Sunday, 5 June 2016

Nahal Taninim

One of our most successful days out during the Passover break was to Nahal Taninim Nature Reserve. Nahal Taninim, or the Taninim Stream, is a small river, about 15 miles long, which runs from the southern Carmel Ridge into the Mediterranean Sea. It's name means Crocodile River in Hebrew, whilst the Arabic name, Wadi Zarka, means bridge over blue river. Crocodiles could be found in the stream until the 20th century; the last sighting was in 1912. Where the crocodiles arrived from is unknown - did they get there through the sea? Or maybe they were brought by the Romans? Today Nahal Taninim is the last naturally unpolluted river in the whole coastal area. Caspian turtles, fish, toads, frogs and a variety of birds including heron, cormorants and storks can be found in the nature reserve, as well as the yellow water lily.
The area of Nahal Taninim was settled from Persian times to the times of the Crusaders in the Middle Ages. It was the Romans who realised the benefits of plentiful fresh water and built a dam to collect water from Nahal Taninim and the nearby Ada Stream. In fact several types of well-preserved Roman era aqueducts can be found within the area of Nahal Taninim and, before our visit to the nature reserve, we made a quick visit to Moshav Bet Hanania. Right at the entrance to the moshav is a beautifully preserved high aqueduct, above, with three separate channels that over different periods of time took drinking water to nearby Caesarea, which had no reliable source of fresh water when construction on the city began around 22 BC.
Two inscriptions from the Roman era can be seen on the walls of the aqueduct, below. The first is a high relief of the Roman Empire’s 10th Legion with an eagle perched over a wreath, and there under, a Nike standing on a crouching Atlas. The adjacent stone plaque names Emperor Hadrian, through a detachment of the 10th Legion, as the builder of the aqueduct.
From Bet Hanania we could have followed the arches of the aqueduct through the fields of the moshav towards the sea, but instead hopped back into our car and drove to Nahal Taninim Nature Reserve. In the winter of 1991-92 heavy rains flooded the area causing great damage. The municipality came to improve the blocked drainage and, during the archaeological excavation which followed, an entire dam wall was exposed, along with new pieces of the two existing aqueducts and a third conduit which had been covered with silt.
Just a short walk from the entrance to the reserve we found the Roman dam and the lake it created, which covers 6000 dunams. The dam utilised three wooden floodgates to elevate the water and control its flow through the ground level aqueducts, which were chiseled out of stone by Roman slaves and soldiers. But even the Romans made mistakes! An aqueduct that leads to nowhere can be found near the dam, probably because the Roman engineers realised they had made a mistake in judging the height.
Another artifact found nearby is a vertical paddle wheel from the Byzantine period, rare in Israel because they require a great deal of water. The plentiful water in the area was also used to operate flour mills during the later Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The Turks, who ruled Palestine from the 16th to the 20th centuries, built steep slides that began at the top of the dam and dropped several stories down to the mill: the resulting water pressure turned a horizontal water wheel that, in turn, moved the grindstones. Several of the slides have been cleaned and restored, and are found next to the walls of the dam.
Near to the dam are several ancient gravel quarries, above. These quarries were used to produce building materials for the entire area. In the early part of the 20th century, Edmund de Rothschild purchased much of the surrounding land and constructed a pipe factory in one of the quarries. The purpose of the project was to lay thousands of pipes to drain the nearby Kebara swamp, which was infested with mosquitoes, though the effort failed. During the archaeological excavations many clay pipes were discovered in the quarry. 
There are four trails to follow in the nature reserve. We took the red circular trail which passed by the dam, the ancient water system, took us across a floating bridge, past the Ottoman flour mills and through dense stream vegetation. Children from the nearby Israeli-Arab village Jusr a- Zarka sometimes splash in the stream, or boys ride their horses, fish and graze their livestock, though we only saw goats on the day we visited. The origin of people in the village is a Bedouin tribe Al-Awarna from northern Africa. The village was established in 1920.
We ended our visit by walking along the system of aqueducts, ignoring the one that that leads to nowhere! One aqueduct was used to transport water to Caesarea, whilst other channels took water to the water wheels.
Though we saw no crocodiles, we left the reserve with a better understanding of ancient infrastructure, and we enjoyed seeing some lush vegetation, catfish and quite a few frogs too! 
From Nahal Taninim it was a short drive to Caesarea, to view another portion of the high level aqueduct visited at Moshav Bet Hanania, below. The aqueduct, which was built in several phases, starting from King Herod, can be seen on the beach of Caesarea, north of the ancient city. It is an imposing structure which can be explored by walking its length until it becomes buried in the sand. Mister Handmade in Israel didn't fancy the walk though and the youngest son much preferred to jump from the top of the aqueduct into the sand dunes below. Although it seems that the aqueduct ends here, it once continued on south into the city, but that section was damaged by the sea.
Finally it was time to head to the Caesarea National Park for ice cream. Always the best way to end a day out!


Miss Val's Creations said...

This place looks amazing Lisa! I always find old water irrigation fascinating. The pink dragonfly is gorgeous. I have never seen one that color before!

Quinn said...

Excellent and very educational post! Great pictures, too.
I often wonder that hugely useful technology, constructions, systems of all kinds are allowed to decay beyond retrieval or the knowledge needed to implement. I see it here, in only a few centuries of post-colonial history. Do you think humans just have a short attention span?

Anonymous said...

The first thing I thought was, Lisa was able to comment! Does this mean that with the other option I choose, you could comment me back? Let me know, please thanks!

Many thanks for being a part of SEASONS with this beautiful post!
And so much background info! In Holland (my country of origin) water,and how it's guided is a daily issue. We have many canal locks, or sleuces, where the water is leveled out. Important, because ships are still an important transportation for trade (also with the rest of Europe).
What I noticed is that in the South of Eur. they have many more aqueducts than in the North.Have a great week!

Ohmydearests said...

wonderful post! so much history! and wildlife! I love the luminous dragonfly and frog! have a beautiful week!

handmade by amalia said...

I love this place! And you did it justice with your photos and stories. A great post.

Ida said...

What a fascinating place. I really enjoyed your photos. Loved seeing the frog & dragonfly. Also the cool looking purple flower. The dam and it's history was very interesting to read about.

Blogoratti said...

Looks like a memorable place to visit, thanks for sharing and greetings!

Denise Kiggan said...

So interesting! If I ever get to visit Israel again - your blog is going to be an inspirational reference of ideas of places to see.

Ela said...

This place looks amazing !!
Thanks for sharing your great photos !!