RABAN, AVNER (1937–2004), Israeli underwater archaeologist. Born in kibbutz Ramat David in the Jezreel Valley, Raban's interest in underwater activities began after completing his military service while fishing with nets along the coast of Israel and accidentally discovering archaeological artifacts. Raban studied fine arts at the Oranim Teachers College from 1958 to 1960. In 1961 he became one of the founders of the Underwater Exploration Society of Israel, together with Dr. Elisha Linder. The society eventually joined the International Confederation of Underwater Activity (CMAS), headed by Jacques Cousteau, and Raban in time took part in a number of underwater expeditions working in the Mediterranean area, notably on the excavation of the Yassi Ada shipwreck off the coast of Turkey. Raban was co-director and staff member of various underwater expeditions in Israel: Akhziv (1961); surveys along the northern coast of Israel (1964); Acre (1965); and Athlit (1966). In 1966 Raban began his academic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studying archaeology and geography. To qualify for his B.A. Raban participated in a number of excavations on land, at Megiddo and Hazor. During the Six-Day War (1967), he discovered several shipwrecks in the Red Sea while combing the Straits of Tiran and Snapir for mines. In 1968 he directed his first underwater excavation at Sharm el-Sheikh, which led to an interdisciplinary survey of the Gulf of Eilat and a survey of the east coast of Sinai in 1969–70, the excavation of the "Mercury Wreck" in the Red Sea in 1972, and the excavation of a wreck in the Na'ama Gulf of the Red Sea in 1973. In 1981 Raban received his Ph.D. degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, subsequently teaching in the Department of Maritime Civilizations and the Center of Maritime Studies at Haifa University, where eventually he became a full professor. From the mid-1970s Raban concentrated on the archaeological study of the harbors along the coast at Israel, namely at Acre, Dor, Athlit, and Caesarea, as well as further afield in Crete and Sicily. Between 1972 and 1992 Raban also conducted work on land, with a survey of the Jezreel Valley, and digging at Tell Abu-Hawam. From the 1980s on Raban dedicated many years to the study of Caesarea Maritima, but, unfortunately, was unable to complete the two-volume report The Harbors of Caesarea, when he unexpectedly died while visiting London during a sabbatical at Oxford.
R. Gertwagen, "Obituary: Avner Raban (1937–2004)," in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 22 (2004), 79–82.
[Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.