Unprecedented Ottoman-era fisherman’s house discovered on Ashkelon beach

Young members of the Ashkelon community assisted in uncovering archeological finds in an effort to educate them about their past.

Young participants who assisted during the beach excavation.  (photo credit: CLARA AMIT, COURTESY OF THE ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
Young participants who assisted during the beach excavation.
In an unprecedented discovery, archeologists from the Antiquities Authority recently unearthed an Ottoman-era fisherman’s house off the coast of Ashkelon, marking the first time a structure found in the area is definitively associated with the fishing industry.
According to the excavation’s directors, Federico Kobrin and Haim Mamliya, the fisherman’s house is divided into three rooms, which contained metal fishhooks, dozens of lead weights, a large bronze bell, and a stone anchor.
“The building’s entrances were fixed in the north, in order to prevent the high winds and sea storms from entering into it,” the archeologists said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“It is the first time that a building was exposed in Ashkelon that we can attribute with certainty to the fishing industry.”
Additionally, a possible lighthouse used by local inhabitants to direct ships along the Mediterranean coast was discovered. “Two of the buildings that we uncovered are very curious, and it seems they were used as a fisherman’s house and a lookout tower, possibly a lighthouse, dating to the Ottoman period,” Kobrin said. “The tower was situated on a lofty hilltop, and it looks out over the beach and Mediterranean Sea. From the tower, one could signal and direct ships that were sailing between the ancient ports in Ashkelon and Ashdod-Yam.”
The excavation, conducted in coordination with the Ashkelon Municipality and Ashkelon Economic Company, was carried out in the northern part of the city, where a new neighborhood is slated to be constructed.
In an effort to educate young residents about their past, the IAA recruited dozens of the area’s boys and girls to assist in the dig.
“Working with young people was both a challenge and extremely satisfying,” said Kobrin.
“The youth participated in uncovering part of their city’s past. They labored diligently and conscientiously, showed their interest and curiosity regarding the finds, and it was a pleasure to work with them.”
The archeologists said the fisherman’s house will be preserved and incorporated into the development of the new neighborhood and strip of beach “for the benefit of the residents, and to create a connection between them, and those who lived and fished there in the past.”