A team of divers from Sidon has discovered the remains of what appears to be 11 ancient Greek ships thought to date from the third century B.C., a statement released by the group Tuesday said.
The team was led by Mohammad al-Sarji, head of the Lebanese Union of Professional Divers and director of the Sidon Diving Academy.
The ships were “probably involved in the campaign of Alexander the Great, who tried to enter and occupy the city of Tyre in 322 B.C. by building a road extending from the beach to the city walls of the island,” Sarji said, according to the Sidon Diving Academy statement.
Professor of archaeology at the Lebanese University Jaafar Fadlallah, who has been conducting research on the site, told The Daily Star how remains from the over 2,000-year-old boats could tell academics more about the circumstances of their destruction.
“The spread of broken pottery on the seafloor suggests that the goods were aboard a group of Greek ships on their way to the city of Tyre ... when a storm destroyed the boats and scattered their contents across the ocean floor,” Fadlallah said.
“We know that the Greek ships traveled in groups of 11, and the quantity of pottery suggests this was a full group of ships.”
The main center of Tyre had been a heavily fortified island, forcing Alexander the Great to build a causeway allowing him to breach the fortifications after laying siege to the city for seven months.
Sarji expressed belief that the ships would have transported the stones required to create the road. The ships may have sunk due to the weight of the load combined with high waves and strong winds, he said.
“It is known that Alexander the Great besieged the island for several months, trying to storm it in many ways but without merit,” Sarji added.
“In the end, he built a road from the mainland to the island which arrived on the [city’s] southeast side. He broke down the walls, entered and destroyed the city completely and took its inhabitants captive.”
Fadlallah said exploration work had been underway on the site for three months but the excavation and documentation of items would take much longer.
“On land you can work whenever you want. But underwater, you can only work for periods of two hours at a time, so this work will take a long time,” he said.
Sarji called on the Directorate General of Antiquities to begin work excavating the site and documenting the finds.
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