The Ma’agan Michael Ship "went back” in the water: 2500 years after the ship sank off the coast at Ma’agan Michael, and 30 years after the shipwreck was discovered and removed from the water, a replica of the vessel was launched on March 17th 2017. The replica was built over the past two years, using exactly the same materials, working methods, and tools that were used 2500 years ago.
The ancient Ma’agan Michael Ship has always been a star. It was discovered in 1985 by Ami Eshel, a member of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, some 70 meters from the kibbutz. The ship was removed from the sea in 1988 in a project directed by Dr. Elisha Linder, one of the founders of the Department of Maritime Civilizations. Most of the ship had been covered in sand, helping to preserve it in a remarkable condition. The keel, numerous wooden plates, 14 crossbars, and the base of the mast were all preserved, offering researchers rare insights into the method used to construct the ship. In addition, the preserved tools found in the ship included the carpenter’s toolbox, a discovery that sparked the dream of building a replica using the same methods and tools used by the original shipwrights. In a complex procedure undertaken at the University of Haifa, a special preservative was inserted into the wooden base of the ship, which received its own display room at the university’s Hecht Museum.
The late Prof. Yaacov Kahanov of the Department of Maritime Civilizations did not abandon the dream of building a replica of the ship. Prof. Kahanov was a young research student when the ship was taken out of the water. Two years ago, he finally began the work of building a replica, together with Avner Hilman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, for whom the use of the ancient working methods formed part of a doctorate thesis. Together with a team of volunteers, they began the work, most of which took place at the Naval Academy in Akko.
However, the team working on the replica project soon encountered a problem. While they were familiar with the basic principle of the work – assembly using bolts and sockets – the other details were lost in the mists of time. They were unsure of the proper and most efficient way to bend the wooden beams in order to create the curved shape of the ship; the most suitable type of wood for the mast; and the precise temperature to which the copper nails should be heated. In many cases the team worked on a trial and error basis until they produced the desired result.
After two year’s work, the project was completed successfully and the replica was taken to Israel Shipyards and then to Kishon harbor. The ship will be officially launched at the harbor according to all the proper ceremonies and will return to the waters where its elder sister sailed 2500 years ago. Prof. Yaacov Kahanov, the leading spirit behind the project, passed away just before the work was completed.