Underwater Survey along the Coast of Israel
by Ehud Galili, Uzi Dahari and Jacob Sharvit from “Excavations and Surveys in Israel 10, pp. 160-166. 1991″
Most of the underwater archaeological remains in Israel – ships, cargoes, harbor installations and setlements, now covered by the sea – are concentrated in a narrow, 200 m wide strip along the shores of the Mediterranean, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.
Today, these remains are threatened by destruction for a number of reasons: (1) Sand quarrying and the construction of breakwaters led to the exposure of remains which had been previously protected by a thick sand layer. (2) The considerable drop in the water level in the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea uncovered strips of land, exposing ancient remains. (3) the extensive development works along the shores, including at times the reclamation of areas previously underwater, resulted in damage to archaeological remains. In order to locate and record the remains now being gradually exposed and to prevent treasure hunting and damage to sites, the maritime department of the Antiquities Authority carries out year-round underwater rescue survey. Some of the recently surveyed sites and the finds uncovered there are described below. In addition to the authors, the survey team included volunteers D. Moskovitz, M. Schnorman, I. Galili, H. Kovalevski, E. Kaner, A. Engert and A. Alamaro.
Sea of Galilee
by Ehud Galili, Uzi Dahari and Jacob Sharvit
Fig. 174. Submerged anchorage northeast of Tabgha, Sea of Galilee.
Tabgha. At a place called ‘Matris’ by the fishermen (map ref. 20260/25315), c. 1.5 km northeast of Tabgha an abrasion shelf of marl, paleosol or hard clay was identified. Dikes of pebbles and basalt boulders were recorded on the shelf, which enclosed a basin (depth 1.5-1.8 m) with two openings (Fig. 174). This basin could be used as an anchorage at low water level in the Sea of Galilee. The dikes, which probably functioned as breakwaters, protected boats from southerly and southwesterly winds. A natural formation (to which the boulders belong) provided the dike base, on which small and medium-sized stones cleared from the basin center were heaped.
Several basalt anchors and cooking pot fragments of the 3rd-4th centuries CE were recovered on the basin bottom. The fossilized tooth of a grasseating mammal as well as an assemblage of large quantities of dark-brown patinated flint tools, characterized by relatively large flakes, some notched, the absence of both scrapers and the use of the Levallois technique, should probably be attributed the Lower Paleolithic; the finds probably originated in the paleosol abraded by the sea.
A small bay named ‘Halla’ (map ref. 202725/253300; depth c. 8 m), a few hundred meters north east of the anchorage, provides protection against the north winds. The finds on the bottom of the included several stone anchors, fragments of cooking pots and juglets of the Roman period, two bronze spearheads, lead fishing weights and decorated bronze object with remains of charred wood. In his survey, Guérin mentions this bay as being one of the two sheltered anchorages in Sea of Galilee.
Fig. 175. Magdala. Reconstruction of building on ‘Ant Hill’.
Magdala. Many pottery fragments and basalt architectural elements were uncovered on the lake bottom south of the site of ancient Magdala and east of the large rock called ‘The Ant Rock’ (map. ref. 199050/247150). The architectural fragments include column drums (diam. 0.3-0.4 m), building blocks, carved stone arcs and a square capital a round base. A probe of the ‘Ant Rock’ revealed hollows on the side facing the lake and on the west side, which had diameters corresponding to those of the columns found at the foot of the rock. A structure seems to have existed on the top of the rock, which usually appears as a small island a few dozen meters from the shore. The proposed reconstruction of this structure in Fig. 175 is based on the architectural elements recovered. It may have been a small temple or the base of a lighthouse. Perhaps the name Magdala, also called Migdal Nunaya (“the fishermens’ tower”) may be derived from this structure.
