Ancient shipwrecks excavated off Dor Beach

Remains from two shipwrecks - one from the Byzantine period at the end of the fifth century CE and the other from the early Islamic period some 300 years later - were excavated during the just-ended annual underwater archeological excavation at the Dor/Tantura lagoon below Zichron Ya'acov. About 80 divers participated in the 2005 season, including about 50 volunteers, 10 from abroad (England, the US 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 Archeology Society of Great Britain (NAS), headed by Chris Brandon. 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), divers dismantled the planking and studied the hull's interior. 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. 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 percent relative humidity. Having the timbers at the university laboratory will allow research into their origin and into the ship's structure. 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 eighth 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.