Biblical Archaeology Review 23:2, March/April 1997

Gaza Report

Nascent Palestinian Authority tackles a new dig

By Hershel Shanks

The port of ancient Gaza has been found. A joint Palestinian-French expedition is conducting the first scientific archaeological excavation since the Palestinian Authority took charge of the city. They have found remains of the port in at least two sites along the shoreline.

Today Gaza evokes images of poverty. But in ancient times it was an important and thriving urban center from at least the time of the Philistines. It was one of the members of the Philistine pentapolis. A bare 10 miles north of Gaza, an American team has been excavating another member of the Philistine pentapolis, Ashkelon, which is in Israel. The potential of Gaza is as great. Its treasures have barely been touched.

But time may be short. As one archaeologist connected with the excavation told me, a good part of the ancient city may soon “fall prey to real estate developers.” Although we hear a great deal about the dreadful conditions of the Gaza refugee camps—and it is all true—there is also a construction boom going on. From a certain direction the skyline could be mistaken for Kansas City.

The assault of the real estate developers is not the only thing that makes archaeology difficult. The winds that blow in from the sea year-round create a virtual invasion of sand dunes. Sometimes the archaeological treasures can be found only after removing 35 feet of sand.

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