At Giv'at Yonah (the Hill of Jonah) in Ashdod
, which according to various traditions is identified with the burial place of the prophet Jonah, archaeological finds were exposed that verify the existence of life there during the First Temple period, at the time of Jonah.
In a trial archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out on Giv'at Yonah in Ashdod prior to development work by Hofit - Ashdod Development & Tourism Company
, Ltd. remains of massive walls more than 1 m wide were found that are dated to the late 8th century and early 7th century BCE.
In the estimation of the excavation director, Dmitri Egorov, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, these walls constituted the base of a large building from the First Temple period, the time when Jonah the prophet was active, who lived in the eighth century BCE and was famous for having been swallowed by a fish after he refused to "go to Nineveh... and proclaim against it." (Jonah1:2)
The discovery of this fortress joins other finds from an excavation that took place very close to this site in the 1960s. In an excavation directed by Magen Broshi of the Department of Antiquities, which was carried out before the construction of the Ashdod lighthouse, similar wall remains were found that date to the First Temple period and Persian period. In addition, an Aramaic ostracon was discovered on which is written בעלצד תקלן דשנא (a contemporary translation: Ba'altzad/Ba'altzar - a first name, Taklan - shekels, and Dashna - a present) - apparently meaning that an individual named Ba'altzad contributed a sum of money that was given as a present for a holy place.
Based on the finds the remains are probably an extensive foundation of a structure that was used as a stronghold or fortress that dates to the time of the First Temple.
According to Sa'ar Ganor, the Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "Giv'at Yonah, which rises c. 50 m above sea level, is the highest hill in Ashdod, whence one can look out to sea, to Tel Mor - located in the Nahal Lachish estuary which wprobably an ancient anchorage, and to Tel Ashdod. Due to its strategic location, it is not surprising to find there remains of a fortress that overlooked the region in the First Temple period." Ganor adds, "There are two possibilities regarding who inhabited the fortress at that time: one possibility is that it was controlled by the Assyrians who were the regional rulers in the Iron Age. Another possibility is that Josiah, king of Judah, occupied the fort at the time, who we know conquered territory from the Assyrians and controlled Ashdod-Yam in the seventh century BCE."
According to Muslim traditions the hill was sanctified as a landmark for the tomb of Jonah the prophet (Nebi Yonah) and approximately a decade ago ‘Atra Kadisha’ declared that this is the location of the tomb of Jonah. The finds recently uncovered, together with those from the 1960s, indicate that life did in fact exist there at the time of Jonah the prophet, and they shed new light on the Hill of Jonah the Prophet.