3400-Year-Old Canaanite Citadel Will Be Basement of High Rise in Israeli City
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that part of the remains of a recently unearthed Bronze Age citadel will be preserved and become a mini-museum of a high rise building in Nahariya, Israel. They decided that this would be the best solution for both the public and for conservation, due to the “extraordinary nature and quality” of the site.
Some of the archaeological materials uncovered at the site include: ceramic figurines of humans and animals, bronze weapons, and imported pottery vessels. Analysis of the pottery is providing evidence for the “extensive commercial and cultural relations that existed at that time with Cyprus and the rest of the lands in the Mediterranean basin” Nimrod Getzov, Yair Amitzur and Dr. Ron Be’eri, excavation directors on behalf of the IAA told Israel National News .
Female figurines dating to the Late Bronze Age. ( Eran Gilvarg/IAA )
Other important discoveries found amongst the ruins are plentiful remains of cereals, legumes and grape seeds “which are indicative of the provisions the sailors would purchase” according to the IAA archaeologists. This is consistent with their belief that the site was used as an administrative center that served Mediterranean mariners. Furthermore, the site was found to have been burnt to the ground four times and rebuilt each time. The IAA also believes that there was once a dock alongside the citadel.
The news agent Haaretz reports that the grapes may have been used to make a local wine instead. This hypothesis has come about with the discovery of clay vessels dating to 4,000 years ago in the cellar of a Canaanite palace nearby. Remains of red wine, “and a fine, aromatic vintage fit for a king at that” were said to have been found inside the vessels at the palace. The link between the grapes of the fort and those of the palace remains tentative, although it is well-documented that the Canaanites liked their wine.
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The excavation of the citadel has been a long process completed by the IAA in conjunction with youth groups, in an attempt to involve the younger generations in local heritage. It was also carried out as a part of a project by the Kochav Company (which is building the high rise). The IAA said that the architect Alex Shpol , planner for the Interior Ministry's regional committee, drew up the plans for construction in a way that will preserve part of the citadel in the basement level of the building, and the ruins as well as the artifacts found and the site will “be displayed for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors.”
Part of the remains of the Canaanite citadel exposed in the Middle of Nahariya, Israel. ( Eran Gilvarg, IAA )
The story of the Canaanites still has many gaps. It is known that Canaan was the name of a large and prosperous country which corresponds roughly to present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. Canaan was sometimes a tributary nation to Egypt and at other times it was independent. The details of the Canaanite ruling system have remained elusive.
As Haaretz reports, it also remains unknown why “there have been no significant findings of alphabetic writing from the region during the Middle Bronze Age, though neighboring Egypt and Mesopotamia had advanced civilizations with highly advanced writing systems.”
Fragments of decorated pottery vessels imported from Cyprus and Greece 3,400 years ago and unearthed at the fort. (Guy Fitoussi/ IAA )
Details on what caused the series of destruction in Canaanite cities and the lack of development in the Canaanite culture around 1250-1200 BC also has evaded researchers. There is some indication however, that a catastrophic event, or series of events, may have been part of the problem.
Furthermore, there is evidence that Canaanite religion was based on agriculture and had pronounced fertility motifs. The most important gods of the Canaanites were called Baalim (Lords) and their consorts were Baalot (Ladies). Women were also thought to have had a relatively advanced status, and they served as priestesses, owned land, entered into contracts, and could initiate divorce.
The IAA told The Jerusalem Post that more of the excavation’s findings will be presented to the public at a joint conference of the Northern Region of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Haifa on January 7.
Featured Image: Aerial view of the remains of the citadel, Nahariya, Israel. Source: Guy Fitoussi/IAA
By: Alicia McDermott