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PALESTINIAN TREASURES AT THE INSTITUTE OF THE ARAB WORLD IN PARIS
01 September 2000


For the first time, archaeological treasures from the Gaza strip are being shown at the Institute of the Arab world in Paris from September 21st until November 12th 2000.

Some 268 pieces, which never left Palestine, are exhibited notably those dated from 3200 to 2200 B-.C found on the site of Tell Sakan, the only one in the Gaza strip that has been protected thanks to U.N aid.

Gaza, where the Greeks created the harbour of Anthenon, was an important crossroad during the Antiquity. There was notably an important wine and amphora production centre and the area remained much active until the 10th Century A.D.

Many magnificent mosaic floors, notably dating from the 6th to 9th Century A.D during the Byzantine presence, were uncovered in the region of Gaza and others are in the process of being found. The remnants of a Christian church from the 8th Century have also been found and such discovery has been contradicting theories according which the rise of Islam had immediately swept the Christian presence in the region.

Still, French archaeologists working in Gaza have experienced difficulties in obtaining funds to carry out their diggings on a rather rich historical site. Human beings became much active in this area around 3000B-.C when caravans from Africa, Egypt and Arabia began to scour the Middle East. The region was then annexed by the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans and was prosperous during many centuries.

The vestiges of these civilisations have been unearthed only recently and the Franco-Palestinian team of archaeologists has just been reinforced by colleagues from Italy, the Netherlands and Britain. However new buildings are being rapidly erected in this 400 square kilometre area inhabited by over 120,000 people and time is lacking when it comes to unearth treasures that might be lost because of erratic building policies.

The vestiges of the harbour of Anthedon, built around 800 B-.C have been located seven years ago but the archaeological campaign has been stopped last year while several buildings are under construction nearby. Archaeologists said they regretted that Palestinian authorities had not taken any swift measure to preserve the sites and added that they were in fact trying to save what they could.

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