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Massive fortifications from Iron Age found on Israeli coast

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Researchers have discovered the remains of massive ancient fortifications, which were constructed around an Iron-Age Assyrian harbor in present-day Israel.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) found that at the heart of the well-preserved fortifications is a mud-brick wall up to more than 12 feet wide and 15 feet high.

The wall is covered in layers of mud and sand that stretch for hundreds of feet on either side. When they were built in the eighth century B.C.E., the fortifications formed a daunting crescent-shaped defense for an inland area covering more than 17 acres.

The finding comes at the end of the first excavation season at the Ashdod-Yam archaeological dig in the contemporary Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv. Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures is leading the project on behalf of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology.

Fantalkin said that the fortifications appear to protect an artificial harbour and if it so then this would be a discovery of international significance, the first known harbor of this kind in our corner of the Levant.

When the fortifications were built, the Assyrians ruled the southeastern part of the Mediterranean basin, including parts of Africa and the Middle East. Assyrian inscriptions reveal that at the end of the century, Yamani, the rebel king of Ashdod, led a rebellion against Sargon II, the king of the Assyrian Empire. The Kingdom of Judah, under King Hezekiah, rejected Yamani's call to join the insurrection.

The Assyrians responded harshly to the rebellion, eventually destroying Philistine Ashdod. As a result, power shifted to the nearby area of Ashdod-Yam, where the TAU excavations are taking place.

The fortifications seem to be related to these events, but it is not yet clear exactly how. They could have been built before or after the Ashdod rebellion was put down, either at the initiative of the locals or at the orders of the Assyrians.

Fantalkin said that an amazing amount of time and energy was invested in building the wall and glacis [embankments].

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