Peleset (Pw-r-s-ty)

One of the most significant groups among the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt in the fifth and eighth year of Ramesses III is the Peleset. This ethnonym, which has no earlier occurrence in the Egyptian sources, has been identified with the Biblical Philistines by Jean-François Champollion soon after his decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphic. Philistines settling in their pentapolis consisting of the towns Asdod, Askelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath at the time of the upheavals of the Sea Peoples. In the Medinet Habu relief Ramesses III fights against the Peleset both in the sea and in the land battles. Indeed in the battles against the Lybians some warriors which may be identified as Peleset have been recruited (together the Sherden) in the Ramesses III army. In the Papyrus Harris, Ramesses III claims to have settled the vanquished Sea Peoples, among which our Peleset or Philistines, in strongholds bound in his name. This has induced some scholars to assume that the settlement of the Philistines in Canaan took place under Egyptian supervision. Furthermore, the continuity of Egyptian influence in the hinterland of the Philistine pentapolis might suggest to us that the Egyptian pharaoh maintained a nominal claim on the land conquered by the Philistines and considered them as vassals guarding his frontiers. After their settlement in Palestine, the Philistines rose to a position of power in the region owing to their military superiority over the local population, as exemplified by the famous engagement between David and Goliath.

In the battle of Ramesses III against the Lybians both the Sherden and what seems to be the Peleset or the Denyen are fighting as mercenaries for the Faraoh's army. In this relief from Medinet Habu the Peleset or Denyen are represented with a medium size round shiled with several embossed elements on its surface. They are equipped with a light kiton, a long sword beared on the chest and a long spear. The helmet seems different from the typic "feathered" ones being its lower part similar to a rigid cap which covers the entire head including the ears.

In the Ramesess III land battle representation from Medinet Habu relief the Peleset are shown fighting against the Sherden mercenaries. The Peleset are always represented with the " feathered " headdress and mostly of them are equipped with medium size round shield small sword or dagger and long spear.

In the same land battle representation from Medinet Habu relief the Peleset are shown also fighting on six spooken wheeled Near East style chariots equipped with lateral quivers for bow and arrows.
This representation is very interesting being the Peleset on chariots represented only armed with spears and shields like mostly of the Aegean charioteers instead of bow and arrows which were instead the typic weaponry of the Near Eastern charioteers.

Interesting representation of a Peleset killed by an Egyptian warrior in the Medinet Habu temple relief.
The Peleset is equipped with the typic "feathered" helmet with embossed ring and a V banded corselet which seems in this case made of fabric, linen or other soft material.

An iron spear point dated about 1150 BC has been found in Abydos where a group of Sea Peples was settled during the reign of Ramesses IV. Based on these elements this specimen is though to have belonged to the Sea Peoples. As recorded by the Bible. The military superiority of the Philistines was in fact based on their monopoly of iron production in the region.

Several weapons dated around 1250-1150 BC have been also found in the cemetery at Tell Es-Sa 'Idiyeh. The presence of "double pithos" in the burials may indicate the presence of a group of the so-called Sea Peoples. Cronologically the Tell Es-Sa 'Idiyeh cemetery spans the transition between the Bronze and Iron Age and tools and weapons of both materials have been found in the greaves.

Very interesting Philistine-made decorated gold disc, Aegean in style from Ashdod dated around 1100-1000 BC. This is a possible sword's pommel cover.

The typic Peleset helmet was the as called "feathered headdress". This helmet was probably made by leather trips or straw hold by a metal ring. Indeed for some models the utilization of real feathers can't be excluded. During the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age this kind of headdress is attested from several locations in the Near East and East Mediterranean areas as well as Sardinia island.

Different variants of "feathered" helmets worn by Peleset, Denyen or Weshesh as represented in the Medinet Habu reliefs

Other type of helmets worn by Sea Peoples, as represented in Egyptian reliefs: A) Peleset, B) Tjekker, C-D) Shekelesh, E) Denyen?, F-G-H-I) Shasu.

