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Phoenician Port in Danger


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A 2500 years old Phoenician port was discovered in Minet el Hossn, Beirut. It is threatened to be destroyed.

Venus Real Estate Development Co. owns the land containing the port, located in Solidere area. They are only awaiting the government’s permission to start building there three highly expensive towers. The discovery was made during excavation work. Venus’ plan is to cut pieces of the port and place them in the garden, thus destroying the discovery’s immense value [2].

The discovery is significant, as it is the first Phoenician remain that is discovered in Beirut [4]. It contains two parallel canals carved in the rock. They are 4.2 meters in width and 32 and 25 meters in length (but they were shortened by the construction of the road), and are found to be similar to the one found at Tell Dor in Palestine. Before this discovery, Tell Dor was unique in the world, which clearly shows the value of the discovery. The two canals are slipways that were part of a port. Small ships were taken out of the water into them for maintenance [1].

A great number of studies, by Lebanese archeologists such as Jeanine Abdul Massih (Lebanese University), Anis Chaaya (Ifpo), Eric Gottwalles (Université Saint-Esprit Kaslik) and Martine Francis-Allouche, and international experts such as David Blackman (Nautical Archaeology Society – UK), Jean-Yves Empereur (Centre d’études Alexandrines) and Marguerite Yon (CNRS – France), stress the importance of the discovery [1].

The name “Minet el Hossn” actually means “port of the fortress”, suggesting the presence of a port in the past [4]. Also, the port was located in a creek which offers a good protection for ships, and a picture from the early 20th century shows a small port in the same creek, confirming that it is an ideal location for a port [2]. Furthermore, the alignment of the canals is found to be in the extension of the creek [2]. In addition, they have a 3° inclination towards the sea, to prevent water from going up the ramps. Also, the port is at an elevation of 5-6 meters, which is in agreement with having a small inclination [1].

Based on the archeologist Hanz Curvers’ report (who is a consultant of Solidere, and is kown for his allegiances to contractors) [4], and disregarding all the other studies, Venus Real Estate claim the discovery is simply the remains of a quarry, that used to provide rocks for the construction of the old wall of Beirut [3]. However, the canals are found be perfectly straight and parallel, which suggests they were built for a specific purpose and not just for cutting rocks [2]. Also, examination of the rock strata shows it was not cut in way consistent with cutting rocks in quarries [2].

Venus Real Estate also says that it is too far from the shore (it is currently at a distance of around 250 meters) [3]. But in the past, the water went further in the land. And it should be noted that the byzantine port of Yenikapı in Istanbul is now 300m into the land [2]. Venus Real Estate also put forward the absence of postholes on the sides of the canals, which are found in the historical ports of Carthage in Tunisia and Kition in Cyprus [3]. However, these postholes are also absent in the slipways of Tell Dor. Also the ports Tell Dor and Beirut are dated to 5-6 centuries BC, and are older than those of Carthage and Kition, which are dated to 3-4 centuries BC. The latter two are also bigger (5.5-6 meters in width) than those in Tell Dor and Beirut, and served military ships [2].

This discovery is part of our history and culture. It surpasses any economical consideration. Too many archeological sites have been destroyed in the past, let us keep what remains.

Philippe Saliba

References

1)Francis-Allouche, Martine. “Les cales sèches ou cales à bateaux phéniciennes de Minet El-Hosn (Beyrouth).” Les carnets de l’Ifpo. N.p., 30 January, 2012. Web. 16 Mar 2012. <http://ifpo.hypotheses.org/2946&gt;.

2)Francis, Martine, and Grimal Nicolas . “Le port phénicien de Beyrouth.” Petition24.net. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar 2012. <http://www.petitions24.net/le_port_phenicien_de_beyrouth&gt;.

3)Jaafar, Hassan. “Venus Real Estate: La découverte n’est pas un port phénicien.” Libnanews. N.p., November 28, 2011. Web. 16 Mar 2012. <http://libnanews.com/2011/11/28/venus-real-estate-la-decouverte-nest-pas-un-port-phenicien/&gt;.

4)Rizkallah, Marie-Josée. “Premier port phénicien de Beyrouth du Ve s. av. J.C. déterré pour être probablement enterré à jamais.” Libnanews. N.p., 02 November, 2011. Web. 14 Mar 2012. http://libnanews.com/2011/11/02/premier-port-phenicien-de-beyrouth-du-ve-s-av-j-c-deterre-pour-etre-probablement-enterre-a-jamais/.

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Categories: Heritage
  1. Erik Vincenti Zakhia
    April 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Good Job Philippe !
    Esperons que tu ecrives plus souvent dans un futur proche 😉

  2. George Kanaan
    June 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Philippe Saliba you are an idiot who has no idea what he is talking about!

    Yours.
    The Lebanese People

    • Philippe Saliba
      June 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      ?? George Kanaan ? And can you tell me why the Lebanese People think I’m an idiot ?

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