site located along the southern edge of modern Tel Aviv–Jaffa, on a promontory jutting into the Mediterranean Sea that forms one of the few ancient harbors along the coast of Israel (32°01′ N, 34°45′ E; map reference 162 × 127). Jaffa is referred to in Egyptian texts and the Hebrew Bible as Jaffa, and the name is preserved in Arabic as Yafa el-῾Atiqa (“ancient Jaffa”).

The Harris papyrus and reliefs on the Karnak temple refer to the conquest of Jaffa by Thutmosis III in the fifteenth century BCE. Jaffa is one of the Egyptian administrative centers through which the Egyptians controlled Syria-Palestine in the Late Bronze Age. The Amarna letters and Papyrus Anastasi I, dated to the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BCE, respectively, mention Jaffa as an Egyptian stronghold. [See Amarna Tablets.] Additionally, an Akkadian letter sent from Ugarit and found at Aphek mentions Jaffa as the seat of an Egyptian official. [See Aphek.] In 701 BCE Sennacherib recorded the conquest of Jaffa on the Prism stela. The Hebrew Bible includes Jaffa within the tribal boundary of Dan (Jos. 19:46). The site is connected with the shipping of cedars from Lebanon in the construction of the First and Second Temples (2 Chr. 2:15; Ezr. 3:7). Jonah attempts to flee from God via Jaffa (Jon. 1:3).

Jaffa was excavated from 1945 to 1950 by P. L. O. Guy for the Department of Antiquities of Israel. John Bowman and B. S. J. Isserlin excavated in 1952 for the University of Leeds. The most extensive excavation was undertaken by Jacob Kaplan, between 1955 and 1974, for the Museum of Antiquities of Tel Aviv–Jaffa. During six seasons of excavation, Kaplan opened four areas (A, B, C, and Y). Eight archaeological strata have been discerned, from the Middle Bronze Age II through the Roman Period. [See the biography of Guy.]

Stratum VII dates to MB IIB/C. In area A, along with mud-brick walls, a small section of a typical MB IIB glacis was found. In area C, the eighth-century glacis may rest on the remains of an MB IIA glacis. In area Y, an infant jar burial and an MB IIB/C tomb were excavated.

The Late Bronze Age is well represented in area A. Architectural remains from stratum VI (LB I) are dated by Bichrome, Gray-Burnished, and Cypriot Base-Ring and Monochrome wares. In area Y, stratum VI is limited to pits dug into loam. Stratum V (LB IIA) is dated to the fourteenth century BCE by pottery found in a silo. Strata IVA and B both date to the Late Bronze IIB (cf. Kaplan, 1993). The earliest LB gate was founded in stratum IVB. This gate system includes mud-brick walls and sandstone doorjambs. Four doorjamb fragments were inscribed with titles of Rameses II, along with part of his name. Rivka Gonen (1992) has suggested that this gate may be freestanding and purely ceremonial. In stratum IVA a better-preserved gate on the same orientation was uncovered. At this point the city was fortified with a wall system that included a fortified structure or citadel. Bronze hinges from this stratum IVA gate were found in situ on the bottom left doorjamb. There is evidence of burning and destruction ending both strata IVA and B within the thirteenth century BCE.

Kaplan (1993) suggests that a small (4.4 × 5.8 m) rectangular structure next to the citadel is a temple. This poorly preserved building includes a white plaster floor and two column bases; almost no small finds or pottery, except for a lion's skull with a half scarab near its teeth, were recovered. The excavator dates this structure to the late thirteenth/early twelfth centuries BCE and compares it to the northern temple at Beth-Shean. Mariusz Burdajewicz (1990) suggests that it is only a small shrine and rejects the comparison to the Beth-Shean temple because of its small size. Initially Amihai Mazar suggested architectural parallels at Tell Qasile and in the Aegean. More recently however, Mazar (1992) has cast doubt on whether this structure is a temple at all.

The scant Iron Age (stratum IIIB) remains from area A include Philistine sherds found in pits and depressions that date the stratum to the eleventh century BCE. A rough stone wall and floor and two cattle burials with stone markers belong to stratum IIIA (eighth century BCE). In area C there is some indication of a glacis. Jaffa is now under the political control of Ashkelon.

Persian period (stratum II) remains include an ashlar wall dating to the fifth century BCE. Stone walls of large structures with mud-brick and stone paving were found throughout area A. In this stratum a construction technique using ashlar piers interspersed with fieldstone fills—a technique associated with the Phoenicians—was revealed. Stern (1992) suggests that Jaffa may mark the southernmost extent of Phoenician culture from the eighth century BCE to the Hellenistic period. Jaffa may have belonged to the Sidonians, as it was recorded in the Eshmunazar Inscription (fifth century BCE?) that the king of Persia presented Eshmunazar of Sidon with Dor and Jaffa. Fragments of Attic ware were found in area Y. [See Phoenicians; Sidon.]

