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Christian, Muslim symbols found in 7th-century shipwreck in Israel

Christian, Muslim symbols found in 7th century shipwreck in Israel

PortandTerminal.com, August 1, 2020

HAIFA, ISRAEL—Exploration of a 1,300-year-old shipwreck just off the coast of Israel is offering new insights into life in the region at a time of transition from Byzantine to Islamic rule, according to a report from The Jerusalem Post.

Researchers from the University of Haifa’s Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies began excavating the wreck in 2016.

The Maʻagan Mikhael B shipwreck was found in just 5 feet of water, beneath 5 feet of sand, 230m off the Mediterranean coast of Israel.

Scuba divers. Shipwreck.
YURMAN/LEON RECANATI INSTITUTE FOR MARITIME STUDIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA
rigging elements from shipwreck
Rigging elements: a) Block 238 with rope remains as found in situ (Photo: A. Yurman); b) Block 237 (Drawing: S. Haad); c) Block 238 in the conservation laboratory, after the removal of the rope (Photo: A. Efremov); and d) assortment of ropes (Photo: A. Efremov).

The hull remains are in a good state of preservation, comprising the endposts, aprons, framing timbers, hull planks, stringers, and bulkheads.

The finds comprise rigging elements, wooden artefacts, organic finds, animal bones, glassware, coins, bricks, stones, ceramic sherds, and complete amphoras. The shipwreck was dated to the 7th–8th centuries AD; which makes it an exceptional source of information regarding various aspects of ship construction, seamanship, and seafaring in the area in Late Antiquity.

amphora. drawing.
a) A Late Roman 1 amphora and a Cypriot Red Slip bowl (Photo: A. Yurman); and b) Late Roman 5 with an Arabic inscription (Drawing: S. Haad).

They have found that its cargo included more than 100 amphoras filled with products including olives, dates, figs, fish, pine nuts, grapes, and raisins. The researchers believe the ship made stops in Cyprus, Egypt, and possibly at a port along the coast of Israel before it sank.

The size and richness of its cargo appear to contradict the generally accepted belief that commerce in the eastern Mediterranean was limited during the transition from Byzantine to Islamic rule in the seventh to eighth century A.D.

The excavations have also turned up several Christian crosses and the name of Allah written in Arabic.

“We do not know whether the crew was Christian or Muslim, but we found traces of both religions,” said University of Haifa archaeologist Deborah Cvikel. Given that the wreck occurred close to shore and that no human bones have been found, the researchers believe everyone on board survived the ship’s sinking.

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