Ancient Hellenistic Harbor Discovered in Acre, Israel

Israel Antiquities Authority
A member of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority at the ancient quay that was discovered in the port of Acre, Israel. Excavators found the floor of a 2,600-year-old dock, built of large dressed stones, possibly used to moor warships. Photographer: Kobi Sharvit/Israel Antiquities Authority via Bloomberg

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.

The excavation will continue in those sections of the harbor that extend in the direction of the sea, the IAA said. The archaeologists will try to clarify if there is a connection between the destruction of the harbor and the Hasmonean uprising in 167 B.C., the destruction wrought by Ptolemy in 312 B.C. or some other event.

Parts of the quay continue beneath the Ottoman city wall, and it may not be possible to excavate these, it said.

Along with the mooring stones, thousands of fragments of pottery vessels, as well as unbroken vessels and metallic objects were found. Preliminary identification of the pottery vessels indicates that many of them come from port cities in the Aegean Sea, including Knidos, Rhodes and Kos.

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