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Sea of Galilee: Boats and ports

Bible overview
Useful background information on the Sea of Galilee and its boats and ports in Bible times.
Contributed by David Padfield
The Sea of Galilee, or Kinneret as it is called in Hebrew, is not a sea, but a large freshwater lake shaped like a harp. Its main source of freshwater is the River Jordan which flows through it from north to south. – Slide 1
Lake Galilee is about 13 miles ((21km) long, and 8.1 miles (13km) wide. – Slide 2
The lake has a total area of 64.4 square miles (166.7 km2) and a maximum depth of 141ft (43m). – Slide 3
Its circumference is approximately 33 miles  (53km). It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth at 686ft (209 m) below sea level. – Slide 4
Josephus was able to gather 230 boats on Galilee in the first century, so there must have been more than this in operation. Many conclude that seven of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen - Andrew, Simon Peter, James, John, Thomas, Philip and Nathaniel. – Slide 5
The hills around Galilee, especially on the east side where they reach 2000ft (610m) high, are a source of cool, dry descending air. Over the sea there is warm moist warm ascending air. This large difference in height between surrounding land and the sea can cause large temperature and pressure changes.  Strong winds can funnel through the hills to descend on the Sea of Galilee causing sudden storms. – Slide 6
Jesus and His disciples were caught in such an unexpected violent storm when crossing to the other side of the Galilee. Even the experienced fishermen on board were afraid for their lives. <br/>Jesus commanded the storm to stop and it did, showing His power over the wind and waves. – Slide 7
This map shows the harbours around Galilee in the time of Jesus. They were plotted by a fisherman, Mendel Nun, between 1989-1991 when there was a severe drought and the water levels fell. – Slide 8
One of the most important locations for fishermen was the town known as Magdala in Aramaic or Taricheae in Greek. The name Taricheae comes from the Greek verb ‘to preserve by artificial means.’ Here fish were processed for selling and preserved using salt brought up from the Dead Sea region. Magdala was where Mary Magdalene lived. – Slide 9
In 1978, when the waters receded in a drought, an ancient fishing boat dated from the time of Jesus was found on the north-west shore by two local fishermen, Moshe and Yuval Lufan. The boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years) based on radio-carbon dating and 50 BC to AD 50 based on finds of pottery and nails in the boat. – Slide 10
The remains are exhibited in the Yigal Allon museum in Kibbutz Ginosar. The boat was 27 feet (8.27 m) long, 7.5 feet (2.3 m) wide and with a maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet (1.3 m). – Slide 11
This model of the boat shows you what it would have looked like. The boat was constructed primarily of cedar planks joined together by pegged mortice and tennon joints. It has a shallow draft with a flat bottom, allowing it to get very close to the shore. – Slide 12
The boat could have been sailed or rowed. It would have used a single square sail affixed amidships. Based on the vessel's size, it probably would have had a basic crew of five to four rowers and a helmsman. The boat would have been steered by means of two steering oars. – Slide 13
A life-sized reconstruction of the boat can be found at Kibbutz Ginosar. The Galilean boat had a stern deck for the storage of large fishing nets. Beneath its planks, such a deck provided a somewhat secluded area where tired fishermen could rest. – Slide 14
Jesus may have taken advantage of such a feature when during a storm ‘He was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow.’ It has been suggested that the ‘pillow’ could have been a sandbag kept on board as ballast. Boats such as this played a large role in Jesus' life and ministry, and are mentioned 50 times in the Gospels. – Slide 15
Boats were anchored with large stones. Here are some ancient anchors found in Caesarea Maritime in Israel. – Slide 16
Anchors in Galilee were made from the local black basalt rock. Here are two such anchors in a museum garden in Galilee. – Slide 17
Fishing often took place at night and the Bible records that some of the disciples had fished all night without catching anything. – Slide 18
Slide 19