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The 2,300-year-old harbor of Hellenistic Ptolemais - today known as Acre or Akko in Hebrew - was uncovered recently by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) marine archaeologists.
The IAA said in a press release Tuesday that in its excavations at the foot of Acre's southern seawall, installations were exposed that belong to a harbor that was already operating in the city in the Hellenistic period (third-second centuries BCE) and was the most important port in Israel at that time.
Among the finds at the harbor are large mooring stones (photos 2 and 3 below) that were incorporated in the quay, which were used to secure sailing vessels. This was probably a military harbor. The finds were discovered during excavations that are part of the seawall conservation project undertaken by the Old Akko Development Company and underwritten by the Israel Lands Administration.
Floor of the ancient quay discovered in Acre. Photo courtesy: Kobi Sharvit, Israel Antiquities Authority
The first evidence indicating the possible existence of this quay was in 2009 when a section of pavement was discovered comprised of large kurkar flagstones dressed in a technique reminiscent of the Phoenician style that is characteristic of installations found in a marine environment. Discovered underwater, this pavement raised many questions amongst archaeologists. Besides the theory that this is a quay, some suggested this was the floor of a large building.
"Among the finds we've discovered now are large mooring stones that were incorporated in the quay and were used to secure sailing vessels that anchored in the harbor about 2,300 years ago. 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.
The dig also discovered a large mound of collapsed large dressed stones that apparently belonged to large buildings or installations, which was spread over a distance of dozens of meters. "What emerges from these finds is a clear picture of systematic and deliberate destruction of the port facilities that occurred in antiquity," noted Sharvit.
"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. Only further archaeological excavations will corroborate or invalidate this theory," said Sharvit.
Mooring stone discovered with a hole where the anchoring rope was inserted; Photo courtesy Kobi Sharvit, Israel Antiquities Authority
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.
These finds constitute solid archaeological evidence regarding the location of the Hellenistic harbor and perhaps the military port. According to Sharvit, "It should be understood that until these excavations the location of this important harbor was not clear. Remains of it were found at the base of the Tower of Flies and in the region of the new marina in excavations conducted in the early 1980s by the late Dr. Elisha Linder and the late Professor Avner Raban. But now, for the first time, parts of the harbor are being discovered that are adjacent to the ancient shoreline and the Hellenistic city. Unfortunately, parts of the quay continue beneath the Ottoman city wall - parts that we will probably not be able to excavate in the future.
Excavation will continue in those sections of the harbor that extend in the direction of the sea and the modern harbor, in an attempt to learn about the extent of the ancient harbor, and to try and clarify if there is a connection between the destruction in the harbor and the destruction wrought by Ptolemy in 312 BCE, the destruction caused by the Hasmonean uprising in 167 BCE, or by some other event
Akko is located approximately two hours north of Tel Aviv, and approximately 1 hour north of Haifa and is accessible by bus or train. Visitors can tour the ancient city on day tours offered weekly on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday from $85 per person from Tel Aviv and $102 from Jerusalem. , The tours include visits to Caesarea, Akko and Rosh Hanikra, as well as entrance fees, bus transportation and expert guiding.
To learn more about this tours or to reserve a space click on the link below.
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority
Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land.
Archaeological discovery in the Holy Land
In an excavation that was recently conducted c. 100 meters north of the Old City wall of Akko, a unique find, according to Dr. Edna Stern, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority was discovered from the Crusader period (the thirteenth century CE) - a hoard of 350 marble items that were collected from buildings that had been destroyed.
The hoard was found within the framework of an archaeological excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority before the Akko Municipality began building a new structure to house classrooms in the Hilmi Shafi Educational Campus.
This find is the likes of which have never been discovered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusader period (the capital of which was Akko).
During the archaeological excavations the Israeli Antiques Authority came upon a cellar that was sealed by collapse comprised of building stones and charred beams. Beneath the cellar floor a hoard of c. 350 marble items and colored stones was discovered, including two broken marble tombstones with Latin inscriptions (one belonging to a person by the name of Maratinus), flat marble slabs and marble tiles of various sizes and colors, etc.