The finds on the lake bottom and along the shore in this area included pottery fragments of the 2nd-6th centuries CE, a bronze mirror and a decorated lamp fragment of the Umayyad period (8th century CE). Extensive limestone surfaces were recorded on the shallow lake bottom east of the rock and on the shore south of it. These should probably be identified with the floor (10 x 100 m) described by the Link Expedition in the 1960′s as built of flat stones set in mortar. The surfaces, some of which were exposed by the receding waters, were examined by the geologist Y. Nir, who defined them as natural formations.
The ‘Ant Hill’ from the Arbel.
by Ehud Galili, Uzi Dahari, Jacob Sharvit and Ya’aqov Meshorer
Haifa. A concentration of metal objects and silver and bronze coins attributed to the Roman period uncovered in September 1990 on the municipal bathing beach (map ref. 146150/246500). The finds were extensively plundered. In the following surveillance, the inspectors succeeded in catching several people stealing underwater antiquities. The investigation showed that the finds belonged to two groups, probably originating from two wrecked ships. One group dates from 4th century CE and contains coins of Constantine I, Maximianus and Crispus and the other from the 3rd century CE.
The second group contains 33 silver coins of Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva and Trajan, some of which were struck in provincial mints, as well as 56 bronze coins of Lycia, Corinth, Anthedon, Beiru, Tyre, Akko-Ptolemais, Caesarea and Alexandria and several Roman imperial coins. Most of the coins date from the reigns of Elagabal and Alexander Severus and the rest from the reigns of Caracalla. Julia Domna and Macrinus. The acropolis of Akko and its harbor, in which a ship is anchored, represented on a rare coin of Caracalla from Akko.
The group also contained bronze figurines Mercury and Serapis. The Serapis figurine was heavily encrusted with grains of sand and shell. The encrustation was removed by A. Altamak of the Antiquities Authority’s laboratory, following a neutron photograph prepared by the Nuclear Institute at Nahal Soreq.
Other finds included a bronze strigil, bronze fittings, broken ingots of glass, numerous nails from the ship, the lead sheathing of the ship’s hull, fishing weights, fish hooks, bronze needles and a silver ring in the shape of a two-headed serpent. The latest coin in this group dates from the reign of Alexander Severus, so that the shipwreck must have occurred between 222 and 235 CE. The city coins indicate that this was a merchant ship sailing between the Lycia region in Asia Minor and Alexandria.
Kefar Samir. An excellently preserved, deep wooden bowl was discovered on the sea Bottom near Kefar Samir (map ref. 146000/244650). The bowl is made of carob wood and bears the marks left by the flint tool used to carve it. The bowl is dated by C-14 analysis to the Pottery Neolithic period (7230 ± 90 BP.).
Hahotrim. A wooden anchor reinforced with lead was discovered on the seabed at a depth of 3 m, between the mouth of Nahal Galim and Tel Kones (map ref. 145700/241950). The anchor consists of three wooden poles – two arms and the central shank – joined by a lead reinforcement, in addition to the wooden rafters and pegs, known from other anchors previously discovered, this anchor has additional has wooden reinforcements. Wooden anchors of a similar type were current from the early 2nd century BCE to the late 3rd century CE, but so far no anchor assembled by the same method has been found.
by Ehud Galili, Uzi Dahari, Arnon Engert and Jacob Sharvit
Following the illegal construction of a jetty, the bay west of Kibbutz Sedot Yam and north of the natural anchorage (ESI 9:40) was investigated in October 1990. It was found that the stones of this jetty were laid on an ancient quay built of headers, some of which had been displaced by the building operations. A ship’s cargo containing marble columns and column bases was identified near the entrance into the bay. A group of stone anchors was discovered in the area of the ancient anchorage, south of the columned jetty. A female marble figurine, of which only the lower part has survived, was recovered in the southwest part of the anchorage.
