopping mall in the Bavarian capital.

The gunman, who was dressed in black, opened fire on a McDonald’s restaurant at the city’s Olympia Einkaufszentrum shopping centre, before killing himself.

The shooting was thought to have started shortly after 5.30pm GMT.  Authorities evacuated  people from the mall while others hid  inside.

An employee inside the shopping centre said “many shots were fired”.

How many are dead?

Police have confirmed that at least 10  people were killed in the attack. 27 people, including several children, were injured in the attack and 10 are still in critical condition.

It had been feared that the death toll was higher in what a police spokeswoman described as a “shooting rampage”.

Earlier, Munchner Abendzeitung, the city’s evening paper, reported that as many as  15 people had been killed, with many more wounded.

German police special forces rushed to the scene, while members of the public fled from the area. At one point, Munich’s transport  network was shut down as a precaution. A state of emergency was declared in the city.

Armed police move past onlooking media responding to a shooting at a shopping centre in Munich

Where did the attack take place?

The attack took place at the shopping centre. Reports of shooting at two other locations – Hanauer Straße, then the Riesstraße – proved to be incorrect.

People in the mall  said a large number of shots were fired.

“All the people from outside came streaming into the store and I only saw one person on the ground who was so severely injured that he definitely didn’t survive,” one witness said.

What is the situation in Munich?

Shortly after 1am local time (midnight UK)  the police gave the all clear, saying the suspected gunman killed himself and had probably acted alone.

Police had warned people to go home, stay indoors and avoid public areas and highways. A state of emergency was declared in the city.

Who were the Munich shooting victims? Eight of nine dead under 20 years old

Who was responsible?

The Munich shooter was an 18-year-old Iranian-German “loner”  who reportedly complained of bullying shortly before gunning down his nine victims outside a shopping centre and fleeing the scene to commit suicide.

Named locally as Ali Sonboly, the killer is suspected of having used a fake Facebook account to lure young people to the Olympus shopping centre with the promise of buying them free gifts.

A police spokesman says they believe that suspect Ali Sonboly was “suffering from depression.”

Who are the victims?

Seven of the nine victims were teenagers. Three Turkish victims were named as Sevda Dag, Can Leyla and Selcuk Kilic.

One of the victims is understood to be an 18-year-old man who came toMunich from Greece.  According to a freelance journalist who was speaking to BBC 5 Live, the man was shot twice outside the McDonald’s.

Members of the public run away from the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall, after a shooting

He is said to have pushed his sister away as the gunman opened fire in an apparent attempt to save her.

His father reportedly suffered a heart attack after hearing of his son’s death and was taken to hospital.

The first victim to be named on Saturday was Zabergja Dijamant, a 21-year-old from Kosovo.

His father Naim was seen laying flowers for his late son near the mall where the shooting took place. He carried with him a photograph of his son.

A second Albanian victim Armela Segashi, was named by her brother on Facebook, who said he had died along with a third, Sabina Sulaj.

Did Munich killer lure children to their deaths on Facebook? | Daily Mail Online

Who are the victims of the Munich shopping mall shooting?

The father of one of the victims is showing flowers and a picture of his son
The father of one of the victims is showing flowers and a picture of his son CREDIT: JOERG KOCH

Nine people were shot dead in Munich on Friday – seven of whom were teenagers –  after a gunman opened fire on a McDonald’s shopping centre before killing himself.

A further 27 people were seriously injured, and 10 are in a critical condition. “Nearly” all of the victims are aged between 14 and 21, according to TZ.

Four people were killed inside the McDonald’s while a fifth died outside, a senior German security official said on Friday.

Hero who ‘died trying to save his sister’

Three Turkish victims were named as Sevda Dag, Can Leyla, thought to be 14-years old and a friend of Sabina Sulaj, also killed, and Selcuk Kilic.

One of the victims is understood to be an 18-year-old man who came toMunich from Greece.

