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February 19, 2020 11:54 am

New Research Aims to Uncover Ancient Shipwrecks Off Israel’s Coast

avatar by Lauren Izso

Divers from the Leon Recanati Institute for Marine Studies. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Haifa.

A new three-year marine archaeology project will seek to explore Israel’s coasts, including ancient shipwrecks and submerged villages, aiming to find clues to the history of the last 11,000 years in the region.

“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,” said Assaf Yasur-Landau, director of the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa. 

After receiving a $1.3 million grant from the Koret Foundation, the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA) and the University of Haifa’s Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies will collaborate on the project.

“The Koret Foundation is thrilled to support this groundbreaking partnership between two world-class academic institutions as they make new discoveries to benefit all humankind,” said Anita Friedman, president of the Koret Foundation.

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The Koret Foundation, a private foundation based in San Francisco, is contributing funds as part of its US-Israel Bridge Building Initiative, that supports organizational collaborations between the two countries in areas of educational and humanitarian action programs.

“This partnership will further strengthen the bonds between the US and Israel, reinforcing the close ties between our two countries to respond to some of today’s most pressing environmental issues,” Friedman added.

The award will allow scientists to explore Israel’s Carmel Coast, giving them insight into how humans in the area adapted to their environment and climate over thousands of years.

UC San Diego’s Scripp’s Oceanography division has developed tools to carry out research in the fields of marine geology and geophysics, coastal processes, paleomagnetism, paleobiology and climate science. Together with the Leon Recanati Institute in Israel, it will launch a state-of-the-art research facility in the coastal city of Acre, inviting scientific diving students for field school seminars.

Not only is this a chance to research thousands of years of Middle East history, but also for scientists to hone their skills in the complex field of marine archaeology.

“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,” said John Hildebrand, professor of oceanography at Scripps and co-director of SCMA.

The scientists say the collaboration is a game-changer in the relatively new field of marine archaeology, and will allow research in a place rich with submerged cultural heritage.

“I am very excited for this tremendous opportunity in which both partners — the University of Haifa and UC San Diego — join forces to create path breaking underwater and coastal research as well as a joint training program on the Carmel Coast,” Yasur-Landau said.

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