In the naval battle between the Sea Peoples and the Egyptian army of Ramesses III the Peleset' ships are basically the same of the other seapeoples' ones. Also in this case the vessels have no oars (or no oars have been represented by the artist) and only the sail is shown. They have a single mast with a crow's-net and high stern and prow terminating in duck-heads whose "bills" serve as battering device. The ships are steered by a large paddle. In this representation the Peleset are equiped with long swords, large size round shield and " lobster style" cuirass or corselet.

Also in this case several hypothesis can made about one type of the " lobster style" or ribbons cuirass and corselet of the Sea Peoples represented in the Medinet Habu relief and identified as possible Peleset warriors. These have interpreted as full bronze armour, linen (or other perishable material) corselet or a cuirass made by a mix of metal and non metal elements.
A) This full bronze armour is composed by chest and back plates, lower bands and shoulder/upper arm protections. Its general design is based on some Achaean armour elements(see also the pages dedicated to the armour and corselet).
B) This bronze cuirass with chest/back plates and lower bands is worn over a linen or other perishable material kiton.
C) This composite cuirass is composed by a bronze chest and backplates, shoulder protection and quilted linen ribbons in the lower area.
D) This other hypothesis shows a non metalic corselet probably made of leather, or other perishable material.


In this other representation a possible Peleset warrior worn a type of defence which seems to be a plain cuirass with shoulder guards and plate reinforcements between them. Its general design could be thus similar to some Achaean bronze armours attested or represented in Crete and Greek mainland.

In this other representation a possible Peleset warrior worn a type of defence which seems to be very flexible and without sleeves or shoulder protections. This colud be interpreted as a light corselet made of quilted linen or other perishable material.

In another representation a possible Peleset warrior worn a type of defence which seems also very flexible and made with several small ribbons and sleeves. Also in this case it could be interpreted as a light corselet or short kiton made of quilted linen or other perishable material.

In this representation of the land battle from Medinet Habu relief some of the Sea Peoples warriors (Peleset or Denyen or Weshesh) seem just wearing a sort of protective belts which could be made both of perishable material or bronze.

Very interesting tentative isometric view of a Sea Peoples’ ship made by F. M. Hocker. The main elements represented in this reconstruction derived from the dead bodies position on one of the Peleset’ ship represented in the Medinet Habu relief.

In this relief from Medinet Habu a captive Peleset is shown. This representation is very interesting being several of the original color well preserved. It also clearly shows one of the methods used by Egyptian army to binds the prisoners.
In Odyssey Homer also tells of Pelasgians in Crete. Furthermore since many Biblical references refer to the Philistines origins as the Island of Caphtor, and since many scholars identify Caphtor with Crete, the idea more widely accepted is that the Peleset were originally Cretan. This theory is also well supported by the study of the pottery from Philistine sites which is closely related in ware, shape, paint and decorative concept to the one attested in Greece and Aegean islands of the LH IIIC period.

The teory that the Peleset were originally Cretans has been somewhat strengthened by the discovery in Crete of the still un-deciphered Phaistos disk dated around 1700 BC. One of the signs in the disk shows the head of a man crowned with feathers-very similar to the feather-topped helmets of the Peleset depicted at Medinet Habu.

From Crete is this beautiful example of bronze bucket-shape cylindrical helmet found in the tholos tomb at Praisos-Foutoula dated around 1200 BC.
It is composed by several horizontal ribs that alternate with single horizontal rows of ornamental rivets. The general design of this bronze tiara recalls some of the ones represented in the Medinet Habu relief . Similar tiara like helmets have been also found in some areas of the Greek mainland.

A very interesting object is also this Egyptian caricature doll, probably representing a philistine with a feather-topped helmet, found in the island of Malta.

The adornments of the heads of the deceased molded on these clay coffins are again reminescent of the Medinet Habu relief. The minor individual differences in the decoration of the helmet-circles, notches, and zigzags- may have suggested different tribes or clans.
The features on these grotesque coffins with their "calculated expressionism" which produced an effect of ",majestic calm, pride, and grave melancholy" had their parallel in the gold mask excavated in the royal tombs of Mycenae.

Mazar says:

... in Philistia, the producers of Mycenaean IIIC pottery must be identified as the Philistines. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that the Philistines were a group of Mycenaean Greeks who immigrated to the east ... Within several decades ... a new bichrome style, known as the "Philistine", appeared in Philistia ...


Phaistos