Israel: Submerged prehistoric sites and settlements on the mediterranean coastline—the current state of the art

Ehud Galili, Baruch Rosen, Mina Weinstein Evron, Israel Hershkovitz, Vered Eshed, Liora Kolska Horwitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Inundated archaeological sites dating from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Pottery Neolithic periods have been exposed off the Mediterranean coast of Israel, mainly the northern Carmel coast. The bulk of the sites represents in situ Neolithic settlements dating from the tenth to the seventh millennia BP, including the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Atlit-Yam and the Pottery Neolithic sites of Kfar Samir, Kfar Galim, Tel Hreiz and Neve-Yam. These are some of the best-preserved underwater settlements in the world with excellent preservation of human and animal remains, plant materials used as food and animal fodder, basketry, wood used in building construction and for making bowls and a wide range of flint, bone and ground-stone artefacts. The sites include rectangular stone dwellings, the earliest known stone-built water wells in the world, megalithic structures of probable ritual significance, numerous human burials, many in stone-lined graves or cists, and reveal details of village layout including a separation between domestic and graveyard areas. The human remains provide pathological evidence for the earliest known case of tuberculosis and for malarial infection. These settlements are the earliest known examples of the typical Mediterranean fishing village, with a subsistence economy based on crop cultivation, domestic animals, some hunting of wild animals, a significant emphasis on marine fishing and the earliest known evidence for the production of olive oil. This combination of resources contributed to the establishment of year-round sedentary, Mediterranean fishing villages. These features owe their preservation and discovery to the location of the settlements on the shoreline. Rising sea level eventually forced their abandonment and sealed the remains in anaerobic conditions under a protective cover of marine sand, until recent disturbance by storms and sand-mining exposed parts of the submerged ancient land surface to archaeological discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCoastal Research Library
Number of pages39
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameCoastal Research Library
ISSN (Print)2211-0577
ISSN (Electronic)2211-0585

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We wish to thank the EU through COST Action TD0902 SPLASHCOS, the National Geographic Research Foundation, CARE Archaeological Foundation, MAFCAF Foundation, the Dan David Foundation, The Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications and Sandy and Joseph Lepelstat for their financial support of the research described here. The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Prehistoric Society and Haifa University are acknowledged for their f ancial and administrative support of the underwater excavations and H. Rosenstein and Fantasea for providing photographic equipment. We also wish to express our appreciation to the divers and archaeologists who participated in the underwater excavations, to the many researchers who subsequently contributed to the study of the finds, to S. Ben-Yehuda and B.Galili for pro - ducing the drawings, to J.G alili and I.G rinberg for taking the underwater photographs, to M. Rasovsky (treatment of organic material) and to D. Segal, I. Carmi and E. Boaretto of the Weizmann Institute (radiocarbon dating). Special thanks are due to Geoff Bailey for discussion of the factors contributing to site preservation and discovery and for his useful comments and comprehensive editing of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Atlit-Yam
  • Domestication
  • Palaeocoastlines
  • Pottery Neolithic
  • Pre-Pottery Neolithic
  • Sea level
  • Underwater settlements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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