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Gaza City is 104 km southwest of Jerusalem. With a total population of more than 400 000 inhabitants, it is the largest and one of the most important cities in the Palestinian areas. Gaza’s unique geographical position on the crossroads between Africa and Asia, has ensured its place in history. It has guaranteed the city an important role in international politics and trade from the earliest times to the present. Gaza offers a broad range of archaeological evidence, representing the culture of almost seven thousand years of history. It has a story to go with every era and has been a coveted site for many people throughout history. It has been fought over, invaded, and occupied by nearly all the powers that have marched across the Middle East.
Gaza was the first Palestinian city to enter the historical records. Ancient Egyptian texts mention it as a major city in the Middle Bronze Age already. Gaza’s first human settlements date back more than 6000 years from now. The early inhabitants of Gaza built their first villages in the pastureland of Wadi Gaza. They lived on cultivating cereals, hunting and fishing. The Canaanites started developing urban centres here around 3000 BC. Tell al-‘Ajjul, on the northern bank of Wadi Gaza, was the first regional political capital.
Much of the pottery, alabaster and bronze works discovered there are exhibited in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem. Soon after, the city of Gaza dominated the region, and was chosen as the administrative capital of the Egyptian administration of the Pharaohs during most of the Bronze Age and especially after the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in 1580 BC. Gaza’s role as the chief port of the ‘Palestinians’ of the Early Iron Age (1200-1050 BC) contributed to its rise to prominence. According to the Old Testament (1Sam 13:19-22), the Philistines introduced iron in the country and monopolized it during most of the Early Iron Age. During this period, the port of Gaza became the most active in the country, if not in the whole Eastern Mediterranean region. Carthaginian ceramics discovered at the necropolis of Tell Ruqaish (near Dair al-Balah) stand witness to the links established with North Africa.