Undeterred British Family Joins University Underwater Dig; Ancient Ship Revealed
There were two surprises that marked the University of Haifa-sponsored archeological excavation in the laguna of Tantura, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast just south of Haifa this past season. One surprise was that the marine archeologists uncovered three shipwrecks, one of which may have lain on the bottom for more than a thousand years.
The second surprise was the participation of the Brandon family of London in the underwater excavations. Chris Brandon, a well-known English architect, his wife Jane, and their children Kitty (Katherina) and Jamie (James) were undeterred by Israel’s security situation to join the expedition this year. There were only five other volunteers. In past years, the University’s archeological projects had attracted scores of volunteers from the U.S. and Europe.
A good part of the body of the oldest of the three ships revealed remained. University archeologists have temporarily dated the vessel to the Byzantine period, pending a more exacting determination of the date of the wreckage.
Fifteen hundred-year-old ropes and a lot of pottery survived also.
The two other vessels uncovered are from the 17th or 18th century, the researchers believe. The wood of these two vessels and surviving artifacts will also undergo exacting scrutiny to see whether this Ottoman period dating holds up.
It was not the first time that the Brandons, who are not Jewish, had participated in an underwater expedition in Israel. But the University’s maritime studies staff was impressed by the British family’s determination to continue to come and take part. It was the second time at Tantura for Chris’s wife Jane as it was for their children. Chris himself has participated in expeditions at the Caesarea ancient harbor and at Tantura for almost ten years. The family has also taken part in expeditions in Europe.
In pursuing this hobby, the Brandons have gained a reputation for their underwater documenting and drawing of sunken vessels. The Tantura expedition proved no exception to the use of their skills.
Father and daughter of this British family of divers are not exactly amateur volunteers. Kitty completed her M.A. in underwater archeology at Britain’s University of Southampton, making her more of a professional. Her father Chris is chairman of the Nautical Archaeological Society of Great Britain, which is a joint sponsor of the Tantura project. The architect is assigned to the University’s Recanati Institute of Maritime Studies as a research fellow.
In addition to the Brandons, University of Haifa students, and volunteers from the AquaDora Diving Club of Dor Beach—Tantura’s modern name—helped the underwater archeology team. Backing for the expedition came from Lord Anthony Jacobs, past chairman of the Board of Governors.
About to dive in (l.-r.): Kitty, Chris, and Jamie Brandon
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