After more than 17 excavation seasons, the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, under the aegis of the Harvard Semitic Museum, continues to thrive. We have begun new excavations for the summers of 2007-2011. In 1985, philanthropist Leon Levy and archaeologist Lawrence E. Stager, Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel at Harvard University, teamed up to begin excavations at the seaport of Ashkelon on the coast of the Mediterranean in Israel. Today, Leon Levy's vision continues through the work of Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation, which has pledged funding for five more years of excavation at Ashkelon under the directorship of Daniel Master, Associate Professor of Archaeology at Wheaton College.
The 2010 field season will continue projects that began in 2007. Excavation will continue to focus on the Early Iron and Late Bronze Age phases in Grid 38, which is the only area at Ashkelon with a sequence that traces all periods of Ashkelon's occupation from the Early Bronze Age through the Islamic Crusader periods. It is also the only area at Ashkelon that provides a complete record of the Philistine occupation from their arrival in the early 12th century B.C. to the city's destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C. Grid 38 stands in the well-trafficked center of the National Park in Ashkelon, an area popular with the many campers and locals who visit the seaside park.
In 2010 we will also continue to explore new areas of excavation which have been opened since 2007 in order to polish our understanding of Roman and Islamic/Crusader Ashkelon. In 2007 ground penetrating radar (GPR) was used to locate remains of the medieval Islamic ramparts, which led to preliminary excavation along the ramparts north of the Jerusalem Gate in 2008. Combined use of GPR and probes in 2009 will continue to extend our understanding of the medieval fortifications at Ashkelon. In 2010, we plan to expose Byzantine apartments. In 2007, GPR was also used in order to locate remains of a major Basilica in the Roman Forum which was first excavated in 1815 by archaeologist Lady Hester Stanhope. In 2008, excavation began in the wake of the GPR work, and by the end of the season late Roman occupational phases had been reached. The 2010 field season will see work on the Roman Odeon in the Severan Forum, which will broaden our understanding of Roman Ashkelon.
With the generous support of Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation, ancient Ashkelon has a bright future. The next five years promise to produce some important final report volumes from Professor Stager alongside exciting new excavations led by Dr. Master.