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"Private interests destroy Canaanite site (5200 years old) in Kfarabida - Batroun / North-Lebanon" (, 20 December 2014)

Right by the old coastal highway, in the town of Kfarabida (ancient Tell Fadous) 12 km north of Byblos and 50 km north of the capital Beirut, stand the remains of one of the oldest cities in Lebanon. It is one of the first urban settlements in the country, one of only a few such sites from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3200-2400 BC) that have been studied, and possibly the last remaining one (at least in part for now) largely undamaged by later occupation or construction. Even though there are likely earlier settlement remains underneath the Early Bronze Age city, as one Chalcolithic child burial and scattered finds were found in the section of the site, it seems from the excavations results that this site emerged as an important center in the Early Bronze Age.

Excavations were conducted by the American University of Beirut (AUB) from 2004-5, 2007-2011 and 2014 under the successive directorships of Hélène Sader and Hermann Genz (2005-2008), Hermann Genz (2009-2011), and Hermann Genz and Alison Damick (2014-ongoing). Residential houses were uncovered as well as a large, palatial administrative center dating to the third millennium BC. With walls preserved to more than 2 meters in height, a large fortification wall with large entrance staircases, locally-made cylinder seals, and what is currently known as the earliest scale beam in the Middle East, this was clearly an important site, likely a secondary administrative center to the main city of Byblos. Excavations yielded also remains of massive olive and wheat production, giving evidence to a strong agricultural surplus economy. Additionally imported materials from the Southern Levant and Egypt were found at the site. In the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000-1550 BC), the site was used as a burial ground. A number of tombs yielded metal objects and imported ceramics, as well as an Egyptian scarab seal [1].

However, this site is now threatened by the same fate of most archaeological sites on the coast of Lebanon – destruction by bulldozer. Excavations, again led by AUB, began once more at the site in August 2014. As they are funded only by research grants from the involved universities, and staffed by student volunteers, these investigations can only run for one month over the summer, not nearly enough to excavate the whole site rapidly. As soon as this summer’s excavation ended, in early September 2014, one of the local land owners began to bulldoze the Tell across the top and along the southern side, in preparation for the construction of his private villa. This happened after the local town administration had been consulted and repeatedly appealed to, and with its permission. A letter from the Minister of Culture only delayed matters. Last week, in mid-October 2014, a building permit was issued and preparation for construction has begun again, with excavations to fix a fence around the land resuming on the 24th of the same month.

The local administration has rejected any attempts to negotiate a sustainable path for development that would also preserve the archaeological integrity of one of the last remaining sites of the Canaanite past. As continuous construction takes over the coastline, history is erased together with the environment, and the unique cultural and natural heritage of Lebanon is forever lost. The site at Kfarabida is now slated for destruction to build a private villa, with the full knowledge and support of the municipality representing the local administration. The local authorities as well as the national government must know that Lebanese people will not stand for the unnecessary, mercantile destruction of their shared heritage to satisfy private interests.

Raja Noujaim:
APLH Official Representative – Site Officer
Association for the preservation of the Lebanese Heritage (APLH)

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(1) Bibliography about the site:

Badreshany, K., Genz, H. and Sader, H., with contributions by P. Breuer, C. Çakırlar, K. Deckers, B. Jungklaus, F. Nader, S. Riehl, D. Rokitta and S. Yanni
2005    An Early Bronze Age Site on the Lebanese Coast. Tell Fadous-Kfarabida 2004 and 2005: Final Report. Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaises 9: 5-115.

Badreshany, K. and Genz, H.
2009    Pottery Production on the Northern Lebanese Coast during the Early Bronze Age II-III: The Petrographic Analysis of the Ceramics from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 355: 51-83.

Genz, H.
2009    A Stamp Seal Impression from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida. Tempora: Annales d’histoire et d’archéologie 18: 45-51.

Genz, H.
2009    Tell Fadous-Kfarabida: Regional Connections in the Early Bronze Age. In: Interconnections in the Eastern Mediterranean. Lebanon in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Proceedings of the International Symposium Beirut 2008. Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises, Hors Série VI: 107-116.

Genz, H.
2010    Recent Excavations at Tell Fadous-Kfarabida. Near Eastern Archaeology 73.2-3: 102-113.

Genz, H.
2010-2011      Middle Bronze Age Pottery from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida, Lebanon. Berytus 53-54: 115-132.

Genz, H.
2011    Restoring the Balance: An Early Bronze Age Scale Beam from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida, Lebanon. Antiquity 85/329: 839-850.

Genz, H.
2012    Tell Fadous-Kfarabida entre mer et montagnes. Les Dossiers d’Archéologie 350: 22-25.

Genz, H.
2014    Excavations at Tell Fadous-Kfarabida 2004-2011: an Early and Middle Bronze Age Site on the Lebanese Coast. In: F. Höflmayer and R. Eichmann (eds.), Egypt and the Southern Levant in the Early Bronze Age. (Orient-Archäologie 31, Rahden), 69-91.

Genz, H.
2014-2015      Middle Bronze Age Tombs from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida. Archaeology and History in the Lebanon 40-41: 36-44.

Genz, H. and Sader, H.
2007    Excavations at the Early Bronze Age Site of Tell Fadous-Kfarabida: Preliminary Report on the 2007 Season of Excavations. Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaises 11: 7-16.

Genz, H. and Sader, H.
2008    Excavations at Tell Fadous-Kfarabida: Preliminary Report on the 2008 Season of Excavations. Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaises 12: 149-159.

Genz, H., Çakırlar, C., Damick, A., Jastrzębska, E., Riehl, S., Deckers, K. and Donkin, A.
2009    Excavations at Tell Fadous-Kfarabida: Preliminary Report on the 2009 Season of Excavations. Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaises 13: 71-123.

Genz, H., el-Zaatari, S., Çakırlar, C., Badreshany, K. and Riehl, S.
2010    A Middle Bronze Age Burial from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida, Lebanon. Egypt and the Levant/Ägypten und Levante 20: 183-205.

Genz, H., Daniel, R., Damick, A., Ahrens, A., El-Zaatari, S., Höflmayer, F., Kutschera, W. and Wild, E. M.
2010    Excavations at Tell Fadous-Kfarabida: Preliminary Report on the 2010 Season of Excavations. Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaises 14, 241-273.

Höflmayer, F., Dee, M., Genz, H. and Riehl, S.
2014    Radiocarbon Evidence for the Early Bronze Age Levant: the Site of Tell Fadous-Kfarabida (Lebanon) and the End of the Early Bronze III Period. Radiocarbon 56/2: 529-542.

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