Early Maritime Activity on the Dead Sea: Bitumen Harvesting and the Possible Use of Reed Watercraft

Asaf Oron, Ehud Galili, Gideon Hadas, Micha Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most studies of ancient maritime activity on the Dead Sea focus on the Hellenistic to the Early Byzantine periods, for which a rich body of archaeological and historic data exists. However, finds of Dead Sea bitumen at distant prehistoric sites and an anchor dating to the seventh century BC indicate that maritime activity on the lake preceded the Greek and Roman periods, and raise questions regarding this activity’s origins and nature. By linking the exploitation of Dead Sea bitumen with the use of watercraft, and through consideration of a broader early maritime record of the ancient Near East, this study pushes back the dating of this activity on the lake and suggests the nature of its watercraft.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-88
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Maritime Archaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by an Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology Regional Research Grant at the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, and by a Ph.D. scholarship from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa. Funding for field work has been generously provided over the years by RPM Nautical Foundation, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University, and the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center. The authors thank the Israeli Antiquities Authority, B. Rosen for his valuable comments on the manuscript, and N. Külah for library assistance. They also acknowledge E. Raz, who discovered composite anchor b and shared its location with them. Finally thanks are due to the two reviewers whose comments have undoubtedly improved this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Anchors
  • Bitumen
  • Dead Sea
  • Levant
  • Reed watercraft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology


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