This is the Save Beirut Heritage (SBH) Release over the destruction of the Phoenician Shipyard in Mina el-Hosn, Beirut.
Translated into English by Joey Ayoub and posted here with SBH’s permission.
“I answer in the name of Save Beirut Heritage with an excerpt of the report that we have submitted to The International Council on Monuments and Sites or ICOMOS last April:
After the famous Phoenician discoveries in Byblos, Tyre, Sidon and Beirut, new relics coming from Minet al-Hosn come complete the history of the Phoenician cities of the Levant. Foundation work by a real estate project known as ‘Venus Real Estate’ on plot 1398 have revealed Phoenician graving docks dating from the 5th century BC. Fourteen local and international archeologists (Marguerite Yon*, Jean-Yves Empereur, Kaliopi Baika, David Blackman, Anna Maria Busilla, Martine Francis Allouche, Hicham Sayegh, Anis Chaaya, Jeanine Abdelmassih, Eric Gotwalles, Laure Salloum, Leila Badre and Nadine Panayot-Haroune) have confirmed the importance of this port. According to the article intitled “The Phoenician dry docks or ship holds” that was featured on hypothese.org, the docks found in Beirut are similar to those that were found in the Mediterranean Basin such as in Bamboula (Cyprus), in Carthage (Tunisia), in Zea in Piraeus (Greece) and in Tell Dor (Palestine). The discoveries of Minet El-Hosn are those that resemble most those of Tell Dor: The holds of these two regions have been dated to the 5th and 4th century BC while the others have been dated to the 4th and 3rd century BC. They were used for the reparation of ships.
The maritime archeology specialist, Mme Martine Francis Allouche, affirms the importance of this archeological site as being the first in Lebanon and the second in the Levant after Tell Dor. She backed up the DGA (Directorate General of Antiquities) and minister Selim Warde for the conservation of the site. According to her, these Phoenician relics are of great importance due to the fact that they unique in their kind in the Middle East. The Phoenician ship docks that were discovered face the Sea, North-East, to face the dominant currents of the South-West. Adding to that is the importance of 2.5-3 degrees tilt towards the sea. This shows the principle behind the reparations that were once held. This slight tilt allows the tide to tow vessels. Unfortunately, these docks were mutilated due to the road network that was installed. Two other characteristics reveal the archeological importance of this site, adding to its historical value: an elevation at sea level of about 5 meters and a distance of 120m from the shore. This distance is a consequence of the changes in the coastal line. Another similar case is that of the Lenikepi port in Istanbul which is now 300m from the shore inside the Turkish territory. The presence of five circular wells in situ also shows the function of these wells: wetting the wood of the ships in order to avoid breaking them during reparations.
There is no doubt that these recently discovered docks reveal a new chapter in the Phoenician history on the Lebanese cost. Unfortunately, the history of our ancestors is threatened by a real estate project: Venus Real Estate. The minister of culture Selim Warde has proposed during his mandate a middle way solution: To modify the orientation of the buildings and to create a green space that takes into consideration the docks in a sort of Archeological park (le port phenicien de Beyrouth, petitions24.net). However, the present minister of culture, Gaby Layoun, based himself on data given by one of the members of his scientific committee Mr. Albert Naccache. It is to be noted that while Mr. Naccache is is a graduate of L’institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris in socio-politics, has an MS in Physiology from AUB and a doctorate in the history of the Middle-East, he is not a specialist in Maritime Archeology. Mr. Albert Naccache’s report ignores the presence of the ancient shipyard and was even favorable towards the arguments proposed by the promoters of Venus Real Estate. The latter originally based themselves on the information provided by M. Hans Curvers.
The recently proposed solution consists in cutting the large dock and re-locating it in the Western part of the garden on-site. Such an action would alter the reality of this ancient site and would cause a great scientific and visual loss. Not to mention the elevated cost of such a project. Those who defend the Venus project remind us of the re-location of Abou Simbel in Egypt while ignoring the fact that it was partly organized by UNESCO and that the project itself had a national cause behind it, a general interest – the construction of the Aswan High Dam. A private real estate project whose short-term profit only involved a limited number of people was not involved.
The archeological sites belong to the people. It is not because their discovery is stopping real estate projects that we have to make a compromise. There are no compromises when we’re talking about history, concrete proof of the existence of the Roman and Phoenician civilizations in Lebanon. Such a modification to the two sites will constitute a great archeological loss on the national and international level. Not only was the decision concerning the hippodrome unwise, it was illegal as well. And the decisions concerning the Phoenician port seem even more suspicious and dangerous. Consequently, the decision and the propositions constitute a threat to our history. This conservation issue has therefore created a controversy at the national level and was then transformed in an arena for politic conflicts of interest (remember that the ministers belong to different political parties). So that we may end this masquerade and that the Phoenician port and the hippodrome do not end up becoming political victims or shields, we urge you to take the necessary measures related to these sites and to form a committee dedicated to analyze and excavate them.
*Marguerite Yon has just noted, according to the article on l’Orient Le Jour, that she has never visited the site so we understand that her testimony might be withdrawn
- Libnanews: Les archéologues locaux et internationaux catégoriques : « Les cales phéniciennes de Minet el-Hosn, à conserver à tout prix » (Vidéo)
- L’Orient-Le-Jour: Port phénicien : la société civile met le doigt sur « les marchés conclus à l’insu du peuple »
- L’Orient-Le-Jour: Destruction du port phénicien de Beyrouth : les militants devant le ministère de la Culture
- Libnanews: Port Phénicien de Beyrouth: Lettre ouverte à Gaby Layoun
- HummusForThought.com: An Open Letter to Gaby Layoun
- HummusForThought.com: 2,500 year-old Phoenician shipyard destroyed today in Beirut.
- Al-Akhbar: Beirut developers destroy ancient Phoenician port
- Blog Baladi: Ancient Phoenician port in Beirut destroyed
- Gino’s Blog: Another Name Blacklisted: Gaby Layoun for His Wretched Crime
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- Allouche, M. F. (2012, january 30). LEs cales seches ou cales a bateaux pheniciennes de minet el-hosn(beyrouth). Retrieved 2012, from ifpo.hypotheses: http://ifpo.hypotheses.org/
- Controverse autour de l’hippodrome Romain de Beyrouth. (2012). l’orient le jour .
- Grimal, M. F.-N. (n.d.). Le port phenicien de Beyrouth. Retrieved march 2012, from petitions24.net: http://www.petitions24.net/le_port_phenicien_de_beyrouth
- Rizkalla, M.-J. (2012, march 1). Liban:Le port phenicien de Beyrouth egrene ses dernieres heures apres 2500 ans d’existence. Retrieved april 2012, from libanews: http://libnanews.com/
- Rizkallah, M.-J. (2012, march 13). Mutilation de l’hippodrome romain de Beyrouth ou le désastre du démantèlement des sites archéologiques au Liban. Retrieved april 2012, from libanews: http://libnanews.com/