Timbers from Two Ancient Shipwrecks Excavated by the Institute for Maritime
Studies of the University of Haifa.
Michal Golan Assistant to the Spokesperson University of Haifa Sunday,
November 06, 2005
The annual underwater archaeological excavation season at the Dor/Tantura
lagoon has just ended. Two shipwrecks were excavated: one from the
Byzantine period - about the end of the 5th century CE, and the other from
the early Islamic period - the beginning of the 8th century CE.
The Byzantine wreck is the remains of a ship which carried building stones,
80 of which were found stacked neatly in its hold. In previous seasons, the
stones were removed layer by layer, exposing the ship's internal planking
which was protected by matting. In the 2005 season, the fourth, the divers
dismantled the planking and studied the interior of the hull. The last step
was the sawing out of a section of the ship's hull for detailed study. The
timbers from this section were retrieved from the seabed and transferred to
the recently-installed conservation laboratory at the University of Haifa.
The waterlogged wood is very fragile and vulnerable to any physical
pressure, and would crumble to dust if not kept submerged in water. Thus,
dictated by their condition, the timbers were treated with great care in an
atmosphere of 100% relative humidity. Having the timbers at the university
laboratory will allow research into their origin and into the structure of
the ship. Also made possible is their conservation, restoration, and
reassembly for exhibition in the future.
The shipwreck from the Islamic period was found at a depth of less than two
meters, covered by one meter of sand. It is unique, as it is the first
shipwreck excavated in the Mediterranean dated to the 8th century. In
addition to a large section of the hull, the site included many finds, among
them about 20 ceramic pots containing fish and food remnants in their
original positions, wooden artifacts, and anchors.
About 80 divers participated in the 2005 season, including about 50
volunteers, 10 from abroad (England, U.S.A. and the Netherlands), and about
30 students, the majority from the University of Haifa.
The Dor/Tantura expedition is a combined venture of the Recanati Institute
for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa, K. Raveh, and the Nautical
Archaeology Society of Great Britain (NAS), headed by Chris Brandon.