Photo Credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Young people who worked on the archaeological excavation.

A building used by fishermen in the Ottoman period, containing fishhooks and fishing weights, was exposed in an archaeological excavation conducted in Ashkelon, north of the Gaza Strip.

Young residents of Ashkelon and the vicinity who were employed by the Israel Antiquities Authority in an archaeological excavation in the city, recently uncovered buildings that were once used by local inhabitants who were engaged in fishing along the Mediterranean coast. The excavation was carried out for the Ashkelon municipality, at the initiative of the Ashkelon Economic Company, in an area where a new neighborhood is slated to be built, in the northern part of the city.

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As part of a project being led by the IAA and aimed at educating young people about their past, dozens of boys and girls were engaged in the challenging work of unearthing the coastal city’s past.

The finds that were discovered: metal fishhooks, dozens of lead weights, a large bronze bell.

According to the excavation directors, Federico Kobrin and Haim Mamliya, “Two of the buildings that we uncovered are very curious, and it seems they were used as a fisherman’s house and a lookout tower, possibly a lighthouse, dating back to the Ottoman period (1299 to 1922 CE). The tower was situated on a lofty hilltop, and it looks out over the Mediterranean Sea. From the tower one could signal and direct ships that were sailing between the ancient ports in Ashkelon and Ashdod-Yam.”

Kobrin adds, “The fisherman’s house is divided into three rooms, and a wealth of artifacts was discovered in it that are indicative of its use: metal fishhooks, dozens of lead weights, a large bronze bell, and even a stone anchor. The building’s entrances were fixed in the north in order to prevent the high winds and sea storms from entering into it.” According to the archaeologists, “this is the first time that a building was exposed in Ashkelon that we can attribute with certainty to the fishing industry.”

Federico Kobrin, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, near the lookout tower.

Kobrin noted that “working with youth was both a challenge and extremely satisfying. The young people participated in uncovering part of their city’s past; they labored diligently and conscientiously, showed their interest and curiosity regarding the finds, and it was a pleasure to work with them.”

The fisherman’s house will be preserved and incorporated in the development of the neighborhood and strip of beach for the benefit of the residents and to create a connection between them and those who lived and fished there in the past.

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