Since 1985, a team of professional archaeologists, together with students and volunteers have conducted annual excavations at the ancient seaport city of Ashkelon, located 35 miles south of Tel Aviv, Israel, on the Mediterranean coast.
From the Canaanite era (2000-1200 B.C.), Ashkelon is the oldest and largest seaport known in Israel. The thriving Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.) metropolis covered more than 150 acres. Commanding ramparts and the oldest arched city gate in the world, which still stands two stories high, protected the city.
From the Philistine era (1175-604 B.C.), Ashkelon continued to thrive as a member of the Philistine pentapolis. Ongoing excavations focus on the 10th/11th centuries, the days of Samson and Delilah. In 604, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar sacked and burned the city, leaving us a snapshot of the city's busy marketplace, one of the only commercial quarters uncovered in the Iron Age.
From the Roman and Byzantine era, independent Ashkelon became the most honored city in the region. Its new urban plan was ornamented by a forum surrounded by public buildings festooned with the finest statuary east of Ephesus. The city fathers established detailed zoning laws that balanced public and private needs to the extent that Ashkelon became the model for centuries of Byzantine city planners. "Truly there is a pinnacle for everything," said one ancient writer, "and the pinnacle for greater Syria is Ashkelon."
For more details about the excavation and the ancient city of Ashkelon, consult the excavation's publications:
Stager, Lawrence E., J. David Schloen and Daniel Master, eds. Ashkelon 1: Introduction and Overview (1985-2006). Harvard Semitic Museum/Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, 2008.
Johnson, Barbara. Ashkelon 2: Imported Pottery of the Roman and Late Roman Periods. Harvard Semitic Museum/Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, 2008.
Come see the site for yourself.
Ashkelon is a modern Israeli city easily accessible by car, bus and train. Located roughly 40 minutes from Tel-Aviv (via Highway 4), 45 minutes from Ben-Gurion International Airport (via Highway 1 and 4) and an hour from Jerusalem (via Highway 1 and 3), Ashkelon can also be reached by public transportation. From Tel Aviv, Buses 300 (direct) and 301 depart every 30 minutes, weekdays from 6 am to 10:30 pm. From Jerusalem, Bus 437 departs every 30-60 minutes, weekdays from 6 am to 7:15 pm. For the most up-to-date information, please check the schedules at the "Egged" Central Bus Station. From the Central Bus Station, take Bus No. 6 to the Ashkelon National Park. For more information on traveling to Ashkelon by train, please visit Israel Railways.