In 2004 a salvage excavation was conducted along the railway line, c. 200 m north of Tel Ashdod, prior to the construction of an additional railroad track between Ashdod and Ashkelon. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by Elena Kogan-Zehavi and Pirhiya Nahshoni.
By far the most outstanding discovery in the excavation was that of a large royal building which was constructed in a style that is unequivocally Assyrian. The building was erected on top of a podium made of square red color mudbricks that were sun dried. The walls of the building were also built of square mudbricks and they were c. 3 m thick. Despite the fact that the parts of the building were only partially exposed, we presume it was a military fortress type of palace based on the following data:
Based on the four excavation areas (A, B, C, D) that were opened at the site we estimate the building extended across an area of c. 10 dunams. A room that was entirely plastered was discovered in the northwestern part of the building (Area C) and on its floor was a bathtub made of clay. Two other such basins were found in the collapse in an adjacent room. In addition to this other finds that were discovered in the area include parts of rooms, a mudbrick floor and the end of the podium that rose to a height of c. 3 m.
In the southeastern part of the building (Area A) a large courtyard was exposed that was c. 30 m long from north to south. Sections of three elongated rooms oriented in an east west direction were exposed west of the courtyard.
Rooms were exposed in the eastern part of the building (Area B). These were probably used as storerooms on the basement level of the palace which was destroyed in a mighty conflagration. In the south of the building (Area D) a segment of a wall foundation was exposed that probably delimits the southern end of the compound.
What then is the enormous compound that was erected north of Tel Ashdod and for whom was it built?
In the archaeological excavations that were conducted at Tel Ashdod no evidence whatsoever of Assyrian construction or presence was discovered there, other than the destruction of the city (Stratum 8).
On the other hand, the bible and the written Assyrian annals tell us about the conquest of Ashdod by Sargon II and about it being turned into an Assyrian province in 712 BCE. The discovery we have before us corroborates the veracity of the written sources. The innovation in the excavations north of Tel Ashdod is the exposure of the capital of the Assyrian province of Ashdod. The government center was revealed which includes the residence of the Assyrian governor and also the seat of the region’s economic and administrative system.