According to a freelance journalist who was speaking to BBC 5 Live, the man was shot twice outside the McDonald’s.

He is said to have pushed his sister away as the gunman opened fire in an apparent attempt to save her.

His father reportedly suffered a heart attack after hearing of his son’s death and was taken to hospital.

Can Leyla
Can Leyla

First victim named

The first victim to be named on Saturday was Zabergja Dijamant, a 21-year-old from Kosovo.

His father Naim was seen laying flowers for his late son near the mall where the shooting took place. He carried with him a photograph of his son.

On Facebook, he wrote: “With great sadness I want to inform you that my son Dijamant Zabergja, 21, was killed yesterday in Munich.”

The father of a victim shows a picture of his son near the Olympia shopping centre
The father of a victim shows a picture of his son near the Olympia shopping centre CREDIT:SEBASTIAN WIDMANN

A 45-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl were also said to be among the victims.

Three of the victims are of Kosovan-Albanian origin according to Facebook posts by family members.

Armela Segash died in the McDonald's shooting accordig to her brother on Facebook
Armela Segash died in the McDonald’s shooting accordig to her brother on Facebook

A second victim Armela Segashi, 14, was named by her brother on Facebook, who said he had died along with a third, Sabina Sulaj, also 14 years old.

Arbnor Segashi asked Facebook friends at midnight to help him locate his little sister, saying she had been at the shopping centre and the family had not heard from her since news of the shooting broke.

But at 8am, Arbnor wrote on Facebook in both German and Albanian (the Segashis are of Kosovo-Albanian descent): “Armela — our beloved daughter, sister, friend and first of all beloved human being today lost her life in the shooting in Munich. We love you, angel.”

Dijamant Zabergia’s father Naim Zabergja wrote on Facebook: “With deep sadness I must tell relatives, acquaintances and friends that my son Dijamant Zabergja was killed aged 21 at the hands of terrorists in Munich.”

Like Armela Segashi, was is of Kosovo-Albanian descent. His father told the German press agency DPA that Dijamant met a friend for a drink at the shopping centre.

“His friend ran away, but he [the shooter] killed my son,” Naim Zabergja said. At 4am, the police knocked on his door. “I am still dreaming, I still don’t believe what happened, my family still doesn’t believe it either.”

Kosovo-Albanian, Sabina Sulaj, was said to have been at the shopping centre with Armela Segashi, German media reported.

German teenager killed

Friends gathered outside the shopping mall on Saturday lunchtime to mourn the death of their friend, Gulliano Kollmann,  an 18 year old German who was killed in Friday night’s shooting. A floral triute with a photo montage was set up opposite the shopping mall with a pictures around the word “memories”.

Tribute to German victtim

Psychological support staff steeped in as a young woman broke down in tears in front of the tribute, while others knelt down to add candles.

Shohel Chowdhury, a 19-year-old student came to pay tribute. “An old friend of mine was killed. He was my classmate, he was in my year.  We always played football, he lived near my house. I just saw him last week,” Mr Chowdhury told The Telegraph.

He said that his friend Gulliano, 18, was shot while outside McDonalds on Friday night.

“He was German but I think he had Romanian family. He was a funny guy, a normal guy. No one had anything against him. You hear about Nice, Paris and suddenly it happens in your own city. It’s McDonalds, where you go to get coffee and meet your friends – this is so shit what happened.”


The killer

Investigators suspect the youth, who is thought to have lived in the south German city for more than two years, acted alone before killing himself.

Any motive behind the attack currently remains “totally unclear” and investigations will be “running on all cylinders”, Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae said.

Speaking at a press conference in the early hours of Saturday morning, he said the attack “makes us speechless and our thoughts go out in particular to the victims”.

“As a result of the manhunt with a large-scale operation force we have found a male person, who given the current level of intelligence committed suicide,” Mr Andrae said.

