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Ancient harbors, sunken ships: Supporting marine archaeology off Israel's coast


Anthony Tamberino/SCMA

Nearshore excavation with newly developed barge system at biblical port of Tel Dor, Israel, by researchers at the University of Haifa and the University of Californian San Diego's Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology.

(JNS)-The University of California San Diego has announced a gift of more than $1.3 million from the Koret Foundation to support joint research on marine archaeology between UC San Diego's Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology and the University of Haifa's Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies in Israel.

The three-year award will facilitate scientific exploration of coastal environments in Israel, which offer the most sensitive deep-time records for how humans have adapted to climate and environmental change over the past 11,000 years. The relatively new field of marine archaeology offers new ways of investigating these issues through the ages. Through this collaboration, UC San Diego and the University of Haifa will deepen a long-term research and teaching collaboration along Israel's Carmel Coast.

"The world's oceans and seas are the last great frontier of archaeological exploration, and the Mediterranean Sea holds the oldest and most densely traversed maritime network in the world," explained Professor Thomas Levy, distinguished professor in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego and co-director of SCMA. "This new California-Israel collaboration will provide students and faculty from both the U.S. and Israel with unique opportunities for original research concerning climate, environmental and culture change."

Anita Friedman, president of the Koret Foundation, said "this partnership will further strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and Israel, reinforcing the close ties between our two countries to respond to some of today's most pressing environmental issues."

The Koret Foundation's U.S.-Israel bridge-building Initiative aims to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship in diverse ways by supporting organizational collaborations, educational and humanitarian programs, as well as opportunities for cooperation and exchange. In addition to its support of this project, Koret has supported other high-level collaborations among Stanford University, UC Berkeley and Tel Aviv University, and the Rambam Medical Center. These academic collaborations both advance critical scientific research, while simultaneously creating opportunity for deep relationships to develop between leading scholars from Israel and the United States.

The collaboration between Recanati and SCMA, co-led by SCMA, has the potential to advance the study of climate and environmental science by utilizing the rich archeology of the eastern Mediterranean. Israel's Carmel Coast provides an exceptional case study for investigating these problems because of its rich, submerged cultural heritage.

Over the past century, Scripps Oceanography has developed cutting-edge research tools to study environmental change involving marine geology and geophysics, coastal processes, paleomagnetism, paleobiology and climate science. SCMA researchers will utilize these tools and work in tandem with the University of Haifa to create a state-of-the-art research facility in Akko, Israel, where qualified scientific diver students will come on annual field-school seminars.

"The Koret Foundation's gift enables SCMA to marshal the excellence in marine and environmental science at Scripps Institution of Oceanography with more than 50 years of underwater archaeology expertise from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies," said John Hildebrand, distinguished professor of oceanography at Scripps and co-director of SCMA. "We see this as a unique opportunity to build up SCMA's international presence, as well as to bring the tool-kit we develop home to San Diego and apply it off the beach here in La Jolla."

Assaf Yasur-Landau, director of the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa, noted that "along the coast of Israel, submerged settlements, ancient harbors and sunken ships tell a unique story of 11,000 years of human resilience and adaptation. The exploration of this frontier can only be done with cutting-edge technologies and innovative training programs for archaeologists."

Levy and Hildebrand anticipate that this joint project in Israel will have significant public and scientific impact, bringing to light new discoveries, including ancient shipwrecks and submerged villages, ports and cities from the past 10,000 years in the Mediterranean region.


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