Photos (top to bottom): from the Crusader fortress looking down toward the built harbor (as opposed to the larger anchorage to the south); wandering amongst the collapsed Crusader walls.
Randi and I were exceptionally fortunate to have become involved with the archaeology (terrestrial and marine) at Apollonia over the past 18 years. The influence of the experience has been very significant for both of us. A new generation of archaeologists are now coming on the scene at Apollonia, as Israel Roll, Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University, and long-time lead researcher at Apollonia, has retired.
We toured Apollonia with Professor Roll last week, and he generously shared his encyclopedic knowledge with us. He explained that the area of the former munitions' factory, adjacent to the national park, has already been purchased, and is anticipated to become one of the most affluent and exclusive neighborhoods in the country. An American firm has been hired to clean-up the contaminants left by the munitions' factory for a cool $14 million (or was it $40 million?). Once the clean-up is completed (and the responsible party pays the bill, which may have to be resolved in litigation), then the clearing of the land may begin. The Israel Antiquities Authority will be on hand to oversee the rescue excavation of the extensive property to be developed. What this means exactly has not been made clear. At a minimum, officials may monitor the land development, and remove key artifacts for preservation. It will be a time to be in Israel to observe the process, as much of the commercial center of the ancient city may be revealed.
Yesterday, Randi, Eva and I chatted with Haggi, the administrator overseeing Apollonia. Haggi is himself an archaeologist with years of experience excavating at Apollonia and other sites around Israel. Here's what we learned from him:
An large earthen berm, perhaps 10 meters in height, located to the east of the Crusader fortress, was constructed by the munition's factory. One of the weapons being produced here was nitroglycerin, and to buffer the factory from a possible explosion, the berm was built. Haggi has observed that the berm is full of artifacts, all out of context, having been bulldozed. He suspects, however, that the Byzantine layers beneath the berm may be intact, and it is a location he'd like to excavate.
I asked Haggi about the area around the former munitions' factory, planned for development. His understanding is that test digs by the Israeli Antiquities Authority have revealed few artifacts out there, and a rescue excavation may be not necessary. This is surprising news. I would have expected that remnants of the commercial center might be found out there. However, as Professor Roll explained, the concentration of occupation and thus material artifacts diminishes as you move away from the city center.
I've learned that two teams will be working at Apollonia this summer: a group from Brown University, who will be using some high tech equipment to create a 3-D representation of the Crusader fortress; and a group of students and volunteers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and solicited through the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review (see BAR for information about volunteering). Professor Oren Tal, from Tel Aviv University, will be coordinating the TAU/BAR team, and will be focusing on an area immediately to the north of the Crusader fortress where an inscribed mosaic floor was discovered two years ago. Haggi also mentioned the possible excavation of a site where a knight, accompanying Richard-the-Lion-Hearted in the 3rd Crusade, may be buried. (I am thinking about returning to Israel this summer for the excavation season, despite the horrible heat.)
I asked Haggi about the worked flint we'd found to the south of the site, in the bluffs below a small school. It is in this same area that we'd found a concentration of human bones eroding from the bluffs, and an abundance of rounded cobbles. Based on his experience in using heavy machinery, Haggi felt that when the school was built, the soil may have been pushed seaward, leaving the layers in tact but sloping downward toward the west. He explained that worked stone has been found throughout Apollonia, and is attributed to seasonal camps during the Neolithic. The bones are thought to date to an Early Arab (638 - 1099 CE) cemetery. Haggi felt that the cobbles may have been placed by the municipality to obscure the eroding bones, and thus avoid all the politics associated with the discovery of human remains.
Thus we leave Israel. As Eva remarked, "We'll speak again when we have something to say."