| 5 June 2004
New research may uncover Byblos' Bronze Age port
If archaeologist Ibrahim Noureddine is right, sunbathers at Byblos' beaches (Lebanon) may one day find themselves next to a Phoenician port. The underwater archaeologist is currently working on ancient ports, trying to figure out whether people in the Bronze Age built their harbors or used the natural foundation. It is not an easy task, as Noureddine does not even know for sure yet where to dig for the old harbors.
The current Byblos port could never have harbored Phoenician ships, Noureddine said. "It is too small." He is almost certain of this because ancient Egyptian rulers kept track of what they bought. The most famous of such records is the Palermo Stone, which lists events during the first five dynasties (2925-2325 BCE). On it, the Egyptians noted that Pharao Snefru ordered 40 ships filled with cedar wood from Byblos, each ship being 100 cubits, or about 50 meters long. "How could you have fit them into this tiny fishing harbor?" Noureddine asked. The current harbor is only 2.8 meters deep and couldn't have been deeper 4,500 years ago, because the ground is solid stone. Another reference to the ancient port, Noureddine said, is the diary of Wenamoun, from the 12th century BCE.
"The area overlooking the current port was excavated," Noureddine said. "The only area not excavated is south of the city." Thus, he believes the harbor must have been where today's Paradise Beach is located. While traces of a harbor should be found under the sand, Noureddine suspects a graveyard of Phoenician ships nearby. "But we would need submarines to find out," he said.
Noureddine, who is one of the few underwater archaeologists in Lebanon, has been diving in front of the beaches where he found several ancient anchors - flat stones with three holes in them - again supporting his theory. In the area he has located, he would like to dig boreholes in the sand taking samples, which would tell him more exactly where the harbor was located. If he could find traces, the Department of Antiquities would surely support him in digging out the harbor, he said.
Source: The Daily Star (1 June 2004)
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