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Anthedon is the first known seaport of Gaza, mentioned in Islamic literature with the names of Tida, apparently an abbreviation of Anthedon, or Blakhiyeh. The city was inhabited from 800 BC to 1100 AD, and witnessed a series of different cultures: Neo-Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic rules (Umayyad, Abbasid, Tulunid and Fatimid).
One km south of the seaport of Anthedon lies the ancient harbour of Maiumas, then identified with the harbour of Gaza, which was also continuously populated and became, during the Roman period, a flourishing and well-developed coastal town. Maiumas, which is mentioned only in late classical sources, dates back to an earlier period, at least when the trading with Greece began. “Maiumas” derives from an Egyptian word, which means “maritime place”.
The archaeological site of ancient Anthedon has not been precisely identified: there are several heaps of ruins in the neighbourhoods of Gaza which have been considered to be the old harbour; however, the site of Anthedon may probably be identified with a tell located to the north of Gaza known to the natives as Tida. In the Middle Age, Anthedon was known for sure as Tida or Taida.
The present site consists of a variety of elements which spread in the area from the seashore, including the underwater archaeology, to the inland: the ruins of a Roman temple and a section of a wall have been uncovered, as well as Roman artisan and living quarters, including a series of villas, testifying of the city ofAnthedon. Mosaic floors, warehouses and fortified structures are found in the area.
The acropolis of Anthedon shows archaeological remains dated from the late Iron Age II, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Basically, below the post-Byzantine level, traces of stone walls of the Roman period were found, which in turn rest on Hellenistic and Persian levels with constructions of mud brick. These latter structures, built on the tell’s summit, consist of an enormous mass of mud bricks, which has been cleared to a height of 8 metres. It projects towards the sea as a tower, and its sides are filled with casemate walls.
The excavated site is about 20 dunums (corresponding to circa 2 ha.) and consists of a 65 metres long mud-brick wall, formerly of the old commercial city centre, which was part of the eastern extension of the harbour, and other earthen works. The massive walls, which stretch 30 metres eastwards, form the coastline to the inner land, display an extraordinary height, 8 m, and thickness, 6 m, and are in a well-preserved state of conservation. Five sizes of mud bricks (adobe) have been found within the masonry of the uncovered structures, plastered with earth.
The archaeological site of the ancient harbour city of Anthedon is located along the Mediterranean Sea, in the northwest corner of the Gaza Strip, in the proximity of the so-called Beach Refugee Camp.
Anthedon represents a clear example among the seaports along the Eastern Mediterranean coast, demarcating the ancient trade route that linked Europe with the Levant during Phoenician, Roman, and Hellenistic periods. Abundant archaeological evidence provides a complete and comprehensive picture of the historical and archaeological evolution in the region, which reflects the rich socio-cultural and socio-economic interchange between Europe and theLevant. The presence of massive earthen structure in the proximity of the sea as well as the rich underwater heritage, still to be explored, make Anthedon an excellent site for nomination to the World Heritage list.
criterion (ii): Anthedon exhibits an important interchange of human values, over important periods of time that relate to the main trade route crossing the Holy Land from Egypt to the Fertile Crescent and linking Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
criterion (iv): Anthedon represents an outstanding example of a type of architectural ensemble, showing a variety of building materials and techniques, including adobe, as well as construction typologies, associated with different stages of human history.
In 1995 a Palestinian-French archaeological mission undertook three seasons of excavations at the site of Anthedon as part of a five-year partnership project. Currently the Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage considered the area as a high priority for management issues, due to the importance and good preservation of the site. The site has, not surprisingly, been affected by normal climatic wear and tear and by environmental changes over time, not least land subsidence, but overall it is in a relatively undisturbed state, with good preservation of some components, particularly some of its adobe features.
A series of city-ports on the Mediterranean, among which Acre, Caesarea, Tyre and Sidon, spread along the Mediterranean coast illustrating the trade routes used during the Phoenician, Roman, and Hellenistic periods. Anthedon was the southern port in the Levant.