“On the basis of witness reports and on the basis of CCTV footage we assume that this person is the suspect.

“We currently have no indications that there were further perpetrators involved. The suspect is, according to the current level of intelligence, an 18-year-old Iranian from Munich.”

A reporter at the press conference asked if a “game” posted on Facebook offering free food at the McDonald’s at 4pm on Friday was an attempt to encourage people to congregate at the scene before the attack.

Mr Andrae said the game was “one part of the comprehensive investigation we are conducting”.

Mighty Viking Ax Discovered in Tomb of Medieval ‘Power Couple’

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Mighty Viking Ax Discovered in Tomb of Medieval ‘Power Couple’

Mighty Viking Ax Discovered in Tomb of Medieval 'Power Couple'

One of the largest Dane axes ever found, recovered by archaeologists from a 10th-century Viking tomb near Silkeborg in central Denmark.

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

Archaeologists have discovered one of the largest Viking axes ever found, in the tomb of a 10th-century “power couple” in Denmark.

Kirsten Nellemann Nielsen, an archaeologist at the Silkeborg Museum who is leading excavations at the site near the town of Haarup, said Danish axes like the one found in the tomb were the most feared weapons of the Viking Age.

“It’s a bit extraordinary — it’s much bigger and heavier than the other axes. It would have had a very long handle, and it took both hands to use it,” Nielsen told Live Science.

Viking site

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

The simplicity of the mighty ax, without any decorations or inscriptions, suggests this fearsome weapon was not just for show. “It’s not very luxurious,” she said.

And the man in the tomb was buried with his ax alone. “He didn’t have anything else buried with him, so I think you can say he identified himself as a warrior above anything else,” Nielsen said.

The ax was one of the artifacts recovered from the Haarup Viking tomb, or dødehus, which means “death house” in Danish. The tomb consisted of a wooden palisade or roofed structure, about 13 feet (4 meters) wide and 43 feet (13 m) long, which was constructed around the two graves.

One of three people found in the tomb was a wealthy Viking woman, who was buried in a wooden cart similar to this reconstruction at Silkeborg Museum.

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

The tomb was built around A.D. 950 for the burial of a man and a woman of evident distinction, Nielsen said. The individuals were identified by their clothing and belongings, and the only human remains that survived the centuries was a single black human hair found in the woman’s clothing.

The woman was buried lying in a wooden wagon, which was a tradition for women of noble birth at the time, and a pair of keys found in the tomb indicated that she was one of the leading people in the community, according to the archaeologists.

Tomb layout

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

Keys were a symbol of authority and distinction for women in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe in theMiddle Ages, and the tradition likely dated back to an earlier time, Nielsen said. “If you are an important woman, with a lot of fine artifacts with you in the grave, then you also have a key,” she said.

Grave goods

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

One of the keys was for a small wooden casket, bound with iron brackets, that was buried beside her.

“She also had gold and silver threads woven into her clothing, so this is quite fine,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said the man and woman in the tomb may not have been husband and wife, but they were clearly the local “power couple.” [Fierce Fighters: 7 Secrets of Viking Seamen]

“The special thing about this tomb is that these two people, each in their own grave, are put inside the same structure,” she said. “I can’t say it isn’t a brother and sister, or it could be [a] husband and wife relationship. But definitely, these two were the ones in charge, the noblest people of the local area.”

Far and wide

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

At some point in time, after the first man and woman were buried, a second man was buried in a grave inside a wooden structure that was added to the original tomb. This man was also buried with his ax, although it was not as large as the ax from the original burial, the researchers said.

Nielsen thinks the second man could have been a relative or successor of the first man. “He was definitely a warrior,” she said. “Both men had Dane axes made for fighting, and both were definitely warriors.”

The tomb at Haarup was unlike any other Viking tomb in Denmark and the other Viking burials uncovered at the same site, she said.

“This is unique — the only one of its kind that I know of,” Nielsen said. “It’s a special place.”