by Ehud Galili, Uzi Dahari and Jacob Sharvit
A line of sandstone reefs south of the Arsuf ruins (map ref. 13140/17748) extends southwesterly from the foot of Arsuf castle. A relatively sheltered area 3-5 m deep which provides an anchorage exists between the coast and the reefs. Various ancient remains exposed by storms have been investigated here from 1971 onward. During 1989-1990 remains of ships and ship cargoes of various periods, including c. 45 stone anchors of different types, was exposed. Most of these were uncovered in the deep part of the anchorage, which probably served as the preferred anchorage area from Middle Bronze Age onward. Among the anchors found were 15 with one perforations, characteristics of the Late Bronze Age, three anchors with three perforations, attributed to the Iron Age and the Persian period and one anchor of the Byblos type, which is usually attributed to the Middle Bronze Age. In addition, several unusual specimens were found: three anchors had two grooves at the bottom end and one anchor had a perforation in the lower part and a perforation joined vertically to transverse perforation in the upper part. A marble ring with two perforations was probably used for fishing or for raising anchors. Lead rings of similar shape were discovered in the wreck of ship from Porticello dated to the late 4th-early 5th century BCE. An iron anchor of the Roman period was recovered in addition to the stone anchors.
A cargo of metal objects was uncovered in the east part of the anchorage. These included fragments of a life-size bronze statue of male, bronze and lead objects, and a lead strip bearing a Latin inscription. Dense concentrations of medium-sized and small ashlars of kurkar and beach rock, as well as of marble, granite and kurkar columns, were recorded in several places in the anchorage and on the kurkar reefs. Many pottery fragments, mainly of store jars and pithoi of the Byzantine period, were found all over the anchorage. Several Persian basket handles and store jar fragments of the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods were also recovered. Of special interest among the finds were several broken glass ingots, glass slags and beads, probably from a local industry.
Victor Guérin, who surveyed the remains of Arsuf more than one hundred years ago, described the area protected by the kurkar reefs as a natural anchorage which served as a commercial harbor without jetties. The present survey recorded no building remains in the anchorage, with the exception of the well-known rectangular structure at the foot of the castle and the ashlar-built wall in the northeast part of the anchorage, which continues the wall of Arsuf. However, the level of the reefs may have been raised by piled-up fieldstones. Building stones were probably among the goods unloaded in the harbor, since the kurkar in the Apollonia area is too soft to be used for construction. The numerous ashlars found presumably fell into the water during unloading or when the ships carrying them sank.
by Ehud Galili, Uzi Dahari and Jacob Sharuit
Kurkar reefs protect an elongated basin (map ref. 1213/1484; Fig. 183) whose depth (3-6 m) in the northwest offers safe anchorage during most of the year. This part of the basin was used almost continuously from the Late Bronze Age onward. Because of the lack of natural sheltered anchorages in the area, it seems likely that this was the main anchorage serving the south of the country in antiquity.
Dozens of stone, lead and iron anchors were discovered, including about 25 stone anchors with one perforation, some of which were shaped and some amorphous (
18-100 kg), as well as several anchors with three perforations (14-40 kg). Dozens of rectangular ashlars with a groove around the middle (for attaching a rope?), which may have served as anchors (100-200 kg) and several stone stock weights of wooden anchors were also found. The metal anchors included four iron anchors attributed to the Byzantine period, as well as lead components of wooden anchors of various types. Store jar fragments, metal objects, and marble, granite and slate ballast stones were also recovered.
A fieldstone dike (top at a depth of 2 m) was recorded next to the east part of the north reef. A heap of ashlars (0.4 x 0.5 x 1.1 m) lay on the dike, which may have been built to improve the anchorage conditions. Some of the ashlars have a groove around the middle like those found in the anchorage. Stones of this kind are almost unknown at other sites. Their extensive random dispersal in the anchorage suggests that they might have been the remains of a ruined maritime structure or have formed part of a cargo of ashlars which scattered when the ship carrying it was wrecked on the kurkar reefs.
In the past, remains of ships and cargoes were discovered in the shallow south part of the basin (depth 1-3 m). These included marble columns, metal objects (mainly nails), weapons, jewelry fragments, and fishing net weights of various periods, from the Late Bronze Age onward. The remains in this part of the basin were probably washed ashore when the ships carrying them were wrecked on the kurkar reefs by storms.