Tyre, Lebanon - ongoing
In 1966, Honor Frost began diving in Tyre, on the southern coast of Lebanon, in order to investigate “some of the puzzling areas mentioned by Renan and Poidebard and to assess whether by using modern methods, it would be possible to add to Poidebard’s picture of this site” (Frost 1972: 109). She had spent more than seven years going over the same ground in more detail, recognising that harbour surveying is a lengthy and interdisciplinary process. As such she consistently expressed gratitude to the circumstances in which she worked, including the support and hospitality of the Institut Français d’Archéologie de Beyrouth and the availability of specialists centred in Lebanon during the 1960s and those abroad as well.
“On the 16th of September 1966, I spent five hours being towed along the landward side of the northern reef, stopping to dive on unusual features and landing on the rocky islets. In this way it was possible to get a general impression of the area and, by making traverses, to examine the submerged northern and southern limits of the reef” (Frost 1971: 107).
Work has continued in Tyre, click on the tabs below to find out more about projects supported by the Foundation.
Beginning in the 1960’s, Honor Frost initiated several investigations aimed at identifying the existence of harbour installations around the coast of Tyre. While her initial exploration focused on the southern side of the former island, she also identified the significant archaeological potential for harbour facilities within the northern coast of Tyre (Frost, 1971). Later, she encouraged local Lebanese archaeologists to continue this research and provided mentorship to the first underwater investigations lead by Noureddine and el Hélou in 2001 who had been appointed by the DGA. The underwater investigations conducted by the Lebanese team confirmed the existence of a man-made structure within the northern harbour area of Tyre, in addition to confirming the high potential for the existence of significant submerged archaeological resources in the surrounding area (Noureddine and Hélou, 2005).
Frost continued to advise Noureddine and el Hélou on scientific and historic principals during subsequent investigations within the northern harbour at Tyre. The team continued to investigate the archaeological significance of the area, with the main focus revolving around the identification of an ancient jetty structure. Based on subsequent research and underwater investigations in 2004 (Castellvi et al, 2007) and 2005 (Noureddine, 2008) this underwater structure has been interpreted as representing a harbour jetty installation suggested to date to the Phoenician Iron Age. This interpretation is based on a number of attributes, including comparative construction methods and materials used for Phoenician harbours identified at Tabbat al-Hammam and Atlit (Noureddine, 2010).
The site is located on the old, submerged breakwater on the northern side of Tyre. Its length was about 80 meters, and its width is about 12.7 meters consisted of large headers laid across. It is remarkable that many quarrying marks have been documented and the last course of the mole structure has been confirmed, measuring over 4.5 meters of the wall’s façade. Scattered stones were present in the inside area of the mole as well as the outside area where the most recent excavation was conducted, mixed in bulk with sediment over the entire area of the excavation on various levels.
The scattered stones, which are essentially of the same nature as the “Ramleh” blocks that made up the mole, come in different shapes and sizes; some are cut well and even bear marks. Ceramics study in the inner lower levels of the excavation trenches determined that the deep low levels are intact. The ceramics date from the mid-7th century BC to the mid-8th century BC. Whereas the outside trench ceramics are generally mixed compared to the inner area, however, the lowest levels show consistency with the iron age 7-8 century BC. We have identified 7 courses comprising the mole so far.
The 2021 field season consisted of ten divers including professional maritime archaeologists, and two students. During the 2021 season, the team worked near the Pierhead, the extreme eastern point of the mole. A trench just over 4 m thick, and about 6 m wide was excavated into the base foundation. The work took place from 18th September to 17th October, 2021. The project allowed mainly Lebanese and some French students to train and familiarize themselves with the use of the underwater dredging machine, lifting bags, and other equipment used for measuring and surveying the site. The objectives of the 2021 field season have been completed: new quarrying marks and the foundation course of the wall have been identified. The team also conducted three test pits to investigate a large structure found adjacent to the present mole, though no direct relationship to the mole can be identified so far. Currently, the team are aiming to strategize operations to perceive the environment of the mole. Therefore, a virtual grid was created to plan excavations and test pits in various spots around the mole, in order to have a better understanding of the history of the ancient port of Tyre.
The team are planning to continue work at the site from 2022 to 2024. The site is still yielding more aspects and structures that are unique in the region and that require more investigation. The entire area of the north Harbour is extremely rich in archaeological aspects and artefacts where answering some scientific questions resulted in more questions creating exceptional data of information that could be utilized as a source for studies in many regions.
Throughout the course of at least three field seasons the team aim to achieve the following objectives that could help in answering some scientific questions, and continue building technical data:
• Finding the link between the Mole structure and the land,
• Studying the submerged shoreline area and,
• Investigate the opposite area east of the existing Mole structure.
2022 Project Update
The following summarizes the 2022 field season of the archaeological excavation and investigations of the Ancient North Harbour at Tyre. Recently, the results of previous seasons including the 2018, 2019 and 2021 were published in Bulletin d’archéologie et d’architecture libanaises (BAAL). This project is a joint project between the La Direction Générale des Antiquités -Lebanon DGA, and the University of Perpignan – CRESEM/ARESMAR – France and the team comprised both Lebanese and French members including students from both countries.
The site is located on the old, submerged breakwater on the northern side of Tyre. Its length was about 80 meters, and its width is about 12.7 meters consisted of large headers laid across. Over the years, the excavation team has dug various archaeological trenches. During the 2022 season, our team focussed the worked at the western section of the mole. 3 trenches were excavated, 1 trench on each wall and a third trench was excavated in the area between both. The work took place from September 18 to October 10, 2022.
The operations consisted of underwater surveys and excavations, which were carried out following the principles of the scientific excavation and documentation of archaeological sites. They are conducted using a combination of invasive techniques including excavation, sampling diver surveys, and photogrammetry. The main objectives of the operations were to document and characterize the marine environment, to assess the current state of the structures that identifies underwater archaeological features, and to carry out excavations to be able to obtain information about the use and function of the structures. The 2022 field season focused on the western limits of both walls of the mole and the 8 m void area between them, and to investigate the structural relation between the submerged mole and the Al Moubarkeh tower. During the fieldwork season, two aligned trenches were positioned parallel to each other on both walls: trench S1 on the north side of the north wall, and trench S2 on the north side of the and south wall. A third trench identified as S3 was laid perpendicular between the first two in the middle (void) area. The results were very interesting and unexpected, new marks have been found on the stones and the investigations have made it possible to better understand the layout of the structure.
Images from the 2019 excavation season
Images from the 2021 excavation season