A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Uncovering Sidon's Long Life
Volume 65 Number 4, July/August 2012
For the first time, archaeologists are revealing the 4,000-year history of one of ancient Lebanon’s oldest ports
Wedged between a road and decaying old houses perched on a hill, sits a massive excavation site. A century ago, this was the location of an American school and, after that, until a decade ago, was simply a vacant lot. But Lebanese archaeologist Claude Doumet-Serhal and her multinational team have transformed this apparently unremarkable spot into a window on the rich ancient history of the port city of Sidon. “In this little piece of land we have everything, a slice of civilization,” she says. “It’s very exciting.” The reason for Doumet-Serhal’s enthusiasm is easy to see. In the shade of nearby bushes are piles of Roman bases, columns, and capitals. Crumbling houses sit atop the remains of a medieval wall within view of a ruined Crusader-era castle. Just beyond lies another thirteenth-century castle, overlooking the rocky shore of the Mediterranean Sea along Lebanon’s coast. Sidon is so old that, according to the Book of Genesis, it was named after the great-grandson of Noah. In antiquity, the city attracted an impressive array of visitors, both welcome and unwelcome, including the first-century B.C. king of Judea, Herod the Great; Jesus and St. Paul; the armies of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.; the twelfth-century A.D. Norwegian king Sigurd; and the Mongols of Central Asia a century later.
Andrew Lawler is a contributing editor at ARCHAEOLOGY.Share