Tel Shikmona are the ruins of the ancient port city of Haifa, located on the west shore side of Mount Carmel.
Tel Shikmona are the ruins of the ancient port city of Haifa, located on the west shore side of Mount Carmel. It was inhabited starting in the late Bronze age (~18th C BC). The port city continued in the Israelite period, the Persian period, a Phoenician port before and during the Hellenistic period, Roman/Byzantine periods, Arabic, Crusader and Mameluke periods.
Location and Map:
Tel Shikmona is located on the shores of Mt Carmel, on the side of the highway entering into Haifa.
You can point on the purple points to navigate to the selected point – in this page and other pages.
THIS SECTION IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Crusaders and Mamlukes
Ottoman period – PEF survey
The area was examined in the Palestine Exploration Foundation (PEF) survey (1866-1877) by Wilson, Conder and Kitchener. They reported (in Vol 1, Sheet V, pp352-353) on the site, known in its Arab name as “Tell es Semak” (“mound of the fish”), with the following report:
“A low hillock by the sea. It is covered, as well as the shore near it, with ruins of dressed masonry, and there appears to have been a place of some importance at this site. Pottery, glass, and marble were found, and there are tombs east of it, in the sides of Carmel. Quantities of the ashlars blocks have been taken away, the holes remaining whence they were dug out. A fragment of a capital and coins (Byzantine) were here found by the Germans. Shafts and capitals of Byzantine appearance were also dug up. Fine building stones were transported to Haifa to build houses with. Large quantities of copper coins of Constantine were found, and a Crusading coin, with the date 127. The tombs are rude caves, with loculi”.
They also correctly identified the site as “Sycaminos”.
The map on the right shows the site at that time. Notice that the entire area around the ruins is barren.
Tell es Semak – Shikmona – Part of Map Sheet 5 of Survey of Western Palestine, by Conder and Kitchener, 1872-1877.
(Published 1881, reprinted by LifeintheHolyLand.com)
Excavations in Shikmona were conducted in 1939, 1963-1979 (Yosef Algavish), and 1994. Renewed excavations started in 2010 as part of the renovations along the coast of Haifa, within the scope of the continued construction of the Hecht park. The excavation team is directed by Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.
THIS SECTION IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
(a) Entrance to Park Shikmona
The entrance to the marine nature reserve of Shikmona is located near the Ocean research center. This is where you park your car, and walk towards the hill of Tel Shikmona which can be seen here on the right side of the walkway. The length of the park, which includes the historic site, is 1.5km.
Click on the photos to view in higher resolution…
Along the path are various species of wild flowers, which bloom during the spring time. This type is called Allium Trifoliatum (Hebrew: Shum Sa’ir).
A closer view of the mound from the east side is seen below. It is partially excavated, with several of its southern and eastern parts removed.
The site is located on the shores of the Mediterranean sea. Shikmona was an ancient port city, and its small harbor was one of its main sources of income and the reason of its location.
The city also was a gateway on the western section of the coastal road (“Via Maris”), connecting the north to the south. This important link passed on the eastern side of the city and was another source of income for the city.
Along the coast is a shallow bedrock made of sandstone (Kurkar) rock.
The shore attracts the waves, fishermen and birds.
(c) Tel Shikmona
A path leads up from the shore to the top of the mound. This hill is actually a pile of many layers spanning about 35 centuries of history.
The eastern and southern sections of the hills were excavated.
The following photo shows the southern side of the mound.
- Four-room house
Recent excavations have exposed a well preserved 9th century BC structure. This design is called a Four-room house.
This “four-room” house was popular in the iron age, from the 11th C to the 6th C BC. The design was based on a long house with four main spaces – a broad room in the back and three long spaces extending forward from it. The rooms were divided by stone pillars and walls.
The entrance to the house was usually located on the central room.
The “four-room” house is usually attributed to the Israelites.
- South side of the hill
(d) South of the Tel
An oil production complex dated to the Phoenician period was found to the south of the hill. Shikmona in the 9th-8th C BC was a center for olive oil production.
The complex included three oil presses, storerooms for the oil and for the olives.
In the following picture is one of the pits where the olive juice was collected. It has a mosaic floor.
- Purple dye
Another industrial installation was found here, dated to the Phoenician period, which produced the purple dye.
The Canaanites, Hebrews of the Zebulun tribe, and especially the Phoenicians produced the deep-purple indigo dye which was used for the textile industry. Purple became a symbol of status, sovereignty and power. The Phoenicians of Tyre and around the Mediterranean coast skilled in purple dyeing, based on the marine snail (Hilazon in Hebrew, Murex trunculus as scientific name) which was one of the important sources of dye colors in antiquity. The Greek name of “Phoenician” actually means red-purple, based on their production and trade of the purple cloths.
Remains of a vat stained with the purple Murex dye, which was found in Shikmona and dated to 1200 BC, indicates that this industry started here in the Canaanite period. More Phoenician shreds with the purple dye were found here, dated to 9th-8th C BC.
Hundreds of murex shells were also found here. Since 60,000 murex were needed to produce one pound of dye, the dye was highly prized in ancient times. Their shells are found in most of the Phoenician sites along the coast in Israel and Lebanon.
A section of a monastery was excavated in the season of 2011, and is now under preservation. It is located to the south of the hill.
The unique feature of this area are the beautiful mosaics floors.
A mosaic inscription, dated to the 6th C, is located on the floor. The Greek words read:
The translation (by the experts from the Greek translation forum): “Donation of John the Administrator.”
Another inscription, dated to the 6th C, was found in this section, announcing who was responsible for the mosaics in the church. The Greek words and the translation (by the Greek translation forum):
“… of this to the holy one the
“… of … which, pious,
“… he adorned with mosaics through
“… (?) of the law (?)” +
Etymology (behind the name):
- Shikmona, Shiqmona – Hebrew; named after the Shikma (sycamore) trees. Mentioned in the Talmud.
- Sycaminum, Sicaminos, Sycamina, Cycaminon, Sycaminon – Greek/Roman names of the city
- Tell el-Semak (es-Samak) – Arabic name of Shikmona, means “mound of the fish”. Preserves the ancient name.
- Porphyreon – Crusader’s name of the site, named after Haifa (which was wrongly identified by them)
Links and references:
- Israel Oceanographic and Limnological reserach
- Revealing the 6th C mosaics
- Listen to report on Shikmona (Hebrew, May 2011)
- Video report on excavations (Hebrew, YouTube – Oct, 2011)
- Video Report on excavations (Hebrew, YouTube – Sep 2011)
- Univ Haifa press release (July 2011)
BibleWalks.com – walk with us through the sites of the Holy Land
This page was last updated on Apr 1, 2012