This ancient Palestinian city is about 13km south-west of Gaza. The abundant palm trees in and around the city produce the tasty dates that Deir al-Balah is famous for and is named after. The city is famous for the important set of anthropoid coffins or sarcophagus that were found in the Late Bronze Age Cemetery of Deir al-Balah, and attributed to the so called 'Kings of the Philistines'. The cemetery dates to the 14th until to around 1200 BC. This striking collection of clay coffins with movable face lids is the largest group of anthropoid coffins yet uncovered in Palestine. The coffins were found in groups of three or more, with a distance of3 to 4m between them. They were placed in tombs cut out in the sandstone soil (kurkar) or red clay and almost all were oriented west to the Mediterranean. Large quantities of alabaster vessels, Ushabti figurines, scarabs, gold jewelry, beads of precious stones and gold, pottery of Mycenian, Cypriot, Egyptian and local Palestinian types were discovered with the coffins. They seem to have served as burial offerings. The excavations in the cemetery of Deir al-Balah were carried out between 1972 and 1982 on be- half of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusa1em and the Israel Exploration Society, Nothing is to be seen today at the site. All the finds are now exhibited in the Rockfeller and the Israel Museums in Jerusalem. In 1971 there was an illicit excavation campaign led by the Israeli general Moshe Dayan, who held the largest group of finds from Deir al-Balah in his extensive archaeological collection, which was recently sold to one of the Museums in Israel.
Tell al-Ruqeish stands right on the coast of Deir al-Balah. The excavations carried out on the site uncovered a large and flourishing Phoenician settlement (about 150 x 650m), with a massive defense wall (approximately 1.6km) and a cemetery with Phoenician-style cremation burials, dated to the Late Iron Age and to the Persian period (538-332 BC). The size of the building and its defenses imply that it once was a very important sea port on the ancient international.
By: Dr. Adel Yahya, Dr. Muin Sadeq, Dr. Hanna Abdel Nour