In an excavation recently conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) 100 meters north of the Old City wall of Acre, a unique find was discovered from the Crusader period (the thirteenth century CE) – a hoard of 350 marble items that had been collected from destroyed buildings.
According to Dr. Edna Stern, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, “We have here a unique find, the likes of which have never been discovered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusader period (the capital of which was Acre). During the archaeological excavations, we came upon a cellar that was sealed by collapse comprised of building stones and charred beams. Beneath the cellar floor a hoard of about 350 marble items and colored stones was discovered, including two broken marble tombstones with Latin inscriptions, flat marble slabs and marble tiles of various sizes and colors, as well as a large stone cross and a large fragment of porphyry (a rare precious purple stone, which has been the color of royalty from Roman times). The quality of the marble is excellent and it was undoubtedly imported from abroad.”
Dr. Stern added, “Everyone knows that Crusader Acre was an important center for international trade and the marble hoard reflects the magnificent buildings that were erected here but have not survived, as well as also the commerce and the wealth of its residents. Just as there is a trend today to incorporate wooden doors from India or roof tiles from old buildings in Italy in modern villas, at that time they used to integrate ancient architectural items from the Roman and Byzantine periods in their construction. And just like today, people at that time also yearned for the classic and the exotic. We know from written sources that they bought and sold such stones, which were exceptionally valuable, to be reused in buildings. We can assume that the owner of the hoard, whether he was a merchant or he collected the stones for his own construction, was aware of impending danger and therefore buried the valuable stones until such time as the tension abated.”
According to Stern, it can be reasonably assumed that the collapse that was found above the hoard is evidence of the building’s destruction in 1291 CE, when Crusader Acre was conquered and devastated by the Mamluks. The marble hoard was removed from the field and transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further study.
Visitors to Acre, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, can visit the excavated underground buildings from the Crusader and Ottoman periods, including the Al Jazar Mosque, the buildings of the Order of Saint John, Khan Al Omdan, the Turkish Baths, the Bahai Temple and much more, as well as enjoy the cultural meeting point of East and West in the old city’s market and alleyways.