Ma'agan Michael sails again: boat from biblical times discovered off coast of Israel to be 'relaunched'

The replica of the Ma'agan Michael, shipwrecked 2500 years ago off the coast of Israel.Israel Antiquities Authority

A famous ship in Israel that sank off the country's coast 2,500 years ago is being 'relaunched' 30 years after the shipwreck was discovered and removed from the water.

A replica of the Ma'agan Michael, which was discovered nearby a kibbutz by the same name, will be launched this Friday in an event organised by the University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The replica was built over the past two years, using exactly the same materials, working methods, and tools that were used 2500 years ago.

Ancient boats in the north of Israel are of particular interest to Christians, too, because of several appearances Jesus made in them as recorded in the Gospels.

The date of this shipwreck would place it during the time of the Babylonian domination of the country, when Israelites were allowed to return under Ezra and Nehemiah and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  

According to the ancient Israeli practice of launching a new ship into the sea, oil and water will be poured into the sea for good luck before it sets sail – weather permitting.

The ancient Ma'agan Michael Ship was discovered in 1985 by Ami Eshel, a member of Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, some 70 meters from the kibbutz. In 1988, the ship was removed from the sea in a project directed by Dr Elisha Linder, one of the founders of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa.

Israel Antiquities Authority

Most of the ship had been covered in sand, helping to preserve it in excellent condition. The keel, numerous wooden plates, 14 crossbars and the base of the mast were all preserved, offering researchers rare insights into the method used to construct the ship.

A carpenter's toolbox was also retrieved, a discovery that sparked the dream of building a replica using the same methods and tools.

In a complex procedure undertaken at the University of Haifa, a special preservative was inserted into the wooden base of the ship, which received its own display room at the university's Hecht Museum.