Tel Yafo (ancient Jaffa)


The tell of Jaffa, known as Tel Yafo (MR 162.127; 32°01' N, 34°45' E), is situated on the south side of the modern city of Tel Aviv on Israel's Mediterranean coast approximately sixty kilometers to the northwest of Jerusalem. The site consists of a tell or stratified mound (ca. 3 ha / 7.5 acres) atop a kurkar (sandstone) ridge reaching more than 30 m above sea level, and a lower town (ca. 6 ha / 15 acres) surrounding the tell from north to south on its east side.

Historical Overview

Its original selection, presumably as a port, during the Middle Bronze Age was likely due to its utility as a way station for ships sailing north and south between Egypt and the Lebanese coast. Eventually it came to prominence as the primary port of ancient Canaan, and likewise served ancient Israel. Jaffa was settled during nearly every major period from ca. 1900 BC through the present. Today, the city is a bustling tourist attraction and artist colony.

For more information, see Part II of The History and Archaeology of Jaffa 1.

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Excavation History

Jaffa has seen excavation by a number of archaeological projects since 1947 when P. L. O. Guy undertook the first excavations on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums. These excavations were followed by one season of work in 1950 by the University of Leeds, and from 1955 to 1974, the site was extensively excavated by Jacob Kaplan, municipal archaeologist for Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Kaplan's work was fundamental to establishing the cultural history of the site, and the primary focus of his excavations was in Area A (1955–1958, 1970–1974) and Area C (1961, 1965). Although from the mid-1970s to early 1990s veritably no archaeological work was undertaken in Jaffa, Etty Brand's excavations in 1992 to prepare Area C as a vistors' center inaugurated a program of salvage excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority focused on the preservation of Jaffa's cultural heritage, which gained momentum in the late 1990s and continues until today. Two seasons of work were also carried out by Tel Aviv University under the direction of Ze'ev Herzog in 1997 and 1999. In 2007, the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project (JCHP) was established as a joint endeavor between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of California, Los Angeles under the direction, respectively, of Dr. Martin Peilstöcker and Prof. Aaron A. Burke.

For more information, see Chapter 2 of The History and Archaeology of Jaffa 1.

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The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project, Near Eastern Languages & Cultures Department
415 Portola Plaza, Humanities 378, MC 151105 • Los Angeles, CA 90095-1511
Page last updated: April 23, 2014 by Aaron Burke