Photo Credit: Yaniv Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority
The covered passage in the Crusader fortress leading to the halls and the excavation site.

Horse stables from 1265 CE, the Crusader period, according to the researchers, were discovered in the Apollonia National Park, located on a calcareous sandstone cliff facing Herzliya beach.

The stables were discovered as part of archaeological excavations conducted by Tel Aviv University in collaboration with Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority. The excavation, which was completed recently, was led by Prof. Oren Tal of Tel Aviv University and Hagai Yohanan of the Nature and Parks Authority.

One of the tying stone and the stone shelf that was used as mangers in the Apollonia fortress. / Yaniv Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority
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The excavations took place on the western side of the ancient Crusader fortress, in its northern wing. A stone shelf was found there which the researchers estimate was used for mangers, as well as tying stones with rock-hewn rings that were probably used to tie horses.

Drainage holes were exposed in the plaster floor of the hall, indicating the collection of liquids, probably urine.

The size of the excavated hall is about 20 meters long and 8 meters wide. It is located at the end of the western cliff, offering a spectacular view of the sea.

The northwestern hall in a fortress that was exposed in excavations and served as horse stables. / Yaniv Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority

A number of ash pits were found in the excavation of the hall, which indicates food preparation activity. These finds, alongside bowls and other ancient dishes found at the site, have led researchers to speculate that the northern hall changed its designation during the Mamluk siege imposed in March-April of 1265 by al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari—in short, Baibars. The site became a refuge for the inhabitants of the city and the knights of the fortress alike.

A shooting slit that was used for protection in the Apollonia fortress. / Yaniv Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority

In addition, a shooting slit facing north with a spectacular view was found, which was probably used by the inhabitants of the fort for protection.

According to Hagai Yohanan, head of the heritage dept. for the Central District of the Nature and Parks Authority, and one of the directors of the excavation at the Apollonia National Park: “The excavation that has just been completed and exposed the floor of the northern hall is the fourth in a series of excavations in the Crusader fortress, designed to preserve the special findings, produce and cultivate additional points of interest for the public visiting the site, and protect the cliff on which the Crusader fortress is located by fixing the drainage system. The findings are fascinating and add another layer to the story of Apollonia.”

Remains of imported bowls that were used mainly for decoration and possibly also for eating. / Yaniv Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority

The construction of the Crusader fortress dates back to 1241 and its destruction to 1265 when it was conquered by Baibars. The Mamluk Sultan commanded the Egyptian forces that defeated the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France (namesake of Louisville and St. Louis).

The fort’s layout was influenced by similar fortresses in Western Europe and indicates that the architect was European. The fort has several defense structures: a deep and spacious moat, a first wall (an external fortification array), a second wall, and a dungeon.

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