Jun 13

It seemed like a nice dry place… now monument under the Sea of Galilee

Well, it seemed like a nice dry place… now monument is under the Sea of Galilee. A large monument about 70 metres across, 12 metres high has been found below the waves of the Sea of Galilee.
When it was built about 6,000 years ago, the site was on dry land.
“The base of the structure — which was once on dry land — is lower than any water level that we know of in the ancient Sea of Galilee. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that water levels have been steadily rising,” said professor Shmulik Marco of Tel Aviv University’s department of geophysics and planetary sciences. Because the Sea of Galilee is a tectonically active region, the bottom of the lake, and therefore the structure, may have shifted over time. Further investigation is planned to increase the understanding of past tectonic movements, the accumulation of sediment, and the changing water levels throughout history.

Shmulik Marco Credit - Basalt boulders form conical mound at bottom of Galilee.

Shmulik Marco Credit – Basalt boulders form conical mound at bottom of Sea of Galilee were originally built where it seemed like a nice dry place to build, say researchers.

The 60,000 tonne structure is made of basalt boulders hauled almost two kilometres reported Marco.
Basalt is common on the Golan Heights but not in this area of the lake.
Marco added, “the base of the structure — which was once on dry land — is lower than any water level that we know of in the ancient Sea of Galilee.”
The Journal of Nautical Archaeology article attributed the submergence to either tectonic movement or rising water levels.
According to the June 10, 2013 press release, the research team plans to further investigate “past tectonic movements, the accumulation of sediment, and the changing water levels throughout history” to determine how the structure ended up at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.
The ancient community of Beth Yerat was not inhabited during the Biblical period or 1200 to 450 BCE, by then it had been abandoned or destroyed but it was reinhabited during the Persian period and the early Islamic period. The Hebrew name means House of the Moon (god) and the site is an archaeological mound itself, located on the south shore of the lake, where the Jordan river runs out. The mound or ‘tell’ covers about 50 acres and contains remains from a similar period of the Bronze age as the submerged cone-shaped structure. The Arabic name for the community was Khirbet Kerak or Ruins of the Castle and probably comes from the Roman fort built in the area.
Starting at the end of June, 2013 and running until the end of August 2013, the Archaeological Institute of America is running a project to explore the old site of Beth Yerah. Here is how it describes it: “Tel Bet Yerah (Khirbet Kerak) is a large mound situated on the Sea of Galilee, at the outlet of the River Jordan in Israel. Occupied throughout the Early Bronze Age and sporadically in later times, Bet Yerah was a fortified city at the beginning of the third millennium B.C.E.. It had contact with the First Dynasty kings of Egypt and was later home to a unique ceramic tradition: Khirbet Kerak Ware, with roots in the South Caucasus. In 2013, students and volunteers will continue to investigate the monumental Circles Building (granary), excavating a nearby plaza and houses dating to 3000 – 2800 B.C.E.”
The team examining the newly discovered underwater site also included TAU Profs. Zvi Ben-Avraham and Moshe Reshef, and TAU alumni Dr. Gideon Tibor of the Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute.
While the structure was discovered in 2003 during a sonar survey of the lake, publication about the study the discovery entailed was just made this spring.
Researchers say it’s possible the site is linked to a nearby town, Beit Yerah, which was a major settlement during the Bronze Age which was between 2200 and 3300 BCE.
The Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel, is also known as Lake Tiberias or Lake Kinnerat. It’s about 53 kilometres in circumference and a maximum depth of 43 metres. It’s the lowest freshwater lake on the planet and the second lowest body of water in the world with the Dead Sea being the lowest – it’s a saltwater lake and the lowest point in the valley at about 790 metres below sea level at the bottom of the Dead Sea – the shore is about 400 metres below sea level.
It’s located in the Jordan Rift Valley which is part of the African Great Rift Valley formation. This is caused by the sliding of the African plate and the Arabian plate. It was formed during the Miocene Epoch which was 5 million to almost 24 million years ago as the Arabian plate moved northward and then eastward away from the African plate. It has created the lowest land on Earth, including the two lowest bodies of water, mentioned above.
The area has long been a choice one for human and pre-human settlement. The abundant water of the lake and rivers along with the fertile plains have attracted settlement, say researchers. At El-ʿUbeidīya, three kilometres south of the lake, lacustrine or lake formations dating from about 400,000 to 500,000 years ago have revealed prehistoric tools and two human fragments, which are among the oldest in the Middle East. Canaanite (ancient Palestinian) structures have been uncovered that date back to between 1000 and 2000 BCE. In the first century CE the region was rich and populated; the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of nine cities on the shores of the lake in ancient times, but of these only Tiberias has survived. Tiberias, on the western shore, north of the Beth Yerah site, was one of the four Jewish holy cities, and Kefar Naḥum (Capernaum), near the northwestern shore, has preserved one of the most beautiful synagogues of the Galilee region, dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries ce. A sanctuary for the Druze (an independent sect founded in the 11th century that followed a creed containing elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) is located near Kefar Ḥittim near the western shore. The Sea of Galilee is well-known to Christians because Christ’s miracle work as reported in the Bible took place in the region, including his walking on water and feeding the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and and a few fish.
Marco and company didn’t expect to find the basalt pile. They were trying to determine where a certain kind of pebble found in the area came from, suspecting it was washed down the watercourse now occupied by the River Jordan, south of the lake.
As they did sonar readings of the south end of the lake, a sudden mound appeared on what was a fairly level lake bottom. Marco dived on the pile and found it was a structured pile made of one metre long volcanic stones – the nearest source of which was more than a mile away.
The age of the site was determined by the build up of lake sediment, which was about three metres deep over the base of the mound.

TAU Credit - Shmulik Marco.

TAU Credit – Shmulik Marco.

What’s next? Marco says they will organize a specialized underwater excavation team to examine the site more, hoping to find artefacts that will help date the structure more accurately. He said it could be just as important for explaining the geological history.

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