Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
TERRAIN ANALYSIS APPLIED TO THE SITING OF ANCIENT SEAPORT ASHKELON, ISRAEL
Tell Ashkelon is an ancient seaport located along the coast of Israel approximately 64 km south of Tel Aviv, established as a trading post between Egypt and Byblos c. 2650 BC. Canaanites fortified the site and enclosed the Mediterranean shoreline with a 2-km, semi-circular, earthen rampart c. 1825 BC. Subsequent cultures occupied Ashkelon from the Bronze Age through the medieval period. Location of the site may be attributed to the natural topography of ancient dunes, locally cemented into cross-bedded sandstone (kurkar), which underlie part of the rampart system and two enclosed mounds that were built upon over time. Fresh water of the coastal aquifer was readily available, but water resources are not unique to the site. This study seeks to identify additional topographic and bathymetric features that contributed to the settlement of Ashkelon. A geographical information system (GIS) was used to analyze and interpret elevation data derived from the ASTER 30-m Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) of a 5,180 km2 section of the Mediterranean coast. Topographic analyses include stream order, slope variability and topographic position index, among other routines. Regions of higher slope variability are present to the north and east of Ashkelon. No site to the south shares these characteristics. This may have provided an advantage, such that landward approaches from the east might have been defended more efficiently on rougher terrain while flatter, more visible approaches were limited to the coastline. We are also investigating nearshore bathymetric features that may have contributed to favorable conditions for approaching maritime traffic.