Caesarea Maritima, founded by King Herod between 22 and 10 B.C.E., served as the main port and administrative capital of his kingdom. Headquarters then of the Roman administration of Judaea, later Palestine, it was the place where Pontius Pilate governed, where the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, and where the great Jewish revolts began in 66 and 132 C.E. Eventually, in the fourth century, the site converted from paganism to Christianity and became a major center of the Christian Roman Empire. The Islamic conquest of the Holy Land in the seventh century brought Muslim rule. Much reduced in size and population, the city remained a prosperous agricultural town. The Crusaders conquered this town in 1101 and occupied it, with some interruptions, until 1265, when the Muslims captured Caesarea. Shortly thereafter, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt ordered Caesarea demolished to prevent it from ever again becoming an entry point for Western invaders. Caesarea thus embodies the great transitions that marked the history of the Old World during and just after the first millennium C.E. and that set the stage for the modern world: the diaspora of the Jewish people, the birth of Christianity and the transition from paganism to Christianity, the evolution of Islam in the Middle East, the attempt by European Christianity to restore European domination there, and the response of Islam to the Christian incursions.
Combined Caesarea Expeditions
From its foundation by King Herod to honor the emperor Caesar Augustus, Caesarea grew to be the metropolis of Palestine, a major seaport, the site of St. Paul's imprisonment, home of famous Christian and Jewish authors, and--much later--the place where the Crusaders found the Holy Grail. Excavations since the 1950s have uncovered the ancient city's streets, private dwellings, aqueducts, baths, circus, stadium, theater, and other public buildings and religious shrines, and the artificial harbor, formed of giant breakwaters extending far out into the sea. A rich assortment of statuary, ceramics, coins, bone and metal objects, and inscriptions in Greek and Latin is displayed in an exquisite small museum located at Kibbutz Sdot Yam, adjacent to the site.
The Combined Caesarea Expeditions continues explorations of the ancient city, combining excavations in the terrestrial remains of Caesarea with investigations of the site's ancient harbor. The University of Maryland and the University of Haifa sponsor the project, along with a group of distinguished participating institutions. The directors, Kenneth G. Holum of the University of Maryland and Avner Raban and Joseph Patrich of the University of Haifa, invite college and university students and other volunteers to explore with them the exciting, archaeological remains of Caesarea.
Please feel free to contact the CCE office for volunteer application materials and/or additional information.