Tell Qasile


Tel Qasile is located on a kurkar (or sandstone) ridge surrounded by the central coastal plains of Israel, about two kilometers east of the Mediterranean Sea and 250 meters north of the Yarkon River. Its area is about 13 dunams and its settlement began in the 12th century BCE (Iron Age I). Today it is within the territory of the city of Tel Aviv, inside the Eretz Israel Museum. The site was excavated by two excavation expeditions from the Hebrew University: the first led by Benjamin Mazar between 1949 and 1963 (on and off) and the second led by Amichai Mazar between 1971 and 1992 (on and off). Twelve layers of settlement from the 12th century BCE to the Crusader/Mamluk period (around the 13th century CE) were uncovered at the site. The location of Tell Qasile near the Yarkon estuary, which could be used as an anchor for ships, probably contributed to its flourishing. The ancient name of the site is unknown. The Arabic name Tel Qasile was first recorded on maps from the 19th century as part of the agricultural lands of the village of Sheikh Muwannis.

A Philistine trading city on the banks of the Yarkon

The three ancient layers at the site (12th and 11th centuries BCE) testify to the settlement’s development process. In the earliest layer, a small residential area was uncovered in the south of the mound and a small temple in its center. Pottery typically associated with the Philistine culture was found in all the areas. The next two layers, the residential area and the temple (maintaining the holy of holies) were unchanged, showing continuity between the different periods. However, in the later layer of the three, there are still Philistine pottery in the temple area, but in the residential area these vessels are absent. As a result, the researchers raised questions regarding the ethnic identity of the city’s inhabitants: did Philistines live in the city together with Canaanites?

The later layer of the Iron Age I was destroyed in a great fire around 1,000 BCE. The excavators of the site link this destruction to the conquests of King David. The destruction preserved the remains of the city well. Intersecting streets were excavated and merchant houses were found between the houses and in one of them about 80 storage jars were discovered. The team even found remains of the cedar of Lebanon that was used as a pillar. Based on these findings, Amichai Mazar suggested that this was a rich trading city. Other interesting findings that were discovered in this layer are the temple’s ritual vessels found in the Geniza pit: models of temples, a cup shaped like a lion’s head, a vessel shaped like a woman, a ritual clay mask, bowls in the shape of bird heads, etc. It is also interesting to note that hippopotamus bones were found in the layers of the Iron Age I in the tell, evidence of the swampy nature of the area in that period and one of the latest evidences of hippopotamuses in the Land of Israel.

After the destruction in 1000 BCE

The settlement was rebuilt in the Iron Age IIA (starting from the 10th century BCE) after the destruction, but it was significantly poorer than its predecessor. The temple was not rebuilt, nor was the residential area to the south of the mound. The settlement during this period was short-lived and came to an end between the 10th and 9 BCE. The subsequent evidence points to reduced activity. Pottery from the seventh century BCE was discovered and two ostraca found on the surface of the mound and, according to the shape of the writing date, to this time period. In the Persian period, a single structure was built in the mound and a well was dug, into which corpses and pottery were thrown at the end of the period, apparently to put it out of use, perhaps as part of the conquests of Alexander the Great.

The mound never returned to being a settlement center and in later periods only a few buildings were erected there, such as a structure from the Herod period, warehouses from the late Roman period, a bath house and wine press from the Byzantine period, a synagogue, a khan from the early Muslim period and a building for producing sugar from the Crusader period.

Academic sources

Maisler B. 1950. The Excavations at Tell Qasile: Preliminary report. Jerusalem

Mazar A. 1980. Excavations at Tell Qasile: Part I. The Philistine Sanctuary: Architecture and Cult Objects. Qedem 12. Jerusalem.