Other finds from the tomb, and other sites in Haarup, show that the local Vikings likely had some international connections, whether through trade or travel, the archaeologists said. [In Photos: Viking Voyage Discovered]

The woman in the tomb was buried with a decorated ceramic cup that originated in the Baltic region, Nielsen said. Two silver coins of a Middle Eastern type called “dirhams,” thought to be from an area that is now in Afghanistan, were found in the grave of another Viking woman buried nearby.

Viking warriors

Credit: Silkeborg Museum

Nielsen has been working at Haarup since the site was unearthed during the construction of a motorway in 2012. As more construction goes on in the area, more archaeological discoveries are being made, including artifacts from the Iron Age and Danish medieval periods, as well as the Viking 10th century.

“From the Vikings, we have only found their burials — we haven’t found their houses yet, so we know them only from their graves,” Nielsen said. “They most definitely lived there, but we just haven’t found the place yet.”

Future archaeological research from Haarup will focus on the four different types of woven cloth found in the graves, the construction of the small casket in the leading woman’s grave, and the single black hair found in her clothing — the only human remains that have survived, and potentially a source of DNA that could provide more clues about its owner, Nielsen said.

A report on the discoveries at Haarup, titled “Dead and Buried in the Viking Age,” can be read online (in Danish) at

Original article on Live Science.

A major step to predicting when supervolcanoes will explode

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A major step to predicting when supervolcanoes will explode

1/06/14 5:20pm

Scientists have learned that massive caldera volcanoes, like the one stewing beneath Yellowstone, are ruled by geological processes far different than the ones governing conventional volcanoes. These massive reservoirs of magma can explode spontaneously — an important piece of insight that can help us predict a future disaster.

Super-eruptions are extremely rare, occurring once every 100,000 years or so. Disturbingly, these cataclysmic geological events aren’t archaic phenomena; we know of at least 20 supervolcanoes on Earth, including Yellowstone, LakeToba in Indonesia, Lake Taupo in New Zealand, and the Phlegraean Fields in Italy. Scientists say it’ll only be a matter of time before the next Big One — an event that could eject upwards of 1,000 cubic kilometers of ash into the sky.

Smaller volcanoes, like Mt. Pinatubo, are typically triggered by earthquakes or other external factors; they’re powered as magma shoots into the volcanic chamber, increasing internal pressure to the point when an explosion occurs. But supervolcanoes, which consist of massive reservoirs of magma deep beneath the surface, are ruled by considerably different processes.

A recent study conducted by a Swiss team from ETH Zurich now shows that the mechanism behind these eruptions is buoyant magma — the same force that makes it difficult to hold a basketball underwater. To reach this conclusion, the researchers simulated the intense pressure of heat in the caldera of a supervolcano by using an experimental station called a high pressure beamline. They filled synthetic magma into a diamond capsule and shot high-energy X-rays inside to monitor changes as the mixture reached critically high pressures. By doing so, they could calculate the amount of pressure required to induce a spontaneous eruption (their samples reached pressures of up to 36,000 atmospheres and temperatures of nearly 1,700°C — similar to the conditions inside a magma chamber).

Results showed that the mounting pressure caused by magma buoyancy can crack more than 6 miles (10 km) of the Earth’s crust above the volcano chamber. Eventually, the magma penetrating these cracks will reach the Earth’s surface. But as it rises, it expands violently, causing a tremendous explosion. Discouragingly, this research shows that supervolcanic eruptions could happen 10 to 100 times more often than previously assumed.

The good news — such that it is — is that we will be able to see this disaster coming, particularly at Yellowstone. Speaking to the BBC, geologist Wim Malfait said the ground would probably rise hundreds of meters. He believes that Yellowstone currently has 10-30% partial melt, and that the overpressure required for an eruption requires at least 50%. What’s more, it can take hundreds of millions of years for this buoyancy force to create the pressure required for an explosion. It doesn’t appear that Yellowstone is going to blow any time soon. But given this new insight, geologists can now start to monitor the conditions within this and other calderas in hopes of predicting a future eruption.

