During August 2008, a salvage excavation was conducted on the promenade along the beach in Nahariyya (Permit No. A-5489; map ref. 208240–323/766692–716), prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Nahariyya Municipality, was directed by Y. Lerer, with the assistance of Y. Lavan (administration), R. Mishayev (surveying and drafting), A. Shapiro (GPS), H. Smithline (field photography), S. Krapiwiko (IAA archives) and E. Stern.
The excavation area (50 sq m) is c. 74 m from the shoreline. A section of an east–west oriented channel was exposed (length 12.5 m; Figs. 1, 2). Two inspectors of the Mandatory Department of Antiquities documented in 1947 another section of the same channel located to the east, when sand was quarried on land that belonged to the village of Mazra‘a. From the 1960s until the 1980s, Y. Mayer of Nahariyya documented sections of the same channel for a distance of c. 220 m, from the beach rock in the west until a settling basin in the east.Mayer believed that an installation for raising seawater was in the western part of the channel, near the sea, whereas an evaporating basin for salt was in the eastern part of the channel.He assumed that this was a facility for salt production, which was first used in the Byzantine period and continued to operate until the end of the Middle Ages, when it ceased to be used. Following a hiatus, the facility resumed operation at the end of the nineteenth century CE, when the land in the region was purchased by the Sursuk family of Lebanon.
Remains of the channel’s northern wall, which was preserved a single course height on the western side and two courses high on the eastern side, as well as the channel’s southern wall that was mostly destroyed, probably in 1947, were exposed in the excavation. Most of the pavers on the bottom of the channel were preserved. The construction process of the channel could be reconstructed during the excavation. First, a foundation trench (width c. 2 m) was cut in the zifzif sand. A bedding of kurkar stones and hamra soil was deposited along the bottom of the foundation trench. Sandstone pavers (0.10 × 0.50 × 0.65 m) were placed above the bedding and then, the walls of the channel were built of large kurkar stones, some of them rectangular (0.4 × 0.5 × 0.7 m) and some square (0.3 × 0.3 × 0.4 m). These stones were set beside the ends of the pavers and in so doing, were secured in place. Subsequently, the foundation trench was backfilled with kurkar and hamra soil to support the walls of the channel. The stones that composed the walls were dressed diagonally on the surface that faced the interior of the channel and stone mason’s marks were noted on some of them (Fig. 3). Finally, the joints between the building stones in the walls and those between the walls and the floor of the channel were plastered. It seems that the plaster was used to seal the joints between the stones and did not seal the entire channel, which sloped from west to east at a gentle gradient of c. 0.5%.
The construction technique of the currently exposed channel’s section and of the sections exposed in the past is similar. The diagonal dressing of the stones and the mason’s marks are known from the Crusader period in ‘Akko and therefore, it seems that the construction of the channel should be dated to this period. It is assumed that the channel was built to convey seawater eastward, to a settling basin where salt was collected after the water had evaporated. At this point, it is unclear how the seawater reached the channel because the latter is higher than the sea level. Mayer thought that an installation for raising the seawater was hewn on the rocks near the shoreline. Another possibility is that the water flowed into the channel when the sea level rose during winter storms. The excavation discovered no evidence for the use of the channel before the Crusader period or in its aftermath and it was probably blocked with zifzif sand a short time after it ceased to be used.