The Discovery Of The Ancient Galilee Boat



In mid January 1986 during a dramatic drop in The Sea Of Galilee's water due to severe droughts that had left the area dry, Moshe and Yuval Lufan two brothers and fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar, were walking along the west shore when they discovered the outlines of a boat buried in the mud. The vessel had been buried in and protected by the seabeds sediments, encasing it in an anaerobic state and protecting it from bacteria and decay.

The Lufan brothers notified the Israel Antiquities Authority and an exciting marathon archaeological excavation commenced. The fragile ancient boat was carefully extracted from the mud Rescue operations began to recover and restore the boat before the rising water level covered it once more. The Israel Antiquities Authority assisted by many volunteers, rescued the boat in a remarkable eleven day excavation. and brought to shore for conservation and study.'

A peliminary survey of the exposed remains of the boat was conducted by the departments maritime inspection team. The remains were found to have mortise and tenon joints a technique know to have been used in constuctionof ships in the Mediterranean from as early as the second millennium BCE to the end of Roman period.

A two day excavation was undertaken in order to determine the dimension and preservation of the wreck and to attempt to determine its date. The craft was found to be  8.2 meters long, 2.3 meters wide and 1.2 meters high.

A cooking pot and a lamp were also uncovered which could help date it. The cooking pot, found outside the boat, neaar the prow could be dated to sometime between the mid-first century BCE and the mid-second century CE. However as there was a possibility that they had been washed in by the action of waves or current, they alone were not sufficient to date the craft. As the probe excavation progressed it became clear that much of the boats lowerhull was preserved, sealed in a very fine silt which had hardened into packed mud. Though the waterlogged wood looked solid, it was not capable of supporting its own weight, and once exposed to air was in grave danger of disintergrating.

Steps were taken to prevent damage while assessing the possibilities of uncovering and preserving the vessel.

Excavation commenced on the 16th of February 1986. As the sea level was rapidly rising and there was danger of the waters covering the site, a masssive dike was constucted by the Kinneret Authority, Supplemented by pumps, which kept the excavation pit clear of water. The excavation work lasted eleven days, working around the clock.          




At first, a relatively small pit was dug around the boat and mud was cleared from within it. Avertical section was excavated at midships to determine the preservation of the lower parts of the hull. Mud from the excavation was removed into numbered boxes, later examined for additional artifacts which might have been overlooked in the dark. These efforts paid off when an arrowhead was discovered in one of the boxes. As the excavation continued it was necessary to enlarge and deepen the pit around boat in order to facilitate work on the outer surfaces. Within the hull the earth was removed gradually, first by shoval and the by hand. A suspended platform was constructed to enable the excavators to dig without causing damage to the boat.

While plastic lines were used to mark the joints between adjacent strakes (planks). The various boat parts were numbered with red tags and a detailed diagram of the hull was prepared. The boat had a distinct list so that the port side was better preserved while less of the starboard side remained.

Two additional boat fragments-each consisting of several strakes and frames- were uncovered near the boat.

The mortise and tenon craftmanship of these fragments difered from that of the boat under excavation. Also found were numerous wood fragments which appear to have been waste from ship building activities.

It is built in the typical ancient Mediterranean "shell based" construction, employing pegged mortise and tenon joints to edge-join the planking. Iron nails hold the frames to the hull.