'Unprecedented' discovery of Ottoman era house in Israel provides fascinating glimpse into lives of fishermen 500 years ago

Remains of two buildings and artefacts dating back to the 16th century were unearthed on an Ashkelon beach

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Remains of two buildings dating back to the 16th century were found on an Ashkelon beachAn archeological dig has uncovered the first concrete evidence of fishing activity by previous inhabitants on a stretch of the Mediterranean coastline in Israel. 

The excavation, funded by the Israel Antiquities Authority, unearthed two buildings believed to date back from the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman King Selim I gained control of ancient Egypt, Syria and Palestine after defeating the Sultanate of Egypt in 1516.

“Two of the buildings that we uncovered are very curious, and it seems they were used as a fisherman’s house and a lookout tower, possibly a lighthouse, excavation directors Federico Kobrin and Haim Mamliya said in a statement. 

“The tower was situated on a lofty hilltop, and it looks out over the beach and Mediterranean Sea. From the tower one could signal and direct ships that were sailing between the ancient ports in Ashkelon and Ashdod-Yam.”

The project involved dozens of local children in an effort to engage them in history and the city’s coastal past.  The group managed to discover that the house was divided into three different rooms, which contained a wealth of important artifacts which gave clues to its usage, such as metal fishhooks, dozens of lead weights, a large bronze bell, and a stone anchor. 

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(Clara Amitt/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The building’s entrances were on the north-facing side to protect against high winds and storms, Kobrin added. 

The site of the discovery is located in a neighbourhood currently undergoing redevelopment. Planners said that the house and tower will be incorporated into new designs and preserved so future generations can enjoy them. 

Majdal, a village a few miles inland consisting of 559 households according to a 1596 Ottoman document, was one of the most populous settlements in the area at the time. 

 The ancient seaport of Ashkelon near the new find dates back to the Neolithic Age. 

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