30 Years of the Leon Levy Expedition
For thousands of years Ashkelon served as a gateway between the lands of the Mediterranean and the southernmost reaches of the Levant. First settled in the late Chalcolithic Period (ca. 4000 BCE), it rose to prominence in the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1825 BCE), when the Canaanites surrounded it with a massive rampart encompassing an area of some 150 acres. From this point on, Ashkelon dominated the region. Over the years it was also inhabited by many other peoples, including Egyptians, Philistines, Phoenicians, Romans, Fatimids, and Crusaders. In 1270 CE, the Mamluk sultan Baybars dismantled its fortifications in an effort to deny crusading Europeans a foothold in the region, and the long history of ancient Ashkelon came to an end.
The 1920–1922 excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund yielded the first glimpse of the ancient city, revealing finds from its Roman phase. This was the first licensed expedition conducted under the British Mandate, and the finds became part of the original collection of the Rockefeller Museum.
Subsequent excavations conducted by the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon from 1985–2016 systematically outlined the ancient site's development from the time of its origins to its final days.
Following the vision of founders Lawrence E. Stager, Leon Levy, and Shelby White, the excavations at Ashkelon have profoundly transformed our understanding of this fascinating hub of Mediterranean trade. The exhibition celebrates the successful completion of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, which has just finished its final season after thirty years of intensive research.