During the lst millennium AD, there was a transition in Mediterranean shipbuilding from ‘shell-first’ construction based on strakes, to ‘skeleton-first’ construction, in which strakes were fastened to the completed keel and frames. Since the transition was not a linear process, there were varying combinations of the two technologies. The aim of this research project is to excavate a shipwreck dated to the late Byzantine or early Islamic period, which was recently discovered off the shore of Kibbutz Ma‘agan Mikhael, Israel, and to study its construction details and its potential contribution to knowledge of the transition in ship construction.
The shipwreck is located about 100 m from the shoreline, in a water depth of about 3 m, covered by a layer of sand. The shipwreck was discovered in a sub-bottom profiler survey in May 2015. A water-jetting survey in August 2015 exposed fragments, apparently from two different tree species, an 18-cm-long piece of rope, and a pine cone. A single wooden fragment and a sample from the rope were sent for 14C AMS dating, and the results span 650–885 AD, which includes the late Byzantine and early Islamic periods in the region.
The proposed research project involves a long-term underwater excavation of the shipwreck within a framework of interdisciplinary research that includes an in-depth study of the surviving hull remains, artefacts, and historical context. There will also be a broader investigation into the ship’s place in the transition in ship construction. The following two main aspects will be explored:
(1) Ship construction during the second half of the 1st millennium AD.
(2) Seafaring, seamanship and commerce along the Levant coast during the late Byzantine and early Islamic periods.