Like so many archaeological projects, the excavation of the Phoenician tombs at Achziv was prompted by looters. In 1941, when Great Britain governed the land of Israel, the Mandatory Department of Antiquities assigned Dr. Immanuel Ben-Dor to look for tombs that the looters had missed. During the next three years, Ben-Dor uncovered dozens of Phoenician tombs. He was followed by Dr. Moshe Prausnitz, who worked here at various times in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s on behalf of the State of Israel’s Department of Antiquities. I first became involved when Moshe and I conducted a joint excavation in 1984.
I was immediately intrigued with the site on the Mediterranean coast of northern Israel—and not only because it was beautifully located right on the seashore. The city was literally enclosed with tombs. There were cemeteries north, south and east of Achziv. On the west was the sea.
I continued to excavate at Achziv at various times in the 1990s and into the new century under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The last two seasons (in 2002 and 2004) were sponsored mainly by BAR through the generosity of Samuel D. Turner, Esq. The results were spectacular.
The city itself still waits to be excavated. But its cemeteries are so abundant and so rich that they have much to teach us about the city’s culture.