If archaeologists are right, our understanding of Byblos will soon change dramatically. For years, people have assumed that the ancient city’s Phoenician port was situated in the same area as the current medieval-era harbor, populated by fish restaurants and tourist traps:
But new surveys by marine archaeologist Martine Francis-Allouche indicate that the ancient port is in fact just south of the harbor and the Byblos ruins site as indicated by the red circle in this map, near all the beach resorts:
The Phoenician port is actually buried under millennia of silting, according to Francis-Allouche and her colleagues. Geophysical tests show the ancient shoreline was actually 100 meters above the current beach. They have already dug up Phoenician anchors in the area:
The archaeologists want to keep digging on the site to see if they can find more structures belonging to the port, perhaps even some ships if they are lucky. But as you can tell by the map above, the site of the archaeology and potentially the actual Phoenician harbor of Byblos, is also the future home of the latest $12 million beach resort backed by a former Lebanese minister.
As I have covered previous posts, activists are already fighting to stop this resort because the land also contains modern history of the earliest Armenian settlements in Lebanon, including Byblos’s first Armenian church and a cemetery for genocide survivors. To learn more about how all these actors are coming together, and what the developers have to say about their pledge to make the site accessible to the public*, see my latest piece on the discoveries and the controversy at Al Fanar Media. Here is an excerpt:
In the 11th century before Christ, the ancient Egyptian traveler Wenamon describes standing in the office of the prince of Byblos, the waves of the Mediterranean Sea crashing outside the window behind him, as though they were “hitting the back” of the prince’s head.
Wenamon had been sent by Egypt’s King Ramses XI on a mission to retrieve cedar wood to repair a sacred vessel. The negotiations were tense, and the Egyptian envoy was eventually forced to send home for more money to buy the wood. The Pharaohs had long relied on Lebanon’s then-plentiful forests for the building of their temples, furniture and ships. According to his account, Wenamon surveyed the logs of timber piled up on the Byblos shore ready for export, with 20 ships moored in the harbor.
Now, over 3,000 years later, contemporary Lebanese archaeologists have made new discoveries revealing the location of where exactly that harbor may be buried and the pivotal role of Byblos, one of the world’s oldest cities, in the ancient maritime supply chain.
NOTE: The developers have requested that I make clear in this post their stated aim to support the archaeological excavation and make the site accessible to “all the Lebanese people”, although they cannot yet say how physically this will happen within a private resort at this stage of planning. See the article linked above for more details on their position.