Stratum I dates to the Hellenistic period. An ashlar corner of a fortress was found in stratum IB (third century BCE), along with the remains of an ashlar casemate wall. A possible cult hall with a fieldstone altar was also uncovered in this stratum. A third-century BCE catacomb was found in area C, and in area Y there was evidence of a monumental ashlar building with square rooms that may be part of a Hellenistic agora. The Zenon papyri mention the visit of an Egyptian treasury official during the reign of Ptolemy II, in 259/58 BCE. Under the Hasmoneans (stratum IA) the city was captured from the Seleucids and became a Jewish port. Guy found a hoard of more than eight hundred coins in his excavations dating to the reign of Alexander Jannaeus.

The only stratified remains from the Roman period were found in area C (levels VI–I). Fragments of a mosaic date to the sixth-seventh centuries CE (level I). Architectural fragments were excavated in levels II (fifth century CE), III (fourth century CE), and IV (third century CE). In level V (second century CE) better-preserved architecture was found, along with a hoard of bronze and silver coins dating no later than Trajan's reign (98–117 CE). A small glass factory and a well-constructed catacomb were also excavated. Two important Greek inscriptions found in level VI (first century CE) include a limestone inscription mentioning Judah, an agoranomos of Jaffa during the reigns of Nerva (96–98 CE) and Trajan. The second inscription is a third-century BCE votive that mentions Ptolemy IV Philopator. Additional inscriptions include jar handles with Greek and Latin inscriptions, a tile with a Tenth Legion stamp, and a pyramidal seal with the name Ariston. A marble door leaf (mid-second-mid-third centuries CE) was also found. Jacob Pinkerfeld (1955) suggests that this fragment is similar to mausoleum doors from the necropolis at Palmyra. [See Palmyra.] The city was destroyed by Cestius Gallus and Vespasian in 67 CE; it was later rebuilt and referred to as Flavia Ioppa. A Jewish cemetery from nearby Abu Kabir, east of Jaffa, dates from the first through the fifth centuries.


  • Applebaum, Shimon. “The Status of Jaffa in the First Century of the Current Era.” Scripta Classical Israelica 8–9 (1988): 138–144.
    Important historical overview of Jaffa in the Roman period.
  • Bowman, John, et al. “The University of Leeds, Department of Semitics Archaeological Expedition to Jaffa, 1952.” Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical Society 7.4 (1955): 231–250.
  • Burdajewicz, Mariusz. The Aegean Sea Peoples and Religious Architecture in the Eastern Mediterranean at the Close of the Late Bronze Age. Oxford, 1990.
  • Gonen, Rivka. “The Late Bronze Age.” In The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, edited by Amnon Ben-Tor, pp. 211–257. Jerusalem, 1992.
  • Kaplan, Jacob. “The Archaeology and History of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.” Biblical Archaeologist 35.3 (1972): 66–95.
    Thorough overview of the author's important research at Jaffa and its environs. His chronological conclusions and some of his interpretations are problematic and remain so in his updated article (below).
  • Kaplan, Jacob. “Jaffa.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, pp. 655–659. Jerusalem and New York, 1993.
  • Kindler, Arie. “The Jaffa Hoard and Alexander Jannaeus.” Israel Exploration Journal 4 (1954): 170–185. Formal numismatic analysis with an emphasis on minting techniques.
  • Landau, Y. H. “A Stamped Jar Handle from Jaffa.” ῾Atiqot 2 (1959): 186–187.
    Useful article about Jaffa in the classical period
  • Mazar, Amihai. Excavations at Tell Qasile, part 1, The Philistine Sanctuary: Architecture and Cult Objects. Qedem, vol. 12. Jerusalem, 1980.
    Essential for understanding the validity of Kaplan's claims regarding the so-called Lion Temple. Must be used in conjunction with Mazar's article below.
  • Mazar, Amihai. “Temples of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages and the Iron Age.” In The Architecture of Ancient Israel: From the Prehistoric to the Persian Periods, edited by Aharon Kempinski and Ronny Reich, pp. 161–187. Jerusalem, 1992.
  • Pinkerfeld, Jacob. “Two Fragments of a Marble Door from Jaffa.” ῾Atiqot 1 (1955): 89–94.
  • Stern, Ephraim. “The Phoenician Architectural Elements in Palestine during the Late Iron Age and Persian Period.” In The Architecture of Ancient Israel: From the Prehistoric to the Persian Periods, edited by Aharon Kempinski and Ronny Reich, pp. 302–309. Jerusalem, 1992.

J. P. Dessel