2,300-year-old Acre harbor exposed on seabed

The harbor is considered the most important in Israel from the Hellenistic period.

A member of the Israel Antiquities Authority standing on the ancient quay in Acre. (Photo: Kobi Sharvit/IAA)

A member of the Israel Antiquities Authority standing on the ancient quay in Acre. (Photo: Kobi Sharvit/IAA)

Archaeologists in Acre (Akko) announced today the discovery of a magnificent ancient harbor that was considered the largest and most important in Israel back in the Hellenistic period.

“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 2,300 years ago,” said Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Sharvit said the harbor was likely used for military purposes.

The finds were made during excavations being carried out as part of the seawall conservation project undertaken by the Old Acre Development Company and underwritten by the Israel Lands Administration.

A mooring stone incorporated in the quay. (Kobi Sharvit/IAA)

Possible existence of the quay was first noted 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.

“We exposed collapse comprised of large dressed stones that apparently belonged to large buildings or installations, which was spread of a distance of dozens of meters. 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 Sharvit.

The bottom of the ancient harbor was recently 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.

“Now, for the first time, parts of the harbor are being discovered that are adjacent to the ancient shoreline and the Hellenistic city,” said Sharvit.

The Israel Antiquities Authority hopes to continue excavating sections of the harbor that extend in the direction of the sea and the modern harbor in order to learn about the ancient harbor and clarify if there is a connection between the destruction in the harbor and the destruction wrought by Ptolemy in 312 BCE or if the destruction was caused by the Hasmonean uprising in 167 BCE or by some other event.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. She has jumped out of a plane, ducked rockets and been attacked by a baboon all in the name of a good story. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.