Project reports from Professor Steven Sidebotham covering the activities of Maritime Archaeology at the Ptolemaic-Roman Red Sea Port of Berenike, Egypt
Over fourteen seasons of excavations have been conducted by the US-Polish team (co-directors S.E. Sidebotham (University of Deleware) and I. Zych (Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology (University of Warsaw) at the Red Sea port of Berenike. Operating for eight centuries, from the third century BC to the sixth century AD, Ptolemy II Philadelphus initially founded the port of Berenike for the importation of war elephants by sea from areas of what are today Sudan and Eritrea. By the first century AD Berenike had become a premier Roman emporium in the commercial life of the Mediterranean-Red Sea-Indian Ocean basins. Throughout five and a half centuries of Roman occupation Berenike was an important nexus in an Old World network linking parts of Europe, Africa and Asia together both commercially and culturally.
Berenike’s cosmopolitan status is evident from four temples and a church thus far excavated, from the documentation of 12 different languages (from Europe, Africa and Asia) written on many hundreds of documents and from a huge volume and variety of organic and inorganic finds. Collectively these data indicate that Berenike had contacts as far west as the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco and as far east as Indonesia. The bulk of non-Mediterranean ecofacts and artifacts identified from our excavations derive from South Asia (India and Sri Lanka). There are also indications of contacts with other areas of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, Southern Arabia and coastal sub-Saharan Africa (especially the Kingdom of Axum).
Maritime related finds include cedar and teak ship timbers from both early and late Roman contexts (the former fitted together using the typical Mediterranean pegged mortise-and-tenon technique). Excavations have also recorded brailing rings made of animal horn and lead ship hull sheathing. Numerous large ropes found with the ship timbers were likely used aboard ships or to tie them to dock facilities. We also have the remains of Indian-made cotton sails, possible lifting nets and a first century AD graffito of a ship carved on a sherd.
Egypt Excavations & Related Fieldwork in the Eastern Desert Winter 2014 -15 Thanks to the generous support of the Honor Frost Foundation and other donors,1 the University of Delaware (USA) (co-director Steven E. Sidebotham) – Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw (co-director Iwona Zych) continued fieldwork at Berenike (Red Sea coast), Egypt during […]
The University of Delaware (USA)/Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology (University of Warsaw) Berenike Project conducted its fourteenth season of excavations at this Ptolemaic-Roman (third century BC-sixth century AD) port on the Red Sea coast of Egypt this winter. Berenike lies about 825 km south southeast of Suez and approximately 260 km due east of Aswan. […]