Thursday, January 25, 2007

Medieval Boat

Medieval Boat Found Buried in Israeli Lagoon:

Much of the still-submerged ship is uniquely intact, with the stump of a mast still visible. On board, the archaeologists found 30 clay pots originating in Egypt and containing the remains of fish. They also found ropes, a wooden spoon and well-preserved 1,300-year-old olives and carobs.

Yaacov Kahanov, the Haifa University scholar leading the excavation, said the find was important both because of the boat's rare state of preservation and because the craft dates from a period about which historians know little.

Kahanov said the find also showed there was a settlement, previously unknown, in the early Arab period on the beach near where the boat was found.

"The sailors brought the boat into the lagoon deliberately, to meet someone, to sell or buy, meaning there was some kind of port nearby," Kahanov said.

More important, the boat could help to paint a picture of economic life in the Holy Land under Arab rule. Hailing from the desert, the new rulers had no seagoing tradition, and scholars are divided on whether trading patterns that existed before they arrived were preserved afterwards.

According to Joseph Drori, an expert on the Islamic period at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, the boat could offer an indication that sea trade continued uninterrupted.

"If the age of the boat is right, then this is a very important find," Drori said.

When the boat went down in the lagoon, the Holy Land was an administrative backwater ruled from Damascus by the caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty, who had just built the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The Muslim population was still small, and most people were Christian and Jewish in religion and Hellenistic in culture. The sailors were unlikely to have been Arabs, Drori said.

"The Arabs came with no knowledge of the sea, and drafted craftsmen, sailors and shipbuilders from the local population," Drori said.

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