During September–October 2001 a salvage excavation was conducted in the naval base at ‘Atlit (Permit No. A-3500*; map ref. NIG 19349/73224; OIG 14349/23224), following a survey of the beach that the Marine Archaeology Unit performed in the region, prior to a planned construction project. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Bouchenino, with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), A. Hajian and V. Pirsky (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), S. Ben-Yehuda (drawing), E. Altmark (metallurgical laboratory), G. Bijovsky (numismatics), E. Galili (scientific guidance) and E. Oren (probe trenches).
Three complexes of hewn channels that begin at the shoreline and continue eastward (Fig. 1: A, B, C) and installations in the kurkar bedrock were examined, as well as a number of hewn installations on the shoreline in the northern part of a cove, which were apparently associated with the manufacture of salt in antiquity.
Complex A (Fig. 1: A)
The northern complex was divided into three sections, each having different characteristics. Two hewn channels (Fig. 1:A1 and A2) in the western section begin at the shoreline, slightly below the water level and converge into a single channel (length c. 7.5 m) in the middle section. It then splits into two channels in the eastern section (Fig. 1:A3 and A4; Fig. 2), each leading separately to a hewn asymmetric basin of water (Fig. 1:A5). One may assume that the sea water was conveyed from this basin to evaporation pans that were probably situated in the trough located to the east.
A coin of Heraclius I equivalent to half a follis and dating to the years 630–640 CE (IAA 94753) was found in the eastern part of the installation (Fig. 1:A5). No additional finds relating to the installation were recovered from a probe trench excavated east of the pool.
Complex B (Fig. 1: B)
The middle complex was also divided into three sections, each of a different nature. The western section (Fig. 1:B1) consisted of a hewn channel (length c. 5 m) and a curved, asymmetric rock-cut installation (diam. 2.3 m, depth 0.53 m). The middle section (Fig. 1:B2) was a hewn channel (length c. 22.7 m) whose eastern part had been destroyed over the years. Slightly north of the channel was a shallow, almost square pool (2.7 × 2.8 m, depth 0.5 m) in which quarrying marks were visible. It is unclear whether the pool was part of the channel complex or was used for other purposes.
A channel in the east section (Fig. 1:B3) led to an asymmetric pool. The continuation of the installation to the east could not be ascertained due to debris covering the area.
Complex C (Fig. 1: C)
The complex was segmented and damaged by the cement foundations of the fence that enclosed the naval base. A section of a shallow hewn channel (0.30 m), similar to Complexes A and B began in the west at an elevation slightly lower than the water level and gradually rose to the east. The course of the channel disappeared in the east beneath debris and fills of the patrol road, surrounding the base.
The channels in each of the three complexes began in the west at sea level or slightly below it and gradually ascended on an incline to the east (Fig. 1). Pools were located at the eastern ends of the channels in the northern and middle complexes.
It seems that the force of the waves pushed the sea water up the channels where it drained into the collecting basins. The water was probably raised from the basins by a ‘Persian-wheel’ or some other installation and conveyed in wooden channels to evaporation pans that were situated in the clayey trough to the east. These installations cannot be dated with certainty; however, based on the ancient remains in the region of ‘Atlit it seems their dates range from the second century BCE until the twelfth century CE. Similar installations for producing salt were documented on the Karmel coast between ‘Atlit Bay and the coves of Dor (E. Galili, A. Raban and J. Sharvit, 2002, Forty Years of Marine Archaeology in Israel. In H. Tzalas (ed.), Tropis VII [Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity, Greece, Pylos 1999]. Pp. 927–961).