The Ma‘agan Mikhael ship was discovered off the Mediterranean coast of Israel in 1985. It was excavated for three seasons in 1988 and 1989 by the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa, with the late E. Linder as the head of the project. A significant portion of the wooden hull of the ship, 11.15 m long, 3.11 m wide and 1.5 m deep, survived. The ship was dated to about 400 BC. Due to the significance of the archaeological find, the hull and its contents were excavated, retrieved from the seabed, conserved and reassembled. The ship and the finds are exhibited in the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa, Israel.
The following parts of the wooden hull survived: the entire keel; the false keel; both endposts; sections of strakes – 12 on the starboard side (including two wales) and 7 on the port side; two knees (one at each end); parts of 14 full-frames, futtocks and top timbers; a central stringer resembling a keelson; the mast step assemblage; fragments of carlings; and four stanchions.
Most of the hull was made of softwood, Pinus brutia. The tenons and their pegs, the false keel and the anchor were made of hardwood, mostly Quercus spp. The hull was built by the shell-first method, meaning that the strakes were connected edge-to-edge by closely spaced mortise-and-tenon joints locked by tapered pegs. There were no traces of caulking material between the planks. After the planking was completed, knees were nailed to the keel and endposts, and the planks were sewn at bow and stern to the keel, knees, and endposts. The pre-assembled frames were then fixed to the planking by double-clenched copper nails. Frames rested on the keel and the knees, but were not connected to them. The hull was coated inside and outside with a mixture of pine resin and esparto wax or beeswax. The evidence indicates that the hull was built in a Greek (Phocaean) shipbuilding tradition.
The original merchant ship, as reconstructed, was 14.4 m long, with a beam of 4.24 m, and 2.6 m depth amidships. She had eighteen strakes, including three wales. Fully loaded with a cargo capacity of 15.9 tons, she displaced 22.9 tons, with a draught of 1.4 m. She was driven by a single square sail. The hydrostatic characteristics of the proposed design were tested by the Israel Administration of Shipping and Ports, and found to comply with present-day requirements for stability and seaworthiness.
The wreck of the ship was discovered in the sea off Kibbutz Ma‘agan Mikhael on the coast of Israel in 1985, and it was excavated in 1988 and 1989 by the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa. The aim of this research project is to build a full-scale sailing replica […]
Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa The aim of this research project is to build a full-scale sailing replica of the Ma‘agan Mikhael ship, based on the archaeological find and as faithful as possible to it, using the same materials and techniques as the ancient shipwrights. The original inspiration for the project […]