Ashkelon is located on the Mediterranean coast on the Plain of Philistia, thirty miles southwest of Joffa and twelve miles northeast of Gaza. Maritime activity as well as its position on the International Coastal Highway distinguished Ashkelon as a strategic center for trade.
In the oldest layers are shaft graves of pre-Phoenician Canaanites. The city was originally built on a sandstone outcropping and has a good underground water supply. Ashkelon was a thriving Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BCE) city of more than 150 acres, with commanding ramparts including the oldest arched city gate in the world, eight feet wide, and even as a ruin still standing two stories high.
The Canaanite Wall and Gate
Within the huge ramparts, in the ruins of a sanctuary, a votive silver calf was found.
The thickness of the walls was so great that the mudbrick Bronze Age gate had a stone-lined tunnel-like barrel vault, coated with white plaster, to support the superstructure: it is the oldest such vault ever found.
The Philistines conquered Canaanite Ashkelon about 1150 B.C.. Their earliest pottery, types of structures and inscriptions are similar to the early Greek urbanised centre at Mycenae in mainland Greece, adding weight to the hypothesis that the Philistines were of Mycenaeic origin possibly one of the populations among the “Sea Peoples” that upset cultures throughout the eastern Mediterranean at that time. Ashkelon became one of the five Philistine cities that were constantly warring with the Israelites and the kingdom of Judah. When this vast seaport, the last of the Philistine cities to hold out against Nebuchadnezzar finally fell in 604 B.C., burnt and destroyed and its people taken into exile, the Philistine era was over.
Ashkelon was soon rebuilt. It was an important Hellenistic seaport, the birthplace of Herod the Great who rebuilt and enriched the city and it continued to flourish in the Roman and Byzantine periods.
The Roman Basilica
South of the basilica was a semicircular chamber with bleachers.
Byzantine church – Saint Mary Viridis Church
The Muslims conquered Ashqelon in the seventh century and they fortified the city. Ashqelon reached the height of its fortification in the mid-twelfth century, when the muslim rulers of the Fatimid dynasty built a mighty wall around the city.
The Crusaders conquered the city in 1153 A.D. .
In 1270 the Mamluke Sultan Baibars destroyed the city.
The Crusaders walls
Waterwheel and Well – Ottoman period
A Byzantine Church (1) - found at the new city of Ashqelon
A Byzantine Church (2) - found at the new city of Ashqelon
2 Sarcophagus was found, while building the new city.