The remains of the Ma‘agan Mikhael ship were discovered off the coast of Israel in 1985, and excavated in 1988 and 1989 by the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa. A significant portion of the wooden hull survived and the vessel which was dated to around 400 BC was built ‘shell-first’ – the strakes were edge-jointed by pegged mortise-and-tenon joints. This 30-year-long research project was completed by building a full-scale sailing replica of the Ma‘agan Mikhael ship, based on the archaeological evidence. The construction of the replica took about two and a half years, and the official launch took place on 17th March 2017. The ship is 16.6 m in overall length and 4.3 m in beam, with a displacement of 22.9 tons. The ship was rigged with a mast carrying a single square sail, based on iconography of vessels from this period. The hydrostatic characteristics of the ship were tested and found to comply with present-day requirements for stability and seaworthiness. The ship received its sailing certification and is now being made ready for a series of spring and summer sailings along the coast of Israel in preparation for an autumn sail in the open Mediterranean to a destination against the prevailing winds, probably to Cyprus or Greece. The aim of this research project is to learn how to sail an ancient square-sailed vessel, with emphasis on destinations against the prevailing winds, and to understand the seamanship and life on board during this period, as well as to investigate the sailing characteristics of Ma‘agan Mikhael II (the replica).
The building of the replica was undertaken with support from the Honour Frost Foundation, the final report for that project is available here.