The question of when the Philistines arrived in Canaan—and more generally when the Sea Peoples (of which the Philistines were one) arrived in the Levant—and just where they came from is finally being answered.
One key is an Egyptian wall relief (drawing, top) on the temple of Karnak, in Thebes. Long thought to have been commissioned by Pharaoh Ramesses II (1279–1212 B.C.), the relief has recently been shown to depict a series of campaigns conducted in Canaan in 1207 B.C. by Merenptah (1212–1202 B.C.), son of Ramesses II.a The scene shown here is of the siege of Ashkelon, identified as such by the hieroglyphics at top center. The desperate inhabitants beg for mercy while the battle rages below them. An oversize pharaoh dominates the right portion of the scene. What is crucial in this scene is that the inhabitants are depicted with the same dress as undoubted Canaanites in other, adjacent reliefs—and without the distinctive headgear and clothing with which the Philistines and other Sea Peoples are depicted in other Egyptian reliefs. The Philistines, we must therefore conclude, had not yet arrived in Canaan in 1207 B.C.