Tag Archives: Maritime archaeology

2500 year-old ship replica back in the water

During a visit to the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa (Israel) last year I was impressed by the reconstructed ruins of a ship that sailed the Mediterranean during the Persian period about 400 B.C. Information with the display reads,

In the autumn of 1985, remains of a 2400 year old merchantman were discovered in shallow water off the coast of Kibbutz Ma’agan Mikhael. A thick layer of sand and a large quantity of ballast stones covered the ship, thus protecting the wood and other perishable materials, from the elements.

Three seasons of excavation (1988-1989) were conducted by marine archaeologists from the Center for Maritime Studies of the University of Haifa and volunteers. After a long process of conservation the ship was placed on display in The Ma’agan Mikhael Ship Wing of the Hecht Museum.

The vessel measured approximately 12.5 m. long and 4 m. wide and had a load capacity of about 15 tons. Thirteen tons of stones and rocks were found during the excavation, the majority being bluechist. “It was used for roofing, flooring and for decorative articles” and originated from the Greek island of Euboea, northeast of Athens.

All of my information comes from signs displayed in the Hecht Museum.

The Ma'agan Mikhael ship displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ma’agan Mikhael ship displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Word comes that the a replica of the ship has been reconstructed and that it will be displayed for the press Friday, March 17. Here is the Press Invitation which explains about the reconstruction.

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The Ma’agan Michael Ship is “going back” in the water: 2500 years after the ship sank off the coast at Ma’agan Michael, and 30 years after the shipwreck was discovered and removed from the water, a replica of the vessel will be launched. The official launching ceremony will take place this coming Friday (17 March 2017) and will be organized by the University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The replica was built over the past two years, using exactly the same materials, working methods, and tools that were used 2500 years ago.

The Ship launching ceremony will be attended by the President of the University, Professor Ron Robin, the Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Mr. Yisrael Hasson, ship builders staff, volunteers and their families. According to the ancient practice of launching a new ship into the sea, oil and water to be poured into the sea for good luck (“Blessing Poseidon”), and it will set sail (weather permitting).

Ma'agan Michael-replica. Photo courtesy of the University of-Haifa.

Ma’agan Michael replica. Photo courtesy of the University of Haifa.

The ancient Ma’agan Michael Ship has always been a star. It was discovered in 1985 by Ami Eshel, a member of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, some 70 meters from the kibbutz. The ship was removed from the sea in 1988 in a project directed by Dr. Elisha Linder, one of the founders of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa. Most of the ship had been covered in sand, helping to preserve it in a remarkable condition. The keel, numerous wooden plates, 14 crossbars, and the base of the mast were all preserved, offering researchers rare insights into the method used to construct the ship. In addition, the preserved tools found in the ship included the carpenter’s toolbox, a discovery that sparked the dream of building a replica using the same methods and tools used by the original shipwrights. In a complex procedure undertaken at the University of Haifa, a special preservative was inserted into the wooden base of the ship, which received its own display room at the university’s Hecht Museum.

The late Prof. Yaacov Kahanov of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa did not abandon the dream of building a replica of the ship. Prof. Kahanov was a young research student when the ship was taken out of the water. Two years ago, he finally began the work of building a replica, together with Avner Hilman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, for whom the use of the ancient working methods formed part of a doctorate thesis. Together with a team of volunteers, they began the work, most of which took place at the Naval Academy in Akko.

However, the team working on the replica project soon encountered a problem. While they were familiar with the basic principle of the work – assembly using bolts and sockets – the other details were lost in the mists of time. They were unsure of the proper and most efficient way to bend the wooden beams in order to create the curved shape of the ship; the most suitable type of wood for the mast; and the precise temperature to which the copper nails should be heated. In many cases the team worked on a trial and error basis until they produced the desired result.

Ma'agan Michael-replica. Photo courtesy of the University of-Haifa.

Ma’agan Michael-replica. Photo courtesy of the University of-Haifa.

After two year’s work, the project was completed successfully and the replica was taken to Israel Shipyards and then to Kishon harbor. The ship will be officially launched at the harbor according to all the proper ceremonies and will return to the waters where its elder sister sailed 2500 years ago. Prof. Yaacov Kahanov, the leading spirit behind the project, passed away just before the work was completed.

The launching ceremony will take place on Friday, 17 March 2007, from 10:00 a.m. at Shavit fishing and sailing harbor in Haifa – Nachal Kishon. We invite you to cover the event.

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The Nachal (River) Kishon is where the LORD defeated Jabin and Sisera at a point several miles east of the mouth of the river (Judges 4-5; Psalm 83:9). I wish I could be there to see the ship launched.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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