Sargon II’s “Ashdod” – the Strong Fort of Lachish. Part Two: Archaeology of Lachish.



 Damien F. Mackey



Sargon II and Sennacherib are, in my estimation, just two sides of the one coin.

And Sargon’s “Ashdod” is the same strong fort as Sennacherib’s Lachish.

 Now, archaeologically speaking, which level of Lachish is the relevant one for this period of the neo-Assyrian invasions of King Hezekiah’s Judah? 




My earlier view of a necessarilly substantial co-regency between Sargon II and Sennacherib, which is not at all the conventional view, gathered such impetus in my post-graduate thesis,

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background




that I found myself drawing the conclusion, ultimately, that Sargon II and Sennacherib must have been the one, same neo-Assyrian king. I refer any interested readers to my detailed discussion of this in Volume 1, Chapter 6 (“Assyria”) of my thesis.

A summary of this new theory was published in SIS’s C and C Workshop (2010:1) under the title of SIS’s choice, “Sargon II and Sennacherib” (

And I have since written an up-dated version of this as:

Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib

Sargon II, Sennacherib, seemed to me to be ‘two sides of the one coin’ as I wrote in my thesis (pp. 141-142):

Other factors seemingly in favour of the standard view that Sargon II and Sennacherib were two distinct kings may be, I suggest, put down to being ‘two sides of the same coin’. For example, one might ask the question, in regard to Russell’s statement: “…

Nineveh, where there is little evidence of Sargon’s activities”:

– Why would so proud and mighty a king as Sargon II virtually neglect one of Assyria’s most pre-eminent cities, Nineveh?


– Conversely, why did Sennacherib seemingly avoid Sargon’s brand new city of Dur-Sharrukin?


– Again, why did Sennacherib record only campaigns, and not his regnal years?


Bright muses without much confidence upon a possible later discovery “of Sennacherib’s official annals for approximately the last decade of his reign (if such ever existed)”. ….

Further, as regards this ‘economy’ factor in inscriptions, we shall see in Section Two that, wherever Sargon II goes into detail about a particular campaign, Sennacherib tends to be brief; and vice versa.

One perhaps cannot say whether there was any marked personality difference ‘between’

Sargon II and Sennacherib (by way of trying to find any distinctions between the ‘two’), because, as Russell has concluded, after an exhaustive study of Sennacherib, “we actually know little about the man”. ….

[End of quote]



Fort of Lachish


Still flipping the ‘coin’, with Sargon II coming out ‘heads’ and Sennacherib, ‘tails’, I arrived at the further conclusion that Sargon II’s “Ashdod” must have been Sennacherib’s Lachish.

I recently up-dated this, too, in:

Sargon II’s “Ashdod” – the Strong Fort of Lachish


Though no scholar of whom I am aware would doubt the real existence of, now Sargon II, now Sennacherib – known from historical records and the scriptures, e.g. Isaiah 20:1 (“Sargon”) and Isaiah 36:1 (“Sennacherib”) – it is always re-assuring when one can identify an underlying archaeology.

Archaeology of Lachish


Nor did I neglect this all-important factor of archaeology in my thesis, though my contribution was not original, but fully reliant upon the authors of Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the Conventional Chronology of Old World Archaeology (Jonathan Cape, London, 1991). These, Peter James et al., had veered away from the usual view that Lachish level III pertained to the invasion of Sennacherib, preferring Lachish level IV for this.

I, being in agreement with this, wrote (thesis, p. 383):




James has produced a plausible argument that Lachish IV is actually the stratigraphical

level for Sennacherib’s destruction; with Lachish III – usually thought to relate to Sennacherib – belonging to the time of Nebuchednezzar (c. 587 BC) and Lachish II to the Persian era of Nehemiah (c. 440 BC); tying it all in with information from the famous Lachish Letters. …. “[Ussishkin’s] main conclusion [that Lachish III pertained to Sennacherib] … was actually based on a negative argument – the elimination of the

other possible candidates for the city supposedly laid waste and burnt by Sennacherib”.

From our reconstruction we now know that Lachish (‘Ashdod’) was not burned down at

the time by the Assyrians. Rohl likewise identifies the city of Hezekiah’s time, besieged

by Sennacherib, as “Stratum IV”. ….

[End of quote]

Lately, reading through Centuries of Darkness again, I was struck by the excellent biblico-historical correspondences that the authors have been able to discern between, particularly, Level II (and the Lachish Letters) and the era of Nehemiah (section: “The ‘Lachish Letters’,” pp. 171-175), thereby managing to resurrect a supposedly missing Persian period.

Level III, thought to have been the phase for Sennacherib, is now to be identified with the destructive work of Nebuchednezzar II, of the Chaldean era; whilst Level IV, as said, pertains to Sennacherib (my Sargon II) (section: “Lachish III: Sennacherib or Nebuchedrezzar?”, pp. 176-180).



Thanks to James et al., the strong fort of Lachish has, at last, a properly identified series of archaeological phases, which also verify the biblical data.



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