by Yael Adar
It is the only known ram of its kind in existence in the world and considered to be one of the largest bronze finds of antiquity. Found in 1980 in the waters of Atlit (south of Haifa) this three-pronged ram has contributed much to the knowledge of naval warfare. Many people are familiar with the battering ram used on land, but are not aware of the existence of a similar weapon in naval engagements.
Iconographic representations, (from the eighth century BCE on) all show a ship bearing a ram. Naval rams underwent various changes throughout the years. Single pointed rams seem to have been used most often, but had the disadvantage of breaking easily. These types of rams, which only created a hole in the enemy ship, caused limited damage. It was also dangerous, since the attacking ship could find itself literally entangled in the enemy ship, when its ram would be caught in the enemy ship's hull and the attacking ship would find itself unable to disengage itself from its prey.
Later naval rams took on the shape of an animal's head. The three-pronged ram (such as the Ram of Atlit) developed at the end of the sixth century BCE and had the advantage of shattering an enemy ship's hull, creating damage that could not be repaired at sea. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Etruscans throughout the Mediterranean used the three-pronged ram in naval battles.
An impressive artifact, the Ram of Atlit (see photo), is on display at the National Maritime Museum. Shaped like a chariot, the ram was found devoid of its ship and was probably made in Cyprus. It features mythological symbols including eagles, a thunderbolt and more. The existence of and use of three-pronged rams is known from a variety of sources including, coins, pottery etc. But the Ram of Atlit is the only actual known specimen of this type. It weighs 465 kilograms (almost half a ton) and is composed of 90.1% copper, 9.5% tin and trace elements of iron and sulphur.
The National Maritime Museum covers 5,000 years of maritime history while emphasizing the ongoing relationship between Eretz Israel (and Jews) to the sea. The museum features underwater archaeological finds, ship models, a large collection of antique maps, pottery, coins and more. The museum is located just above the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum and is also within walking distance of Elijah's Cave.
The museum is located at 198 Allenby Street, Haifa, 31447, 04/853-6622,TEL 04/853-9286 FAX
Visiting Hours: Sun., Mon., Wed. 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Tues. and Thurs. 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Fri., 10:00 AM -1:00 PM and Sat. 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM.
Entry fees apply.
Note: An option is available to purchase a combined ticket (valid for one month) to three museums, the National Maritime Museum, the Haifa Museum and the Israel National Museum of Science.