Ashkelon or Ashqelon


Ashqelon or Ashkelon is an ancient city situated in Israel. It is one of the oldest cities on Earth. With a history of over 4000 years it is hard to find a city with such long and interesting history.




Description of Ashkelon

Ashkelon was found in the Bronze Age and the city already thrived in 2000- 1550 BC. It became the crossroad of important trade routes and one of the most important urban centers in the state of Canaan. Its commercial importance is reflected in the name with a root the same as in "shekel", a word meaning a measure of weight and unit of currency. Most of archeological artifacts discovered in the course of excavations are located in the museum of the Ashkelon national park in the South West corner.


Archeologists have discovered 16 cultural layers on a site of ancient Ashkelon. This include the Canaanite, Philistine, Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantin, Islamic and Crusader periods. First excavations were made in 1815 under supervision of Lady Hester Skenhoup who was allowed on these lands by the Turkish authorities. They granted permission to search for treasure in form of gold and silver coins on the site of a medieval mosque. While no significant material were discovered. Her digs uncovered marble columns, porcelain vessel as well as clay cups. Additionally first archeologists discovered the complexity of building in Ashkelon where buildings stood on top of remains of previous cultures. Muslim temple was constructed in a site of an older Byzantine church, which in turn was build on top of a pagan temple.


Archeological excavations were resumed in 1921. Remains of columns and marble stutes were found belonging to the era of Herod the great. It is particularly intersting since Ashkelon boasts as the home town of king Herod the Great. In 1985 archaeologists explored the remains of the ancient port. Modern scanning technologies helped discovere hidden structures like the basilica of the Roman Forum, and reims of defensive fortifications dating back to the Islamic era.



Travel Destinations and Main Attractions in Ashkelon

The Canaanite Wall and Gate of Ashkelon

The Walls and Gate of Ashkelon were first build in the Bronze Age (around 1850 BC) indicating an imporatnce of the settlement as well as its size. The thickness of the wall allowed construction of the stone- lined tunnels inside the city fortifications. Soldiers, weapons and other necessary items could easily be transferred during sieges. In total Ahkelon wall measures a total length of 2200 meters with a height of 7 meters.


Roman Basilica of Ashkelon

Roman Basilica of Ashkelon marks the historic center of the city at the time of the Roman rule. Area surrounded by the colonnade of Herod the Great was the commercial, political and social life of any Roman city. A statue of the goddess Nike (victory) was also discovered here. Remains of the ancient synagogue is also found nearby.

Byzantine Church of Saint Mary Viridis Church in Ashkelon

Christianity gained much more support and influence in the Eastern Roman Empire than it did in the West. It was largely due to higher number of urban centers and higher on average literacy level among the general population. It is no suprise that a city like Ashkelon had a large and vibrant Christian community early in its history. Remains of the Byzantine church of Saint Mary Viridis is a good example of the medieval Christian architecture.

The Crusaders walls of Ashkelon

The Crusaders captured the city in 1153 AD, and held the city for over a century. In 1270 Mamluke Sultan Baibars fought back and recaptured the site. Arabs destroyed the city fortifications that were build by European army. Few remaining ruins give an impression of the medieval citadel.


Waterwheel and Well of Ashkelon

Waterwheel and the well were build during the Ottoman period. Parts of the original building were rebuild and reconstructed to a previous state as it looked in the past.