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New Discovery at Ancient Hellenistic Site in Israel

July 18, 2012

A member of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority standing on the ancient quay that was exposed in Akko. In the middle of the picture one can see the floor of the quay, built of large dressed stones. In some of the stonesthere is a hole for inserting a wooden pole – probably for mooring and/or dragging the boat.
Kobi Sharvit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

Numerous reports – including Bloomberg News, Arutz Sheva and Ynet News – about a fascinating new discovery at Akko, site of ancient Acre, one of the largest and most important Hellenistic port complexes in Israel. A new harbor, approximately 2,300 years old, has been uncovered.  According to Bloomberg News:

An ancient harbor where warships may have docked 2,300 years ago has been discovered by archaeologists in the Israeli port city of Acre.

The harbor, the largest and most important found in Israel from the Hellenistic period, was uncovered during archaeological excavations carried out as part of a seawall conservation project, the Israel Antiquities Authority said today. Among the finds were large mooring stones incorporated in the quay and used to secure sailing vessels, the IAA said.

“This unique and important find finally provides an unequivocal answer to the question of whether we are dealing with port installations or the floor of a building,” said Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA’s marine archaeology unit, of the mooring stones.

The excavations also uncovered collapsed stones that possibly belonged to large buildings which were spread over dozens of meters, Sharvit said.

“What emerges from these finds is a clear picture of systematic and deliberate destruction of the port facilities that occurred in antiquity,” Sharvit said.

A mooring stone that was incorporated into the quay. There was a hole in the stone in which the mooring/anchoring rope was inserted.

Arutz Sheva has additional commentary from Sharvit:

He adds, “Recently a find was uncovered that suggests we are excavating part of the military port of Akko. We are talking about an impressive section of stone pavement about 8 meters long by 5 meters wide that was partially exposed. The floor is delimited on both sides by two impressive stone walls that are also built in the Phoenician manner. It seems that the floor between the walls slopes slightly toward the south, and there was a small amount of stone collapse in its center. Presumably this is a slipway, an installation that was used for lifting boats onto the shore, probably warships in this case”. According to Sharvit, “Only further archaeological excavations will corroborate or invalidate this theory”.

The bottom of the ancient harbor was exposed at the foot of the installations. There, the mooring stones were found, as well as thousands of fragments of pottery vessels, among which are dozens of intact vessels and metallic objects. The preliminary identification of the pottery vessels indicates that many of them come from islands in the Aegean Sea, including Knidos, Rhodes, Kos and others, as well as other port cities located along the Mediterranean coast.

An imported bowl characteristic of the Hellenistic period. The bowl was found in a layer of harbor sludge. This layer contained thousands of intact pottery vessels and potsherds.

According to Ynet News:

Now, for the first time, portions of the port that meet the ancient shoreline and Hellenistic city have been revealed. “Sadly portions of the dock continue beneath the Ottoman wall – portions which we will mot likely not be able to excavate in the future, Sharvit added.

Nonetheless, excavations will continue on portions of the port heading towards the sea and the port in attempts to try and discover the purpose of the port and whether there is any connection between the port’s destruction and the destruction carried out by Ptolemy in 312 BC, the destruction caused by the Hasmonean revolt in 167 BC or another event.

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