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.
“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.
“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.
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