Read more at BBC; and the entire study at Nature Geoscience: “Supervolcano eruptions driven by melt buoyancy in large silicic magma chambers.”

We’ll Only Have a Year to Prepare For a Cataclysmic Super-Eruption

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We’ll Only Have a Year to Prepare For a Cataclysmic Super-Eruption

Yesterday 1:02pm
Image: GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences

Volcanic super-eruptions are bad. Like really bad. Scientists warn of such a potentially civilization-ending catastrophe in our future, but as a new study shows, we’ll only have a year to prepare once the signs of an impending eruption become visible.

A new microscopic analysis of quartz crystals taken from the site of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred 760,000 years ago in eastern California suggests we’ll only have about a year’s worth of advance warning before a devastating super-eruption. In a paper published in PLOS ONE, Guilherme Gualda from Vanderbilt University and Stephen Sutton from the University of Chicago show that super-eruptions don’t require much time to blow their tops, even though they’re tens of thousands of years in the making.

The Long Valley Caldera in eastern California, the result of a super-eruption 760,000 years ago. (Image: NASA/JPL)

Unlike “conventional” eruptions, these explosions are among the most devastating on the planet, unleashing destruction that can flatten continents, trigger new ice ages, and potentially put an end to human civilization as we know it. They happen when the magma in the mantle rises into the crust, but is unable to breach the surface. The ensuing pressure builds and builds in an ever-growing magma pool until the crust can no longer contain the pressure. The results of the ensuing explosion are nothing short of catastrophic. In the most severe cases, a supervolcano can eject upwards of 1,000 cubic kilometers of ash into the sky.

Our planet has experienced several super-eruptions in the recent geological past. The Taupo Volcanic Zone in New Zealand erupted 26,500 years ago, and Campi Flegrei in Italy erupted 40,000 years ago. Other noteable super-eruptions include Indonesia’s Toba super-eruption in Sumatra 75,000 years ago and the Tambora eruption in 1815. Wyoming’s Yellowstone has super-erupted three times in the past million years, and there’s fear it could happen again. As these episodes show, super-eruptions are still a part of Earth’s geological fabric. It’s not a matter of if they’ll happen again, but when.

As these timelines suggest, super-eruptions evolve over relatively long timescales. But as the new study by Gualda and Sutton shows, the final stage doesn’t take very long at all.

“The evolution of a giant, super-eruption-feeding magma body is characterized by events taking place at a variety of time scales,” noted Gualda in a release. It typically takes tens of thousands of years to “prime” the crust with the requisite amounts of magma. Once these pools are established, the giant magma bodies swell and fester for a few millennia or even just a few centuries. “Now we have shown that the onset of the process of decompression, which releases the gas bubbles that power the eruption, starts less than a year before eruption,” said Gualda.

A quartz crystals used in the analysis. (Image: Guilherme Gualda/Vanderbilt University)

Gualda and Sutton reached this conclusion by analyzing small quartz crystals in pumice taken from the site of the Long Valley Caldera that formed nearly a million years ago. This allowed the researchers to measure the distinctive surface rims found at the sites of super-eruptions. By measuring the size and growth rates of these rims, the researchers were able to determine the length of time it took for an explosion to happen once the collapse phase begins. Analysis showed that more than 70 percent of rim growth times were less than a year, indicating that quartz rims mostly grow in the days and months prior to an eruption.

According to the researchers, we’ll likely be able to detect the signs of a pending super-eruption by noticing the bloating effects of the expanding magma body on the surface. More work is needed to know more about thesewarning signs, but this new study suggests that these signals will start to appear within a year of an eruption. And they’ll intensify as the explosion gets closer.


