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Assyrian fortifications from a legendary battle

Archaeologists discover Assyrian fortifications from a legendary battle

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About 3,000 years ago during the Iron Age, the Assyrians were a major power in the Middle East and North Africa. Their military might was terrifying. And now, a new archaeological finding reveals more about the defensive strategies of this once powerful empire.

A team headed by Dr Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University has announced the discovery of one of the largest construction projects in the entire Mediterranean basin: a massive mud and stone wall dating to the 8 th century BC, which would have been used to defend the artificial harbour, approximately 3 miles from what is today the Israeli city of Ashdod.

“This is the ancient harbour of the Philistine city of Ashdod, We found there a very impressive fortification system comprised of 18 ft. tall mud brick walls. This brick wall is the core of a system of dykes that are combined into a huge, horseshoe shaped fortification, protecting a man-made pier,” said Dr Fantalkin.

It's likely that this wall was built in the midst of several conflicts between the Assyrians and two Israeli kingdoms, as well as Israel's neighbours the Philistines. One legendary battle took place between the Assyrians and a Philistine uprising led by a king called Yamani. 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.

“Following the Philistine rebellion, the Assyrians sent down an army in 712 BCE, and the rebelling king fled to Egypt,” said Dr Fantalkin. “The Assyrians demanded the Egyptian extradite him, which they did. The entire affair is mentioned both in the Bible and in Assyrian sources. (For Gaza will be abandoned And Ashkelon a desolation; Ashdod will be driven out at noon And Ekron will be uprooted. Zephaniah 2:4) The rebellion was put down forcefully by the Assyrians and the city of Ashdod was destroyed.”

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. What is clear, however, is that an incredible amount of time and energy was invested in building the wall and embankments and it must have been for good reason.

By April Holloway

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