Archaeological discoveries shed new light on the question of the location of Akko’s harbor in the Hellenistic period and influence research regarding changes in sea level in antiquity.
Remains of a unique and impressive floor were discovered at a depth of one meter underwater in Akko harbor. The remains constitute the first evidence of a low sea level during the Hellenistic period in Akko. The floor remains were discovered during archaeological excavations and inspections that the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Archaeology Unit is carrying out within the framework of rehabilitating Akko’s southern seawall. The project is being implemented by conservators on behalf of the Old Acre Development Company, Ltd., and is underwritten by the Israel Lands Administration. The scope of the funding that the latter is providing totals several million shekels. As part of the project, a temporary rampart that serves as both a road and dam was built in the sea. The pool of water that formed between the rampart and the seawall was pumped out so as to create dry conditions for rehabilitating the seawall.
The part of the floor that has been revealed so far extends for a distance of 15 meters and is 4 meters wide (the full dimensions of the floor have not yet been exposed). The floor was built of rectangular, smoothly dressed kurkar stones that were placed atop a foundation course of roughly hewn kurkar stones arranged next to each other as “headers”. In probes that were conducted beneath the floor, numerous fragments of ceramic jars of Aegean provenance (from Rhodes, Kos and elsewhere) were found that were used to transport wine, as well as tableware and cooking vessels. Among the other artifacts recovered were a Greek style bronze arrowhead and bronze coins that are covered with marine encrustations. A preliminary identification of the finds shows that the floor was constructed in the Hellenistic period (end of the third century until the middle of the second century BCE) as part of a national project.
According to Kobi Sharvit, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Archaeology Unit, “The location of the floor, its size, the building style and the building method, which is mainly known from the construction of harbor installations, indicate with a high degree of certainty that the floor has a marine connection suggesting it belongs to a large pier or dockyard structure”.
The floor constitutes an extremely important indicator for studies that deal with changes in sea level and in the location of the shoreline during the Hellenistic period in Akko. This find raises other questions regarding the tectonic changes that occurred in Akko, which is located on a geologic fault, and sea levels.
“The Akko Seawall Conservation Project”, Kobi Shavit concludes, “is very important to the preservation of this unique and problematic section of the seawall, where its foundation is underwater and the waves break right on top of it, and will eliminate any danger of the seawall collapsing”.
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