EVIDENCE OF MINOANS AT MIDDLE BRONZE AGE PALACE IN THE WESTERN GALILEE REGION OF PRESENT-DAY ISRAEL
Excavations at a large Middle Bronze Age Canaanite Palace in the western Galilee region of present-day Israel are revealing mounting evidence of an ancient Minoan cultural presence in ancient Canaan during the 17th century B.C.E.
A recent and ongoing excavation is opening a new window on the possible presence of ancient Minoans revealing what may be the earliest known Western art found in the eastern Mediterranean.
Known as Tel Kabri (located near its namesake kibbutz not far from historic Acco and the resort town of Nahariya on the coast of Israel), the site features an early Middle Bronze Age (MB I) palace dated to the 19th century B.C.E., making it, along with ancient Aphek and possibly Megiddo, the earliest MB palace discovered in present-day Israel. This conclusion was drawn as a result of excavations conducted there as recently as December 20, 2010 to January 10, 2011. But the tell-tale signs of an Aegean presence or influence at the site show up in a later developmental phase of the palace structure some 150 to 200 years later in the overlying MB II palace dated to the 17th century.
Reports Dr. Eric Cline of George Washington University and Co-Director of the excavations along with Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University, "Excavations conducted by [Aharon] Kempinski and [Wolf-Dietrich] Niemeier from 1986 to 1993 at the site of Tel Kabri -- now identified as the capital of a Middle Bronze Age Canaanite kingdom located in the western Galilee region of modern Israel -- revealed the remains of a palace dating to the Middle Bronze (MB) II period (ca. 1700 - 1550 B.C.E.). Within the palace, Kempinski and Niemeier discovered an Aegean-style painted plaster floor and several thousand fragments originally from a miniature Aegean-style wall fresco."(1)
The new excavations under the direction of Cline and Yasur-Landau have added to the discovery. Reports Cline, et al., "During the 2008 and 2009 excavations at Tel Kabri more than 100 new fragments of wall and floor plaster were uncovered. Approximately 60 are painted, probably belonging to a second Aegean-style wall fresco with
figural representations and a second Aegean-style painted floor."(2)
Additionally, the excavations during the summer of 2009 and the winter of 2010/2011 have revealed emerging clues of a possible Minoan influence on the architecture of the site. A stone structural feature unearthed outside of the northern wall of the palace in 2009 shows a configuration characteristically attributable to Minoan construction. "It's only one level of stones thick," says Cline. "But it zig-zags. You usually see that on Crete, where it is a ceremonial walkway around a palace. It is either a walkway or the bottom of a wall......I think it is a roadway or walkway and that it may well be going around the palace. This roadway may be headed toward the missing west entrance to the palace."
The excavations at Tel Kabri are still young, but the finds to date have set
the stage for much more to come. All indications thus far point to the
probability that more frescoes will be found, further supporting the Minoan
connection. Looking at the larger picture, researchers hope to be able to
reconstruct the life-cycle of the Canaanite palace, determine its actual
size, and find answers to a host of new questions that have emerged as the
investigations have progressed.
"It's like no other site I have seen because it [the palace] is so huge yet
it was really only occupied during the Middle Bronze Age," says Cline.
"There is a lot more to learn. I think that we've only just begun to scratch