|It is too late, the site of the Phoenician Port of Beirut has been bulldozed
Venus real estate company is striving to build in Beirut a super construction and in the process destroying the ancient Phoenician Port of Beirut that was discovered in the port area of the fort (Mina El-Hosn). The company did not hesitate, in non-media events, to present conflicting “scientific” fallacies and to use “archaeologists” to reach its goal.
A few weeks ago, the archaeologist Hisham Sayegh decided to expose the case of the discovered Phoenician Port of Beirut, which is characterized by two rock carved launchers measuring more than 4 meters (about 13 feet) each. No such launchers have ever been found in Lebanon, a country of ancient ports, before today. Mr. Sayegh confirms that the port is Phoenician and dates back to the fifth century B.C. Regardless of this fact, the real estate company decided to refute all the archaeological data and topography by using the report of the “expert” Hans Corverz to prove that the area never had a port, and was not used by the Phoenicians [Note: the area is called Menit El-Hosn which means, the Port of the Fort].
The company felt that it was not logical for the launchers to be of a seaport because “the sea is about 231 meters (about 263 yards) from the site, and the rocky ground rises at least 8 meters (about 8 yards and 27 inches) above the site from the sea, according to current topographic survey.” Herewith, it is imperative to clarify that archaeologists, in their studies, do not rely on the present level of the Mediterranean Sea because of in the past ages, its level was less high. Further, it spread far inland much greater than it is today. The world French scholar, Christophe Morang, emphasized in his study, with the British Museum mission, that the Phoenician port of Sidon lies currently under markets area behind the Khan El-Franj because the beach front was there!
The real estate company (“Annahar Newspaper” May 2, 2011) used the report of the Dutch archaeologist Hans Corverz to assert that the Menit El-Hosn port area was “uninhabited between the third and fourth century.” It is rhetorically possible that the site mentioned by Corverz falls in this category; however, how could he date a site that he never examined or seen in person. He used previously unknown studies to confirm that “the Phoenicians relied on series of insignificant rocky shores adjacent to the beach to build harbors. This is [supposedly] confirmed by discoveries in Tyre, Sidon, Byblos and Tripoli, but is not available at the beach, in front of the property 1398 [site of new building], since the reef adjacent to the street is at a height of not less than 8 meters (about 8 yards and 27 inches).” However, this claim is misleading public opinion. With the exception of Sidon, not a single Phoenician city mentioned continues to to have the said rocky shores.
Because of the claims made above, the current research in Jubail/Byblos to determine the shape and location of the old harbor is of supreme importance. It is known that the Phoenicians adopted different ways to transport goods by sea. They did that by accommodating the geographical formation of shores for their harbors. Consequently, the two launchers could have been outside the main harbor but within a small port. It would have had been near for the movement of goods on small boats to larger boats docked in deep water, as it was the case in Jbeil/Byblos, for example (according to research of the British scientist, Honore Frost).
Therefore, the two launchers mentioned earlier are not the crux of the issue, The issue is the discovery of the first, unique rock carved launchers in Lebanon that need to be preserved!
It is not surprising if the Venus real estate company seeks affirmation from the Dutch archaeologist Hans Corverz (resident in Beirut since 1992) that the stone launchers are from the quarries. Corverz’s allegiance to contractors had been proved during the past decade. He is currently adviser to Solidere company. An additional proof of the loyalty in question is the fact that he, assigned by the company, had supervised more than 100 excavations but he did not preserve or produce any artifacts or remains of such archaeological sites.
It is sad that the Government [of Lebanon] and the Ministry of Culture allows this man to work in Lebanon, while it allows the Venus Company to destroy unique archaeological sites, without allowing for more thorough research of the site. This real estate project is valued at US$750 million. Is it impossible for it to fund and preserve such historic site? Imagine! Beirut Towers [Venus Tower – project name] containing unique archaeological treasure?
Juan Farchakh Bajali
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