Typology of Port Facilities and Anchorages on the

Harbors and anchorages Introduction

The southern coast of the Levant has been a busy sea route for at least the past five millennia. The Mediterranean coast of Israel  (c.188 km long) is straight and gently graded, with no islands or bays to provide natural shelter for watercraft during heavy storms. In the coastal plain there are several kurkar (sandstone) ridges running parallel to the shore. Some of these ridges are partly submerged forming small islets and discontinuous reefs some 150 to 600 m offshore that may provide partial protection to anchoring vessels. The shortage of natural shelters along the coast and the strong winter storms were a problem for local seafarers. Various solutions to the shelter problem were applied, and are demonstrated by the typology of the ports and anchorages enumerated below.

Typology of Port Facilities and Anchorages on the Israeli Coast

1. Man-made, (built-up) harbor: quays, breakwaters, jetties, etc. Such facilities were usually constructed by the ruling authorities beginning in the Persian period. Three such harbors were found at  Acre, Atlit and Caesarea.


2. Proto-harbor (3-7 m water depth): a sheltered area usually situated at the lee side of a kurkar ridge, which is partly submerged at some distance offshore, with some man-made improvements. Such anchorages were used since the Middle Bronze Age by sea-going vessels for overnight anchoring and/or waiting for favorable sailing winds. Remains of such features were recorded at Caesarea, Apollonia, Yavneh-Yam and Tel Ridan.


3. Deep-water (natural) anchorage (3-7 m water depth): kurkar ridge, which is partly submerged, forming small islands offshore. This type of anchorage was used as early as the Middle Bronze Age. Its functions were similar to those of Type B2 above. Such anchorages have been found at Akhziv, Shavey-Zion, Atlit, Neve-Yam, Dor, Ma’agan-Michael, Tel-Taninim (Zarka), Caesarea, Michmoret and Jaffa.

4. Shallow-Water Natural Anchorage (1-3 m water depth): a shelter created by small natural features close to the coastline. This type of anchorage usually utilizes minor bays and abrasion platforms which are used for anchoring fishing boats and lighters. Traditional fishermen currently use similar features at Zarka, Shiqmona (south of Haifa), Acre and Akhziv.


5. Open-Sea Anchorage: submerged kurkar ridge, located some 300-600 m offshore, with its peak lying at 4-12 m beneath sea level. Features like this provided an optimal holding ground for ancient stone anchors. Ancient vessels chose such places for anchorage, in areas where no shelters or port facilities were available and the sea bottom was silty or sandy. Two anchorages of this type have been found off the southern coast of Israel and one off Mikhmoret (central Israel).


6. Rock-cut mooring facility: Rock-cut bollards were recorded at Shiqmona (Fig. 6) and at Akhziv. Mooring holes were recorded on the southern coast of Dor bay.


7. Harbor at the inlet of a coastal river: It was suggested that river courses served as inland harbors for sea-going ships during the Bronze Age. However, the possibility that sea-going vessels used such river courses as inland harbors is still being debated.