The world's oldest wooden anchor was discovered during excavations in the Turkish port city of Urla, the ancient site of Liman Tepe -- the Greek 1st Millennium BCE colony of Klazomenai, by researchers from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies of the University of Haifa. The anchor, from the end of the 7th century BC, was found near a submerged construction, imbedded approximately.1.5 meters underground.
The cooperative project between the University of Haifa and Ankara University sparked local interest, not only in marine archaeology, but also in the team of Israeli archaeologists. Israeli-Turkish relations have had their ups and downs over the past few years, but the cooperation between the Institute for Marine Studies at the University of Haifa and Ankara University has continually strengthened. In 2000, Prof. Hayat Erkanal of Ankara University invited Prof. Michal Artzy and scholars from the University of Haifa to join them in archaeological excavations in the port of Urla, a port city located near Izmir, with more than 5,000 years of maritime history. Remnants of an ancient port were uncovered during the excavations.
The finds revealed that the port, which served the ancient Greek settlement of Klazomenai, sunk following a natural disaster, probably an earthquake, in the 6th century BC. As there is no record of any such event occurring during this period, the actual cause of port's destruction remains a mystery.
During the recent excavation season, it became clear that a wooden log that was found wedged into the ground at the bottom of the ancient harbor in 2003 is actually a wooden anchor with a metal-covered crown. The anchor was found wedged into the ground one and a half meters below the surface and was dated from the end of the 7th century BC, which makes it the oldest wooden anchor found to date.
"In addition to the damage it caused to the port, the natural disaster that hit the area also destroyed the area of the city that was built along the coast. As soon as we finish uncovering the finds of the harbor we will know more about this period and perhaps we will know what actually caused the disaster," said Prof. Michal Artzy, who leads the University of Haifa team of researchers.
The excavations not only revealed interesting archaeological finds. For six years, while excavating the site, the researchers from the University of Haifa trained teams of divers and marine archaeologists from Ankara University, which is now opening a new institute for marine studies. During the years of excavations, the local community welcomed the Israelis with warm hospitality. Fascinated with their guests, the community began to research its own Jewish roots, and two forgotten Jewish cemeteries were recently discovered in the city.
The team from Haifa will return for a seventh season of cooperative excavations this summer. The "Haifa House", which was built to house the Israeli staff, with the help of the City of Urla and the Turkish Minister of Culture, is awaiting their arrival.