Tell Achziv is a major Northern coastal Biblical city that existed over 30 centuries, and is located on the outlet of Kziv creek close to the border with Lebanon.
Joshua 19 29: "And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher ... and the outgoings thereof are at the sea from the coast to Achzib".
Tell (mound) Achziv is a coastal Canaanite, Biblical, Phoenician and Arabic city that is located on a Kurkar (sandstone) hill near the outlet of Kziv creek, and close to the border with Lebanon. Today it is a national park.
Tell Achziv is located on the Northern coastline, and is located between two creeks - Kziv creek on the north and Shaal creek on the south.
The ancient site was located on the steep hill, and its size if 70 Dunam (7 Hectares). An ancient port is located on the coast below the Tell, and another secondary port is located 700M south to the Tell in a site called Khirbet "port of Achziv". These two ports indicate a booming maritime business.
Achziv has a rich history, and was a major border city in most of the known periods.
The Tell (mound) of Achziv was populated throughout the Chalcolithic period (45-32C BC), middle to the late Bronze periods (20-12 C BC). Excavations revealed a walled city from the Middle Bronze period.
Achziv was a Canaanite city, and according to the Bible (see references) it was part of Asher tribe territory, but not taken by the Israelites due to its strong fortifications and topographic position between 3 water flows (Kziv on the north, Shaal on the south, Med sea on the west). Later, King David (1006-968BC) and Solomon (968-928) added the city into their Kingdom, but returned it to Hiram as part of the famous pact with King Solomon.
During Sancheriv intrusions (701BC) the Assyrians conquered the city, as appearing in their description of the intrusion.
According to the archaeological evidence, the ancient city existed in the Iron/Israelite period (11-6C BC).
The city flourished under the Phoenicians, during the Persian period (6-4th C BC), the Hellenistic period, and in the Roman period. The Phoenicians used the port for marine commerce and the coastal road for trade. Five Large cemeteries are located 1KM east to the Tell (E-Ras), north, and 700M south to it (El-BukBuk). In the rock-hewn tombs were ceramics from the Iron and Persian periods, including several Phoenician tombstones.
Hellenistic and Hasmonean period
The Seleucids set the administrative border in Rosh Hanikra, north to Achziv. This made Achziv a border city, under the control of Acre. Later, during the Jewish Kingdom, the area stayed out of their borders, and remained under the domain of the Seleucids.
Roman and Byzantine times
The number of Roman sites around Achziv reached a peak, and Achziv benefited from the marine and land trade. The city is referred by Josephus Flavius, which named the maritime city as the place where Herod's brother was captured (see reference). It was also referred by Plinius (23-79AD) and appears in the Claudius Ptolemy World map (~150AD).
Two milestones were found south to Achziv, part of the Roman imperial coast road from Antioch to Acre- Ptolemais.
Another limestone border stone tablet was found, written in Greek and dedicated to Galerius-Maximianus, Constantinus and Licinius I, dating it to 307-311AD.
The city was populated by Jews and the town was called Kziv, as the name of the creek. A synagogue existed in the place according to the Mishna (Tosefta, 7 2). They were farmers, wine makers, fishermen, sailors, and also prepared dye (Tyrian-purple color from snails). The city was regarded as the religious boundary of Israel, although other sources defined the Ga'aton (near Nahariyah) or Rosh Hanikra (as per Josephus) as this border.
This period was a retreat for the city and the region. In the early Arab period (7-11C AD) there was a coast guard stationed here.
The region of Achziv once again flourished. The city became an administrative center. The Crusaders built a fortress, calling it "Casal Humberti", named after a knight that commanded the fort at 1104. Later it was named "casal Umberti" (1197) and "casal Imbert" (1256). Its purpose was to protect the coastline and the important road. A stone tablet with Christian symbols was found here, and is on display in the Louver. Baldwin III settled European farmers (circa 1153). In 1232 there was a fierce battle between the German and French Crusaders. In 1256 the town and the land around it was leased to the German Knights of the Teutonic Order, who also commanded the Monfort castle.
Mamluk & Ottoman times
This period marked another retreat in the settlement in the region in general, which also affected the city. A village, El-Zeeb, existed on the hill during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods (12C AD to 20 C AD). Many of the houses reused ancient boulders in the foundations. The village lasted until 1948, when its population fled to Lebanon following the Independence war.
