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Underwater Archaeology

Sea of Galilee -Ancient Harbors and Anchorages



Ancient harbors and anchorages



The Sea of Galilee is known for its sudden storms, which are caused by moderate easterly or westerly winds. A few natural anchorage sites are found on the northern shores of the lake. About 300 m northeast of Tabgha, a small natural bay termed ‘Hale’ by local fishermen, provides shelter from southerly and northerly winds. Another small bay termed "Amnun-Bay" is situated between Capernaum and the Jordan river outlet. One-holed stone-anchors (5-40 kg) were discovered on the bottom of these natural anchorages. In addition, the outlets of the rivers Zaki and Jordan near Beit-Saida, and the old outlet of the River Jordan north of Tel Beit-Yerah may have provided some shelter for sea-going vessels.                      

However, in order to maintain maritime activity in the lake, suitable harbors were needed. Stone-built harbors have been discovered around the lake’s shores since the 1970's, in Kfar- Akavia, Gergesa (Kursi), Ein-Gofra, Susita (Hippos), Duerban, Gadera, Beit-Yerah, Kinneret, Seinabris, Tiberias, Ammaus, Magdala, Gennesar, Tabha, Capernaum and Aish. The harbors are built from small and medium-size undressed-stones (1-50 kg) and in some cases, building stones in secondary use and broken stone artifacts (millstones, grinding-stones, cup-marks, bowls) that could have been carried off by hand. In some of the harbors perforated mooring stones (weighing 30-150 kg) were found. The elevations of most of the harbor's foundations range between -211 to -212 m.
                                                                                       Two elongated artificial concentrations of undressed stones were found at elevations of –213 m to 214.5 (in the Kinneret region adjacent to Ohalo I site and east of Tel Beit-Yerah). These structures could have served as anchoring facilities similar to the open sea anchorage in the Mediterranean (type B5) to improve the anchor-hold on the sea bottom or artificial fish nurseries, but they are not dated. Archaeological material within the harbors is scarce. Nevertheless, they were most probably built during the Roman Period.    
The elevation of these harbors indicates that the level of the Sea of Galilee was –210 to –211 m during the Roman and the Byzantine Periods (lower by ca. 1-2 m than the present level).
 

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