New finds uncovered at the Hill of Jonah

The remains of a massive wall uncovered at Ashdod's Hill of Jonah. (Israel Antiquities Authority)

ASHDOD (—An archeological find at the Hill of Jonah near Ashdod may prove that the area had been occupied during the time when archeologists believe the Prophet Jonah walked the Earth.

Archeologists have discovered the remains of massive walls, possibly the remains of a fortress, that were dated to the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.

The find is significant, because the discovery of life at the site, which is traditionally the landmark site for the tomb of Jonah for both Muslims and Jews, indicates that there was human activity at the coastal hill during the time of Jonah.

Excavation director Dmitir Egrov estimated that the fortress likely stood on the hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea during the First Temple period. Jonah, who is believed to have lived in the eighth century BCE, was active during this same time period, according to Egrov.

Sa’ar Ganor, the Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the occupying power at the time would have built a fortress on the Hill of Jonah because of its strategic location.

The hill rises some 50 meters above sea level—the highest hill in the area—and probably looked out to an ancient port and Tel Ashdod, according to Ganor.

Ganor said either the Assyrians or the kingdom of Judah probably developed the area.

“There are two possibilities regarding who inhabited the fortress at that time. One possibility is that it was controlled by the Assyrians, who were the regional rulers in the Iron Age. Another possibility is that Josiah, king of Judah, occupied the fort at the time. We know he conquered territory from the Assyrians and controlled Ashdod-Yam in the seventh century BCE.”

The find joins a previous discovery in an adjacent area, which was excavated before the construction of the modern Ashdod lighthouse. There, similar wall remains dated to the First Temple and Persian periods were inscribed with an Aramaic phrase apparently denoting a financial, religious offering.