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ARCHAEOLOGIST LAWRENCE E. STAGER OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WILL SPEAK ABOUT THE RECENT DISCOVERY OF THE OLDEST KNOWN DEEP-WATER SHIPWRECKS Lecture will explore "Phoenician Port Power: The Organization of Maritime Trade and Hinterland Production" on Wednesd

Emily Darrow

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.- Last June, archaeologist Lawrence Stager and oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered two ancient Phoenician cargo ships, the oldest known deep-water shipwrecks, thirty miles off the coast of Israel. On Wednesday, May 3, Dr. Stager, who is the Dorot Professor of Archaeology of Israel at Harvard University and the project director of the Ashkelon Excavations: The Leon Levy Expedition, will examine this historic find in a lecture entitled "Phoenician Port Power: The Organization of Maritime Trade and Hinterland Production." The lecture will take place at 2:00 p.m. in the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

The exploration team led by Dr. Stager and Dr. Ballard utilized the same deep-sea reconnaissance techniques used to locate the Titanic, including sophisticated sonar technology and a remote-operated deep-water submersible called Jason. One of the ships is about sixty feet long, the largest pre-classical ship ever discovered. The vessels were transporting hundreds of amphorae-clay jars used to ship wine-which were found intact. The distinctive design of the amphorae indicated that the wrecks date back to the period between 750 and 700 B.C.E., about the time Homer was starting to compose his epic poems. According to Stager, the ships and their contents were found sitting upright and almost perfectly preserved due to the sea-bottom mud into which the wooden hulls and remains had sunk.

In the lecture at Bard, Dr. Stager will discuss the history of the two ships, which set sail from the Phoenician homeland (modern Lebanon) about 2700 years ago. These two vessels, laden with tons of wine-filled amphorae, sank in a storm while on their way to Egypt or to the fledgling colony of Carthage. Ballard and Stager mapped and surveyed the ships, now lying on the sea floor at a depth of 1500 feet. Stager will examine the ships and their cargoes within the broader context of Phoenician commercial activities and "port power." "I think the primary benefit of this type of find is a better understanding of the economy of the time," Stager explains. "When we fit the ships in with the seaports and their hinterlands we can better understand how economic resources were developed on land, channeled through the ports, and shipped abroad along well-established sea routes."

The seafaring Phoenicians founded colonies throughout the Mediterranean from circa 800 - 600 B.C.E. "Although it seems that their major objectives were to exploit the precious metals and other resources of the hinterlands, their settlements and material culture appear mainly on the seacoasts," says Stager. "To explain this settlement pattern I cobbled together what I call the 'port power' model. That attempts to show how the production centers of the interior were integrated, in a non-coercive manner, with the coastal colonies and overseas emporia." Stager will describe how this system allowed import-export merchants to reap sizeable profits and wield more economic power and influence than the harbor prince who protected them, or the rulers of the interior whose authority and power were largely circumscribed by territorial limits.

Lawrence E. Stager is the Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel and director of the Semetic Museum at Harvard University. Since 1985 he has been the project director of the Ashkelon Excavations: The Leon Levy Expedition. Ashkelon, a thriving Middle Bronze Age metropolis of more than 150 acres, is the oldest and largest known seaport in Israel. In 1990 a bronze and silver figurine of a calf, perhaps distantly related to the biblical tale of the golden calf, was discovered. Stager received his BA, MA, and Ph.D. from Harvard University, and has received grants from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, and fellowships from the American Schools of Oriental Research and Harvard University. He is vice-president of the Archaeological Institute of America, a member of the American Schools of Oriental Research, and a trustee of the Albright Institute in Jerusalem. A few of his publications include: Outposts in the Judean Wilderness: Iron Age Forts and Farms in the Buqe‛ah Valley, from Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilizations, No. 29; Ashkelon Excavations: The Leon Levy Expedition, 1985-1986; Ashkelon Discovered; and he is currently completing a book with Philip King entitled A Heap of Broken Images: Explorations in Biblical Archaeology.

For further information, call 914-758-7700.

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This event was last updated on 03-02-2001