From Israel Excavations at Tel Akko -- By: Abraham Rabinovich

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 10:1 (Winter 1981)
Article: From Israel Excavations at Tel Akko
Author: Abraham Rabinovich

From Israel
Excavations at Tel Akko

Abraham Rabinovich

Sitting comfortably beneath the canvas shade on the hilltop, it is easy to imagine Napoleon standing on this very spot, ordering his cannon to open fire on the walled city of Acre lying placidly a kilometer to the northwest like a bumpy tree-stump waiting for a boy to throw a stone at it.

Napoleon, his eye fixed on his place in history as he carried French arms and culture to the Levant, was unaware of the history curled up beneath his very feet — 4, 000 years of it screaming to be let out.

Prof. Moshe Dotan of Haifa University’s Department of Maritime Civilizations has been letting it out for the past six years in his dig on Napoleon’s Hill or Tel Akko. (The name Acre was bestowed by the Crusaders, who confused the town with the biblical city of Ekron.)

The cannon balls left behind by Napoleon’s army near the top of the 30 meter-high mound were not what he was looking for. It was the evidence that lay below of cultures ranging from Assyrian tyrannies to Aegean democracies, whose peoples had stood atop these same packed-earth ramparts and revelled in the same superb view.

Akko’s Strategic Location

“This layer is just industry and workshops from 1300 to 1150 B.C.,” said Dotan, pointing into one of the excavation pits. “Pottery making, metalworking, purple dye manufacturers. This continued to be industrial until a new element arrived.”

The new element, which is represented in the cleansed excavation area only by some grey ash, was sea peoples bearing artifacts and pottery stemming from the Aegean cultures to the northwest. Basing himself on Egyptian sources, Dotan believes these were not the Philistines, who landed further south on the coast, but Sardinians or, as the sources call them, the Shardan.

Why should industry be such a major factor in this and other civilization layers at Acre?

Dotan nodded at the large Koor industrial complex to the south of the tel and at the rest of the Acre industrial area.

“Proximity to the sea, the availability of clay, sand and other raw materials.” A major factor, he said, was Acre’s position at the crossroads between the coastal road (Via Maris) and the inland road to Damascus.

It was probably not the sea that attracted the first Canaanite settlers 4, 000 years ago, but the narrow stream a few hundred meters to the south of the tel that goes by the name of the Naaman River (the Belos River in antiquity). A handful of fishermen on its banks indicate that the river is still alive today. For the first settlers, the river was a...

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