Black Magic: 6 Infamous Witch Trials in History

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Black Magic: 6 Infamous Witch Trials in History

Weather witches

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Denmark was the scene of some of the earliest witch hunts in Europe. These accusations were often linked to magical conspiracies about the weather.

In one of the earliest recorded witch trials, in 1543, a woman named Gyde Spandemager, the wife of a merchant, was accused of casting spells that caused the winds to fail as Danish warships pursued an enemy Dutch fleet.

After being tortured, Spandemager confessed to witchcraft and named several other people as accomplices, who were then also tortured and put on trial. None of the others confessed, but authorities executed Spandemager by burning her at the stake.

Several celebrated witch trials in Denmark resulted in the executions of hundreds of people. Historians estimate that around 250 alleged witches were executed in the Danish district of Jutland alone during the 1600s.

Bewitching the waves

Credit: R. Decker, Hexen, Frontispiz (2004) | Public Domain

The Danish witch panic spread to Scotland in 1589, when Princess Anne of Denmark left by ship to marry King James VI of Scotland, who would later become James I of England.

After storms almost wrecked the ship carrying the princess to Scotland, the royal couple met in Norway to be married. But storms also struck the ship carrying the newlyweds back to Scotland.

When the Danish minister of finance was accused of underequipping the ships for the storms, he then accused a group of women in Copenhagen of casting spells to raise the bad weather.

One of the suspects, a woman named Anna Koldings named five other women as witches, who all admitted under torture they had sent the devil to climb up the keel of the ship carrying the princess. Koldings and 12 other women were burned at the stake in 1590.

Scotland’s witch scare

Credit: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

The Danish witch trial and the alleged magical attack on his bride spurred King James to start the first of five “great witch hunts” in Scotland.

In 1590, James set up his own tribunal to investigate accusations of witchcraft in the town of North Berwick, near Edinburgh. By 1592, the tribunal had tortured and put on trial approximately 70 suspected witches, including some Scottish nobles.

Many were burned at the stake, including Agnes Sampson, an elderly and respectable woman who denied, while under severe torture, that she was a witch. Finally, however, she broke down and confessed to plotting with the devil to kill the king.

The astronomer and the witch

Credit: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

The German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) helped prove that the Earth orbits the sun, but his family suffered under the superstitions of the time.

In 1615, Kepler’s 68-year-old mother, Katharina, was accused of witchcraft by neighbors in her hometown of Leonberg. The accusers claimed Katharina used spells to make her enemies ill and that she could transform herself into a cat.

Although Katharina was never put on trial, her investigation lasted six years, including 14 months when she was chained to the floor of a prison cell in an effort to get her to confess. Johannes Kepler loyally defended his mother throughout her ordeal, and Katharina was set free in 1621 — but died just six months later.

Salem witch trials

Credit: T.H. Matteson, Examination of a Witch (1853)

The Puritan founders of English colonies in the Americas brought Europe’s ideas about witchcraft with them, and in 1692, witch hysteria reached its peak in America with the infamous Salem witch trials.

The trials began after a group of young girls in Salem Village began having fits of contortions and screaming, and accused several local women of bewitching them.

A special court was set up to hear the cases, and by September 1692, more than 150 men, women and children had been accused of witchcraft. The town executed 19 of the people by hanging.

But public opinion turned against the witch trials, and in 1711, a different Massachusetts court annulled the guilty verdicts against those in Salem still accused of witchcraft.

The witch who got away

Credit: Public Domain

One of the last witch trials in England was that of Jane Wenham in Hertfordshire, in 1712. Following a quarrel, a local farmer accused Wenham of witchcraft, claiming she had caused his cattle to sicken and die.

Wenham initially denied being a witch, but a potion was found in her rooms, and she stumbled while reciting the Lord’s Prayer, which people suggested was evidence of witchcraft.