In 1946 the Israeli resistance blew up the railroad bridge over the creek. A monument exists north to the bridge dedicated to the memory of the 14 bold commandoes that died in the action, part of a nation wide attacks on bridges during the British Mandate (June 17). Kibbutz Gesher-Haziv (bridge of Achziv) is named after these heroes, as well as Kibbutz Yechiam, named after their commander (Yechiam Weitz) who died in the action.
Achziv is a national park. Its green gardens are a background for brides and grooms that come for photo shots. The park is also a popular picnic place for families, and a summer beach.
South to the national park is Club Med resort village, built in 1961. It was closed due to a shelling incident between 2002-2005, and reopened.
Another resort spot in the north side of Achziv is AviviLand, belonging to the colorful Eli Avivi, which he declared as an independent micro-state in 1970. The "state" was a popular beatnik beach in the 70s and 80s, making Achziv a famous landmark.
An aerial photo of Achziv is shown below (indicating the major points of interest).
A view from the east towards the top of the steep hill, and the mosque in the center. The Tell is buried under the grass, and only parts of it were excavated. The coast is behind the hill.
Click on the photo to view it in higher resolution...
The mosque of Al-Zeeb, the Arabic village which was once located on the hill.
Another remains of a house from the Arabic town.
The oil press stone is relocated on the beach, as seen on the following photo.
A view of fishermen on the ancient port stones, behind the oil press.
A view towards the north. Part of the Tell is seen on the right. In the background are the white cliffs of Rosh Hanikra - the border with Lebanon.
Some of the Arabic houses were left, as seen in the following photo.
Another view of the house from the south.
On the north side of Tell Achziv is the outlet of Kziv creek, as seen in the photo below. It is a popular place where people stop and walk around the beach. The north side is also the place of "AviviLand", seen here on the far background where a tower is reaching out of the trees.
In the parking lot there are several impressive trees, including this 100 years old Sycamore Fichus.
There are several old testament references to Achziv. Some of them refer to another city in Judea (like Joshua 15), which has the same name. The Galilee city is referred in the following texts:
This text describes the territory of the Asher tribe:
"And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher
according to their families.... And then the coast turneth to Ramah, and to
the strong city Tyre; and the coast turneth to Hosah; and the outgoings
thereof are at the sea from the coast to Achzib".
However, Asher tribe failed to drive out the population of Achziv:
"Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob. But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out".
This text tells about the Solomon-Hiram agreement, where the area of west Galilee (land of Kavul/Cabul) was traded with the Phoenicians. The implied reason was that King Solomon had to pay for his debts (to pay the cost of the timber, labor and other goods), and he paid with prime real estate (although Hiram was not pleased as per the Biblical text). Actually, this old treaty lasted for 3000 years until Israel was founded, since the area of west Galilee always remained under the Phoenician control.
" Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar-trees and cypress-trees, and with gold, according to all his desire--that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him: and they pleased him not. And he said: 'What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother?' And they were called the land of Cabul, unto this day".
The Jewish commander against the Romans, who later became a historian, wrote about Ecdippon (Roman Achziv), where in 40BC the brother of Herod (Phatsael, Phasaelus) and Horkenous II (from the Hasmoneans), were captured in the Parthian intrusion. Their fate was bad - the former committed suicide and the latter was maimed.
"But now, when they were come to Galilee, they found that the people of that country had revolted, and were in arms, who came very cunningly to their leader, and besought him to conceal his treacherous intentions by an obliging behavior to them; accordingly, he at first made them presents; and afterward, as they went away, laid ambushes for them; and when they were come to one of the maritime cities called Ecdippon, they perceived that a plot was laid for them; for they were there informed of the promise of a thousand talents, and how Antigonus had devoted the greatest number of the women that were there with them, among the five hundred, to the Parthians; they also perceived that an ambush was always laid for them by the barbarians in the night time; they had also been seized on before this, unless they had waited for the seizure of Herod first at Jerusalem, because if he were once informed of this treachery of theirs, he would take care of himself; nor was this a mere report, but they saw the guards already not far off them".