Israeli shelling poses ‘existential threat’ to ancient archaeological site in Gaza Strip, forensic architecture finds in new investigation

Israeli shelling threatens to destroy an ancient Palestinian archaeological site in the Gaza Strip, according to a new report from Forensic Architecture, a multidisciplinary research collective that investigates human rights abuses.

The report, titled “Living Archeology in Gaza,” examines the effects of Israeli bombardment on the archaeological remains of Gaza’s very first seaport, Anthedon, an ancient city active between 800 BCE and 1100 CE. The site is a melting pot of the great civilizations of the region, with buildings and artefacts from Greek, Roman, Hellenistic, Byzantine and early Islamic cultures.

Archaeological excavations of the shoreline and other surrounding points of interest from 1995 to 2005 unearthed a layer of ancient remains. The Byzantine construction was built over Roman remains which, in turn, sat on top of Iron Age artifacts. But the dig sites have since been reburied to protect the ruins from both erosion and military conflict.

Forensic Architecture virtually reconstructed the area as a three-dimensional point cloud using satellite photographs and images taken during excavations, according to reports from Hyperallergic and Archinect. The group compared cellphone footage of Israeli shelling and aerial footage of craters left by the attacks to the digital map of historical remains, showing how Israel’s continued bombardment of the Gaza Strip threatens these ancient sites.

The group concluded that the combination of warfare, construction and coastal erosion has “placed this unique site under existential threat”, it wrote in its report.

Living archeology in Gaza. Drone images are used to create a point cloud. Courtesy of Forensic Architecture, with drone footage from Ain Media Gaza, 2018.” width=”768″ height=”431″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news- upload/2022/04/Gaza-Arch_Image-9-768×431.png 768w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Gaza-Arch_Image-9-768×431-300×168.png 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Gaza-Arch_Image-9-768×431-50×28.png 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/>

Forensic Architecture, Living archeology in Gaza. Drone images are used to create a point cloud. Courtesy of Forensic Architecture, with drone footage from Ain Media Gaza, 2018.

“We are able to show the relationship between all layers of habitation, past and present,” Forensic Architecture said in a video about its findings. “Each layer tells a different story of lived experience through its material culture and built environment. Given that archaeologists have been barred from the site for nearly a decade, the relationships between all of these invaluable layers of Gaza’s heritage can only be reconstructed digitally.

In 2012, UNESCO added Anthedon Port to its tentative list of World Heritage Sites, at the request of its Palestinian delegation.

Decor painted on a Hellenistic house.  Photo Biblical School, Archaeological Mission of Gaza: Franco-Palestinian Cooperation, 1995–2005.

Decor painted on a Hellenistic house. Photo Biblical School, Archaeological Mission of Gaza: Franco-Palestinian Cooperation, 1995–2005.

“Anthedon represents a clear example among the seaports along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, delineating the ancient trade route that linked Europe to the Levant during the Phoenician, Roman and Hellenistic periods,” reads a description of the application documents. “Abundant archaeological evidence provides a complete and comprehensive picture of the historical and archaeological development of the region, which reflects the rich socio-cultural and socio-economic exchanges between Europe and the Levant.”

The collective, which was nominated for the 2018 Turner Prize and won a Peabody Prize last month, calls on the United Nations International Criminal Court to classify Israel’s destruction of the Anthedon port site as a war crime and to determine whether these actions are part of a larger crime of apartheid.

See more images from the report below.

Architecture médico-légale, <em>Living archeology in Gaza</em>.  The mosaic paving and the basin of the Roman fountain.  Courtesy of Forensic Architecture, with photo of École Biblique, Mission Archéologique de Gaza: Franco-Palestinian Cooperation 1995–2005.” width=”768″ height=”480″  data-srcset=”https://news. artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Gaza-Arch_Image-18.1_w-fig-87-768×480.png 768w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/ Gaza-Arch_Image-18.1_w-fig-87-768×480-300×188.png 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Gaza-Arch_Image-18.1_w-fig-87-768×480 -50×31.png 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/></p>
<p class=Forensic Architecture, Living archeology in Gaza. The mosaic paving and the basin of the Roman fountain. Courtesy of Forensic Architecture, with photo of École Biblique, Archaeological Mission of Gaza: Franco-Palestinian Cooperation 1995–2005.
Architecture médico-légale, <em>Living archeology in Gaza</em>.  Map showing the extent of the excavations undertaken from 1995 to 2005. Courtesy of Forensic Architecture.  Satellite image ©CNES (2018), Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image.” width=”768″ height=”432″  data-srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/9068637fbede0574e7df94e3bbc203f9 .jpeg 768w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/9068637fbede0574e7df94e3bbc203f9-300×169.jpeg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04 /9068637fbede0574e7df94e3bbc203f9-50×28.jpeg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/></p>
<p class=Forensic Architecture, Living archeology in Gaza. Map showing the extent of the excavations undertaken from 1995 to 2005. Courtesy of Forensic Architecture. Satellite image ©CNES (2018), Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image.
Architecture médico-légale, <em>Living archeology in Gaza</em>.  Smartphone clip filmed by Palestinians during the 2018 Israeli military incursion, showing bombs landing on the surface above the site.  Image from Shehab News Agency’s Twitter (@ShehabAgency).  The bomb clouds shown in the smartphone clip placed in a 3D model.  Courtesy of Forensic Architecture.  ” width=”1024″ height=”488″  data-srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Screen-Shot-2022-04-14-at-5.35.46- PM-1024×488.png 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Screen-Shot-2022-04-14-at-5.35.46-PM-300×143.png 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/Screen-Shot-2022-04-14-at-5.35.46-PM-50×24.png 50w” sizes=”(max-width : 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Forensic Architecture, Living archeology in Gaza. Smartphone clip filmed by Palestinians during the 2018 Israeli military incursion, showing bombs landing on the surface above the site. Image from Shehab News Agency’s Twitter (@ShehabAgency). The bomb clouds shown in the smartphone clip placed in a 3D model. Courtesy of Forensic Architecture.
Architecture médico-légale, <em>Living archeology in Gaza</em>.  Analysis of a 2021 satellite image (red circles indicate bomb craters or other evidence of damage).  Courtesy of Forensic Architecture, with satellite maps from Soar.Earth.” width=”1024″ height=”640″  data-srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/ 04/2bfa4d4f7bd9ff37fcd8ed30e8dc48cb-1024×640.png 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/2bfa4d4f7bd9ff37fcd8ed30e8dc48cb-300×188.png 300wartnet, https://news.com/app/news-upload upload/2022/04/2bfa4d4f7bd9ff37fcd8ed30e8dc48cb-50×31.png 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/04/2bfa4d4f7bd9ff37fcd8ed30e8dc48cb.png 1600w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024th: 1024thpx) 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Forensic Architecture, Living archeology in Gaza. Analysis of a 2021 satellite image (red circles indicate bomb craters or other evidence of damage). Courtesy of Forensic Architecture, with satellite maps from Soar.Earth.

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