But Wenham’s witch trial became a cause célèbre in English society, and even the judge took a lenient view. When the prosecutors suggested that witnesses had seen Wenham flying, the judge remarked that flying was not illegal.

The trial eventually found Wenham guilty, but the judge set aside her conviction and suspended the death penalty. She died a free woman, in 1730.

Photos: Curly-Haired Man Carved into Ancient Sarcophagus

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Photos: Curly-Haired Man Carved into Ancient Sarcophagus

Construction workers unearthed a 2-ton limestone sarcophagus during a building project in Ashkelon, a city along Israel’s Mediterranean coast. The 1,800-year-old coffin is decorated with detailed carvings, including a reclining man with a Roman-style haircut; a wine vessel intertwined with grape clusters and leaves; wreaths; and the head of Medusa — believed by Romans to protect the dead. [Read the full story on the limestone sarcophagus] (Images credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.)

Mystery man

A male figure sculpted on the sarcophagus cover, possibly the image of the deceased.

Stunning sarcophagus cover 

The male figure, possibly the deceased, sculpted on the sarcophagus cover is shown here in a close-up displaying the detailed carving.

A gentle touch

A team member gently cleans the sarcophagus cover, which could be the image of the deceased.

Detail oriented

The sarcophagus cover was carved with amazing details, as shown in this close-up of the embellishments.

Providing for the dead

On the other side of the sarcophagus lid a jar used to transport liquids such as wine has been carved, from which there are intertwining tendrils bearing grape clusters and grape leaves.

Beauty in details

A wreath coming out of the upper edge of the sarcophagus, which is decorated with bulls’ heads, consists of acanthus leaves together with pine cones and fruit. A grape cluster is in the center of the wreath, and a roselike decoration is also displayed in it.

Protection in death

The image of Medusa depicted on the sides of the sarcophagus was believed to protect the image of the deceased.

Brushing away centuries of dirt

A team member brushes the ancient dirt and rock residue from the sarcophagus and its lid during the initial cleaning.

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Who Were the Philistines?

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Who Were the Philistines?

David vs. Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939). It’s a well-known story, but whether David or Goliath ever existed — or if the Israelites and the Philistines ever fought — are matters debated by scholars.

Credit: Public domain

The Philistines were a group of people who arrived in the Levant (an area that includes modern-day Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria) during the 12th century B.C. They came during a time when cities and civilizations in the Middle East and Greece were collapsing.

Much of what we know about the Philistines comes from Egyptian and Assyrian texts as well as the stories told in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Joshua claims that the cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron were controlled by the Philistines about 3,000 years ago.

The Philistines themselves left no texts and, as such, much of what we know about them comes from the people they encountered. These texts often describe them negatively and today the name “Philistine” is sometimes used to describe someone who is warlike or who doesn’t appreciate art or culture.

In addition to the ancient texts, modern-day archaeologists have tried to identify Philistine burials and the artifacts that the Philistines used by excavating the cities that the texts say the Philistines controlled. However what constitutes a “Philistine” artifact or a “Philistine” burial is disputed by scholars.

One of the earliest mentions of the Philistines is recorded by the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses III (reign ca. 1184–1153 B.C.) who engaged them in battle. In a papyrus Ramses III boasts that “the Philistines were made ashes” by the Egyptian forces, a claim that modern-day scholars doubt.

Stories in the Hebrew Bible say that the Philistines clashed with the ancient Israelites many times. One of the battles supposedly took place between a Philistine force led by the giant man named Goliath and an Israelite force that included a man named David who would go on to become king of Israel. In the story David kills Goliath with a slingshot and the Israelites go on to rout the Philistine force. Whether David or Goliath ever existed — or if a series of wars between the Philistines and Israelites occurred — are matters debated by scholars.

The Philistines pop up again in Assyrian texts dating to the 8th century and 7th centuries B.C. when the Assyrian Empire ruled much of the Middle East.

