Maagan Michael Boat

Maagan Michael Boat, By Oren Rozen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Ma’agan Micha’el shipwreck

A chance discovery of a 2,400-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Kibbutz Ma’agan Micha’el, 20 miles south of Haifa, has been yielding a storehouse of new insights into ancient seafaring and the shipwright’s art. Thanks to recent geomorphological changes—fluctuations in the sea level, sediment movements and shifts in local faults—along Israel’s seacoast, investigators are discovering more and more submerged antiquities.

We may have discovered, at last, a ship of Phoenician origin sunk along Israel’s Mediterranean coast almost 2,400 years ago. But the fact that after three seasons of excavation followed by intensive studies we still can’t be sure of the identity of the ship’s builders and sailors, illustrates just how difficult it is to interpret the evidence from this submerged vessel. What is certain, however, is that this is one of the best-preserved wooden-hulled ships ever discovered in the Mediterranean from such an early time.

The discovery was made by chance, along the shore of Kibbutz Ma’agan Micha’el, 20 miles south of Haifa, on the very spot where, more than 30 years earlier, marine archaeology in Israel had its beginning. In the fall of 1985, while diving along the coast in water less than 6 feet deep, a member of the kibbutz, Ami Eshel, noticed a pile of large stones not native to the Levantine coast.

Read the rest of Excavating an Ancient Merchantman in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.