Biblical Archaeology Review 9:3, May/June 1983

News from the Field: Herod’s Harbor Construction Recovered Underwater

By Lindley Vann

Biblical Archaeology Review

Two thousand years ago, divers whose only air supply was their lungs pushed and pulled at a 50-foot-long rectangular wooden frame suspended in the water from cranes. First one, then another of the divers swam to the surface to breathe, then dove again. Bit by bit, the wooden frame descended, finally hovering inches above the ocean floor. The divers edged away. All at once, the ropes holding the frame were cut and it sank deep into the silt and sand on the ocean bottom. The divers swam ashore. Large wood and leather tubes like elephants’ trunks were lowered into the water inside the frame. Roman hydraulic concrete, three times denser than water, poured through the tubes, gradually displacing the water in the frame. When the pouring was done, the concrete hardened underwater to form a huge foundation block for a harbor breakwater.a

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