Canaanite History of Ashkelon

Ashkelon was the oldest and largest seaport in Canaan, one of the "five cities" of the Philistines, north of Gaza and south of Jaffa (Yafa). The city was originally built on a sandstone outcropping and has a good underground water supply. It was relatively large as an ancient city with as many as 15,000 people living inside walls a mile and a half (2.4 km) long, 50 feet (15 m) high and 150 feet (50 m) thick. Ashkelon was a thriving Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 BCE) city of more than 150 acres (61 ha), 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 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 Bronze Age ramparts were so capacious that later Roman and Islamic fortifications, faced with stone, followed the same footprint, a vast semicircle protecting Ashkelon on the landward side. On the sea it was defended by a high natural bluff. Within the huge ramparts, in the ruins of a sanctuary, a votive silver calf was found in 1991. During the Canaanite period, a roadway more than 20 feet (6.1 m) in width ascended the rampart from the harbor and entered a gate at the top. Nearby, in the ruins of a small ceramic tabernacle was found a finely cast bronze statuette of a bull calf, originally silvered, 4 inches (100 mm) long. Images of calves and bulls were associated with the worship of the Canaanite gods El and Baal. The Amarna letters correspondence of Ashkelon/(Ašqaluna), of 1350 BC, contains seven letters to the Egyptian pharaoh, from its 'King'/mayor: Yidya. Yidya was the only ruler of Ašqaluna during the 15–20-year time period. One letter from the pharaoh to Yidya was discovered in the early 1900s.

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