Akko’s Hellentistic Harbor Revealed

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the results of archaeological excavations carried out at the Mediterranean city of Akko (Acco in some English versions).

Akko Hellenistic Harbor quay. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, IAA.

A member of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority standing on the ancient quay that was exposed in Akko. In the middle of the picture one can see the floor of the quay, built of large dressed stones. In some of the stones there is a hole for inserting a wooden pole – probably for mooring and/or dragging the boat. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy IAA.

Evidence of a harbor operating during the Hellenistic period (3rd-2nd century B.C.). This harbor was said to be the most important harbor in Israel at the time.

According to Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Among the finds we’ve discovered now are large mooring stones that were incorporated in the quay and were used to secure sailing vessels that anchored in the harbor c. 2,300 years ago. This unique and important find finally provides an unequivocal answer to the question of whether we are dealing with port installations or the floor of a building. In addition, we exposed collapse comprised of large dressed stones that apparently belonged to large buildings or installations, which was spread of a distance of dozens of meters. What emerges from these finds is a clear picture of systematic and deliberate destruction of the port facilities that occurred in antiquity”

. Sharvit adds, “Recently a find was uncovered that suggests we are excavating part of the military port of Akko. We are talking about an impressive section of stone pavement c. 8 meters long by c. 5 meters wide that was partially exposed. The floor is delimited on both sides by two impressive stone walls that are also built in the Phoenician manner. It seems that the floor between the walls slopes slightly toward the south, and there was a small amount of stone collapse in its center. Presumably this is a slipway, an installation that was used for lifting boats onto the shore, probably warships in this case”. According to Sharvit, “Only further archaeological excavations will corroborate or invalidate this theory.”

The news release suggests that the pottery vessels came “from islands in the Aegean Sea, including Knidos [Cnidus], Rhodes, Kos [Cos] and others, as well as other port cities located along the Mediterranean coast.”

Akko Hellenistic harbor mooring stone. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy IAA.

A mooring stone that was incorporated in the quay. There was a hole in the stone in which the mooring/anchoring rope was inserted. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy IAA.

Acco is mentioned only once in the Bible. The city is within the territory originally allotted to the tribe of Asher, but the tribe was unable to conquer it.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, (Judges 1:31 ESV)

After about 100 B.C. the coastal city was known as Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). Paul spent one day with the brethren here on the return from his third journey.

Imported bowl from Hellenistic period. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy IAA.

An imported bowl characteristic of the Hellenistic period. The bowl was found in a layer of harbor sludge. This layer contained thousands of intact pottery vessels, potsherds, etc. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy IAA.

The full IAA report with links to the photos is temporarily available here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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One response to “Akko’s Hellentistic Harbor Revealed

  1. After about 100 B.C. the coastal city was known as Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). Paul spent one day with the brethren here on the return from his third journey

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