Project leader: Sarah Collins
Department: Middle East
Project start: 1998
End date: 2009
Project Director - Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal Special Assistant British Museum, Honorary Research Fellow University College London, Editor of the journal Archaeology and History in Lebanon www.ahlebanon.com/ahl.htm
Dr. Alan Ogden, Department of Archaeological Sciences University of Bradford (human bone analysis) www.brad.ac.uk/acad/archsci/
Dr. Dafydd Griffiths, University College London (ceramic thin sections and fabric analysis) www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/staff/profiles/griffiths.htm
Dr. Emmanuelle Vila, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon (animal bone analysis)
Project funded by:
The British Museum and various organisations over the years including the British Academy as well as Lebanese companies and individual sponsorship including - Nokia Lebanon, Byblos Bank, Hariri Foundation, Cimenterie Nationale, Mr. Michael Fares, Mr. Michel Klat, Mr. Namir Younis, Mr. Bassam Diab
Written records of the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Greeks as well as numerous references in the Old Testament reveal the significance of the ancient city of Sidon (modern Saida), especially famous for being one of the most important coastal city-states of the ancient Phoenicians. Almost everything known about this ancient city has however, been revealed through these written records of other peoples, as Sidon has remained continuously inhabited up to the present day and the ancient remains lie beneath the modern buildings.
In 1998, the Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon authorized the British Museum to begin excavations in the city of Saida on an area of land expropriated for archaeological research. Under the directorship of Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal this excavation has for the first time been revealing the continuous stages in the development of the city from the third millennium to the first millennium BC.
Discoveries made so far include six phases of Early Bronze Age domestic settlement (ca. 3000 – 2300 BC), 60 burials with grave goods, including warrior burials, and eight phases within the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000 – 1550 BC), monumental construction of the Middle and Late Bronze age (ca. 1550 – 1200 BC) and remains of the Iron Age (ca. 1200-539 BC) and later. Associated with these, a remarkable range of material culture has been uncovered including ancient writing. This excavation, as well as bringing to light the urban development of the ancient city itself, has also been revealing the importance of Sidon’s interconnections with the surrounding regions, particularly the Aegean, Canaan and Egypt.
This excavation represents a unique opportunity to systematically excavate ancient Sidon, which is well known historically from ancient texts but previously unexplored archaeologically. Careful examination of the city’s stratified layers through excavation will lead to an understanding of the ancient history of Sidon. All aspects of the excavation and the material culture discovered are being studied and published and the results will be of great benefit to scholarship.
This project has many objectives but of particular note are the studies being undertaken on the ceramics. A pottery typology for the third, the second and the first millennium BC has not yet been clearly determined for the Lebanon. A typology for the Early Bronze Age at Sidon has already been established and published and the intention is to do the same for the Middle Bronze Age and later periods present at Sidon. This will also apply to the imported wares discovered at the site. All Cypriote and Mycenaean pottery found here will be catalogued and published in what will be the first ever volume on Cypriot and Mycenaean pottery produced for the Lebanon. Sidon is also a reference site for a statistical study of the occurrence of Egyptian common ware on the Levantine coast in the second millennium BC.
The excavation is being carried out in collaboration with the Director General of Antiquities, Lebanon, with Lebanese archaeology students receiving training and participating in the project each year. The next season of excavation will be undertaken in May and June 2007.
The excavation website is - www.sidonexcavation.org/ht/ht_excavation.html
A full list of publications associated with the Sidon Excavations project is available in pdf format
The official launch of the documentary film “Sidon 5,000 Years” (about the excavation and the history of the ancient city of Sidon) is due to take place in Autumn 2007 in Beirut.
Preparations are underway for a symposium on Interconnections in the Eastern Mediterranean due to be held in Beirut in 2008 with many lectures on Sidon.