Introduction


Ships are unique. A ship is a microcosm of political, economic, cultural and technological activity. Why do we deem the discovery of a ship so significant? It serves as a bridge between different cultures and peoples carrying goods, ideas and technologies. As the sea is a bridge between cultures so is the ship the means of carrying and diffusing that culture. Comprehending the technological achievements embodied in the building of a ship, its navigation, its method of propulsion, its loading capacity and its constant confrontation with the elements is a major task. Until very recently, the structure of ancient ships was a subject relying on literary descriptions and artistic iconographic representations. However, now with the progress of nautical archaeology research, we can handle a ship's hull itself enabling us to begin to understand the magnitude of the achievements of the ancients.

Such was the case with the Ma'agan Mikhael Ship - a fortuitous discovery accompanied by a dramatic touch of coincidence. The ship was found offshore Kibbutz Ma'agan Mikhael, a settlement situated approximately 30 Km south of Haifa, on the Israeli coastline, where 3 decades earlier maritime archaeology in Israel was initiated.
 

Oddly enough, this stretch of sandy sea bottom had not shown any signs of significant archaeological relics, even though the sea along this stretch of coast had served for the training of naval divers who joined the Archaeological Undersea Exploration Society of Israel spending many hours underwater while practicing search and survey techniques  for archaeology. In August of 1985 a member of the Kibbutz, Ami Eshel, returned one late afternoon from a dive along the coast. Some 70 meters offshore, in a depth of less than 1.5 meters of water, he came across a pile of large stones.
 
 


Removing the heavy rocks

He spotted pottery sherds and several pieces of wood protruding from the sand .The stones were not typical of the region and the pottery appeared ancient. In addition, it became immediately clear that the 'finger' of wood protruding from the sand reached much farther down than he was able to uncover with his bare hands. Thus it occurred to him that he may have stumbled upon much more.

Following customary procedures, he notified a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority of his finds, and went to find Dr. Elisha Linder, the maritime historian/archaeologist who lives on the Kibbutz. Linder realized that the find turned out to be an intact, 2400 year-old wooden hulled merchantman, originally 13.5 meters in length, 4 meters in width, in a remarkable state of preservation. It was lying perpendicular to the shore where it had, for reasons still unknown, been beached.
 

The excavation process took place over three seasons, from 1988 to 1989. It was carried out by a team of nautical archaeologists and technical staff from the Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa, joined by specialists and advisors from Israel and abroad. Jay Rosloff from the U.S.A served as the field director.

A substantial portion of the wooden hull structure survived.
Among the artifacts found aboard were 70 items of ceramic ware, ropes, a lead ingot, a set of wooden carpenter's tools, 12 tons of rocks, mainly blue schist and Gabro, and - lying in position in the sandy bottom, although it had not actually been used - a perfectly intact, one-armed wooden anchor, unique in its style, its ropes still remaining attached.


A Collection of 
Basket-Handle-type
Amphoras

 
 
 
 
 

Oil Lamps which Helped to Date the Ship

A Collection of Carpenter's Tools


Lifting the One-armed Wooden Anchor

For further reading:
* Ma'agan Mikhael Vol.1
* Ma'agan Mikhael Vol.2

Available at the Hecht Museum Store.