Italian Archeological Team Goes Underwater [Archives:1998/05/Culture]

February 2 1998

Bir Ali isn’t just another village on the Hadhramaut coast. As a fishing port it has recently revealed its secrets to the exploits of modern science.
An Italian underwater research team is here to examine the ancient port of Kane. The research team headed by Barbara Davidde and Roberto Petraggi has informed Yemen Times that the original work goes back 13 years when a Russian Archeologist Alexander Sedov did some work in the region. The Russians and French were the first to explore the region. The Italians are the first to explore the underwater region near the coast, Mr. Orazio Guanciale of the Italian Embassy informed the newspaper. The team started last year by marking off 300 sq. meters off the coast. The dig is in shallow waters up to 10 meters deep and the initiative was taken to continue research this year because of artifacts found at that depth; a pyramid shaped, stone anchor, ceramics, mooring stones and some amphora remains.
First a little about the background of the region: the area on the Shabwa coast served as a link between the Orient and the west during the spice trade. Historical records of the precise time  the port began are 225 AD. when ships docked at the harbor were destroyed by the Saba’ King, Sha’ar Awtar. A hundred years later, saw the Yazanide princes buy ships there. More recently, the English described two ports in the region, one in the north and one in the south separated by a promontory. Today it is hypothesized that ships alternated between the two ports depending on the monsoon seasons. In the winter, ships docked in the south, and in the summer, in the north.
The Russians found the urban site in 1985. Excavations there have continued until now with the help of the French and revealed the following ruins:  storage areas, a fortress, a building thought to be a temple, an ancient light house. Evidence of early inhabitation is proven by the presence of bronze coins and ceramic material excavated  until now. The main finds include fragments of a 2/4 Dressel type amphora, 47 of the Pelichet type from South Gallia and 3 from the Koan region which date back between the first and third century AD.
Fragments of amphora originating from the Black Sea region were also found confirming a shift in commercial relations towards north Africa and the Black Sea in the third century . Moorings were also found during dives. The artifacts testify an earlier contact with the Italian Peninsula and Asia Minor up until the second century which changed towards North and East Africa from the third to the fourth centuries.
The Italian team set out to add new data to the knowledge of the ancient harbor to confirm the intensive commercial exchanges with south Palestine, Antiochia and Mesopotamia. The artifacts discovered  in 1996 and mentioned above are now housed in the Ataq museum.
During a recent examination of the rectangular stone structures discovered underwater, the scientists have hypothesized that they served as mooring devices. _These stones have long grooves in the middle where the larger boats were probably moored by means of rope. These allowed cargo boats to secure a better mooring, Roberto Petraggi commented on the discovery. A new survey has begun to continue in the area to better circumscribe the extension of the archeological area. Yemen Times wishes the exploratory team good luck in their endeavors.
Martin Dansky, Yemen Times