Set in the sandy shoreline in southern Israel, Ashdod-Yam was formed in the Umayyad period to protect the southern coastal plain of “Jund Philistine”. Known in Arabic as “Qal’at el-Mina” Ashdod-Yam was in use up to the Mamluk period when it was abandoned. Excavated, conserved, and developed, today Ashdod-Yam is popular destination among the locals of the neighboring modern city of Ashdod.
History and Archaeology of Ashdod-Yam
Ashdod-Yam was formed by the Umayyads as part of a coastal defense system (“Ribat”). It was designed to hold a possible Byzantine assault from the sea and warn other sea forts. Named in “Qal’at el-Mina” (“Fort of the port”) in 1033 it was destroyed by an earthquake. In the 12th century CE it was rebuilt by the Crusaders, and named “Castellum Beroart”. It was in use up to the expulsion of the Crusaders from the Holy Land and then abandoned.
Excavations at the site uncovered remains of the Umayyad to Crusaders periods, as well as sporadic evidence from Philistine and Byzantine times.
Was Ashdod-Yam Inhabited in Philistine Times? Was the Ark Placed in Ashdod-Yam?
According to the bible Ashdod was one of the main cities of the Philistines, the bitter enemy of the early Israelites. According to 1 Samuel 6 after defeating the Israelites at “Even Ha’ezer” the Philistines confiscated the Ark of the Covenant and held it in Ashdod’s main temple. However, after causing a plague, it was sent to other Philistine cities, and eventually returned to the Israelites.
Philistine Ashdod was identified at “Isdud”, an Arab village some 3 miles southeast of Ashdod-Yam. Excavations at the site uncovered remains from Philistine times, but not of its main temple. Perhaps Dagon’s temple was in the city’s port? If so, it is still waiting to be uncovered in Ashdod-Yam or its surroundings.
Following the excavations, the site was conserved and developed for tourism by the municipality of Ashdod. It was opened to the public in 2020.
Ashdod-Yam is open every day from 9:00 to 22:00, free of charge. It is at the southern end of the modern city of Ashdod and has a paved parking lot next to it.