The Ma'agan Mikhael Ship. The recovery of a 2400 year old merchantman

Dr. Elisha Linder (†)

Kibbutz Maagan Mikhael is located 35 km south of Haifa along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The ship was found 70 meters off shore in shallow water 1.8 meters deep and buried under a layer of sand, 1.5 meters thick. It was identified as a sailing merchantman with a displacement of about 23 tons that survived in an outstanding state of preservation, with all the lower portion of the hull remaining intact. C14 and ceramic analysis date the wreck to the end of the fifth century, BCE. Among the finds were thirteen tons of stones and rocks, seventy ceramic wares, food remnants, ropes, carpenter's tools and a one-arm wooden anchor. The ship, her finds as well as the construction techniques, arouse much interest among nautical archaeologists from all over the world.

The ship was dismantled underwater and the pieces were moved to conservation laboratories at the University of Haifa. After seven years of treatment, the conserved timbers were transferred to a museum, a wing of the Hecht Archaeological Museum, especially constructed for the ship on the univerity campus. The meticulous reassembly process which has been undertaken is similar to the construction of a huge 'jigsaw puzzle' and has incorporated intensive investigation and research at each stage.

Our volume describes the ship's sailing venture, nautical archaeological comparative studies, the underwater excavation, analysis of the finds and construction methods of the ship.

The Maagan Mikhael Ship is a unique find: the amount of timbers that surviveed is vast; it inckludes the entire bottom of the hull, up to and over the first wale. The keel is completely intact as well as the stem posts. Portions of eleven strakes survived to starboard and seven to port. Fourteen frames, the mast step and a few additional internal components were uncovered as well. Their state of preservation was excellent. Thus our thorough study of the ship provides updated information constantly. The abundance of artifacts that were found, both in number and quality, enables numerous scholars to be involved in different aspects of the research. Thus, this ship has become the subject of continuous research. In addition, several components od the ship are the subject for several master theses and one Ph.D. dissertation of our students. Thus, information culled from the ship has enriched our knowledge concerning maritime activity of the first millenium BCE.

Since all the ship's contents have been retrieved from the seabed and the hull dismantled underwater, scholars have had the unique opportunity of access and have been enabled to study every minute detail of the ship's construction. In addition, the conservation method was chosen by us because of its reversibility quality. It gives us the opportunity to analyze the wood as it was years ago preceding conservation. All the artifacts were retrieved from the ship prior to the treatment of the hull, making them accessible for continuous study. They are all stored at the museum at the University of Haifa. The timbers of the ship have now been completely reassembled and are on exhibition.