Some more extraordinary items were found, such as a large stone cross and a large fragment of porphyry (a rare precious purple stone, which has been the color of royalty from Roman times). The quality of the marble is excellent and it was undoubtedly imported from abroad."
This discover confirm that at that time they used to integrate ancient architectural items from the Roman and Byzantine periods in their construction. And just like today, people at that time also yearned for the classic and the exotic. According to Dr. Edna Stern, it is known from written sources that the residents of AKKO bought and sold such stones, which were exceptionally valuable, to be reused in buildings. The owner of the hoard, was either a merchant or collected the stones for his own construction, and was aware of impending danger and therefore buried the valuable stones until such time as the tension abated.
However, the cache of stones was not sold in the end. According to Stern, "We can reasonably assume that the collapse that was found above the hoard is evidence of the building's destruction in 1291 CE, when Crusader Akko was conquered by the Mamluks and was completely devastated".
The marble hoard was removed from the field and transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further study.
Lina Makhoul, became the first Christian Arab girl to win Israel's popular televised talent show, "The Voice", which completed its second season last night. The 19 year old girl from Akko sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah beating out a young Orthodox girl from Ashdod. Israel's reality show, "The Voice" is a franchise of the international version of "The Voice", based on the singing competition launched in the Netherlands. The show features renowned popular performing artists who initially hear the singers in blind auditions where they cannot see, only hear the auditioner. If selected as part of their group, the artists then train the contestants who are then judged by the audience in a number of rounds until one is eventually selected as the winner.As the winner, Makhoul receives a record contract and a scholarship to attend music school.
Photo credit: screenshot of Channel 2 television, Israel.
A small ceramic stamp used to mark bakery produce may not seem like a significant archeological find, but Israeli archeologists are rather excited by such a discovery made near the northern coastal town of Akko.
In previous eras, Akko was known as Acre, and was a major Christian stronghold in the Holy Land. That is why interest has been piqued by the small ceramic stamp bearing an image of the seven-branched Temple Menorah, which was found in a controlled archeological dig at Horbat Uza just outside Akko. The stamp dates back to the 6th century AD, a time when Akko was a Christian-dominated city under the Byzantine Empire. Gilad Jaffe and Dr. Danny Syon, who are directing the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, were pleased to be able to do definitely date the artifact:
Excavation site near Acre; courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority
"This is the first time such a stamp is discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation, thus making it possible to determine its provenance and date of manufacture."
The existence of the stamp is evidence that despite Christian control of that part of the Holy Land at that time, a Jewish presence remained. And, that presence must have been somewhat significant if it required its own dedicated bakeries to produce certified kosher goods.
Anient bread stamp with menorah caving Courtesy: Israel Antiquities Authority
"The stamp is important because it proves that a Jewish community existed in the settlement of Uza in the Christian-Byzantine period. The presence of a Jewish settlement so close to Akko - a region that was definitely Christian at this time - constitutes an innovation in archaeological research," stated Jaffe and Syon in an official press release. "Due to the geographical proximity of Horbat Uza to Akko, we can speculate that the settlement supplied kosher baked goods to the Jews of Akko in the Byzantine period."
The stamp itself is of similar design to other Jewish bread stamps found around the region, though which have not been as definitely dated as the Horbat Uza stamp. It is engraved on the flat end with a seven-branched menorah, "a Jewish symbol par excellence," noted Jaffe and Syon, which identified anything marked with the stamp as being undeniably of Jewish manufacture. Along the neck of the stamp's handle are carved Greek letters that experts believe spell out the name Launtius, a common Jewish name in Byzantine times.
This important discovery was only made because of plans to build a new railroad connecting Akko to the central Galilee town of Karmiel. So inundated is the Holy Land with historical remains that any simple construction project must be preceded by a painstaking archeological review and even a comprehensive dig to ensure that the past is not lost in making way for the future.