One text records a treaty between the Assyrian ruler Esarhaddon (ca. 681 – 669 B.C.) and the ruler of a city named Tyre. In the treaty, Esarhaddon’s control “of the land of Philistines” is acknowledged and the ruler of Tyre agrees that the cargo of any ships wrecked off this area belong to Esarhaddon. The Assyrian texts don’t specify exactly what the “land of the of the Philistines” encompassed during the 7th century B.C.; however, an earlier text, dating to the reign of Tiglath Pileser III (reign 745–727 B.C.) says that the Assyrian king had trouble finding a reliable vassal ruler who could control Ashkelon (a place which the Hebrew Bible says was a Philistine city).

One text, written in the name of Tiglath Pileser III, says that a “King of Ashkelon” named Sidqia “did not bow to my yoke” and as a consequence, Sidqia and his family were deported to Assyria.

The Philistines disappear from written history during the 6th century B.C. when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II (reign ca. 605 BC – c. 562 BC) conquered the region and destroyed several cities, including Ashkelon.

The textual records of the Philistines leave modern-day scholars with a number of problems. The texts are few in number and were written by non-Philistines, who often had a negative view of them, said Raz Kletter, a professor at the University of Helsinki who excavates at the ancient city of “Yavne” – a place that texts indicate was ruled by the Philistines.

Kletter says that we can’t be sure if the Philistines themselves even considered themselves to be “Philistine” or whether they based their identity more on the city they lived in or the religion they practiced.

The reliability of the texts that refer to them is another issue that scholars encounter. Many of the surviving ancient texts come from the Hebrew Bible. The stories told in the Hebrew Bible claim that the Philistines were often in conflict with King David, a ruler who supposedly controlled a powerful Israelite kingdom around 3,000 years ago. However, research by a number of archaeologists, including Israel Finkelstein, a professor at Tel Aviv University, has found that there is little archaeological evidence that a powerful Israelite kingdom led by a king named David existed.

Jerusalem, which was supposed to be King David’s capital, appears to have been sparsely populated around 3,000 years ago, Finkelstein says.

“Over a century of archaeological explorations in Jerusalem — the capital of the glamorous biblical United Monarchy — failed to reveal evidence for any meaningful 10th-century building activity,” wrote Finkelstein in apaper published in 2010 in the book “One God? One Cult? One Nation: Archaeological and Biblical Perspectives” (De Gruyter, 2010).

Finkelstein says that if a united Israelite kingdom did exist 3,000 years ago it likely would have been a small entity, located in the highlands — away from the Mediterranean coast.

Over the past century, archaeologists have excavated the cities that ancient texts say the Philistines controlled.

During the 12th century B.C., at a time when a number of cities in Greece and the Middle East were collapsing, large amounts of pottery and artifacts with styles similar to what people were using in the Aegean Sea region started appearing in areas that texts say were controlled by the Philistines, said Amihai Mazar, an archaeologist and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As a result, many archaeologists think that the Philistines came to the Levant during the 12th century B.C., possibly as refugees searching for a new home. The 12th century B.C. is also the time when Ramses III engaged the Philistines in battle, supposedly defeating them.

However Mazar said that as time goes on the Aegean styles disappear, the people who used them gradually adopted local pottery designs and customs.

Today the question of what exactly constitutes a “Philistine” artifact or a “Philistine” burial is something widely debated by scholars. Recently, a team excavating the city of Ashkelon discovered a cemetery dating back about 3,000 years ago, which they claim is the “first” Philistine cemeteryever discovered. However this claim is disputed. Kletter’s team found a cemetery at Yavne that he thinks contains Philistine burials. Additionally, a team led by the late archaeologist Moshe Dothan found a cemetery at the site of Azor in the 1950s, which they also claimed is Philistine. Mazar also notes that a century ago Sir Flinders Petrie found burials in southern Israel that he claimed were Philistine.

[Photos: Skeletal Remains of Possible Philistines Unearthed]


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