, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 345-352

Building in Israel throughout the ages

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Conclusions

Historical-botanical investigations carried out at various sites in Israel point to the use of Cedar of Lebanon wood for special construction purposes, during different periods, in various regions of the country (Tab 3).

The cedar of Lebanon grows outside Israel and required a special system of commerce for it to be brought to the building sites. This included the felling of the trees in the mountains, their transportation to the coast, loading on ships, shipment or floating them by sea to Israel and its subsequent transportation to remote parts of the country. Such a commercial system could have existed only in a prosperous period characterised by a booming economy and a well-organised administration. These circumstances occurred in Palestine only from the Middle Bronze Age onwards up to the Crusaders period. Later on, during most of the Mameluk and the Ottoman periods (13th to 19th centuries), Palestine was a neglected place and an international trade in timber was in practical terms absent. Only in the second half of the nineteenth century Palestine regained part of the previous circumstances, which was characterised by the use of imported timber, firstly Near Eastern trees — the cedar of Lebanon as the most suitable one.

The distribution pattern of cedar remnants in Israel is obvious and enables us to evaluate the wealth, economy, commerce, transportation systems and overall administration of the different regimes in Palestine during various periods in the past. Today there are only scattered groves and stands, most of these planted during the last decade to restore the cedar forests of the past. Therfore the evidence from Israel can show that the overexploitation of cedars for construction was one of the causes of the disappearance of the cedar forests in Lebanon and S Turkey throughout the ages.