With the kind support of the HFF, the Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage of Alexandria University concluded its second season of fieldwork at the site of Marsa Bagoush.
The 2016 season extended form the 12th to the 27th of August during which 124 dives were carried out by a team of graduate students from the Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology & Underwater Cultural Heritage.
The site of Marsa Bagoush, which takes the form of a bay 1000m X 300m, is located 250km west of Alexandria. Marsa Bagoush (ancient Zygris) was mentioned by Claudius Ptolemaeus in the 2nd century AD as one of the harbour sites that extended between Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh (ancient Paraetonium).
In 1861, as part of a coastal survey of North Africa, the British Royal Navy surveyed the site of Marsa Bagoush and published the first map of the site. In 1968 the Egyptian Oceanographer Anwar Abdel Aleem reported the accidental discovery of some amphora in the bay of Marsa Bagoush, which he believed to be the remains of an ancient shipwreck. In 1996 the Institute of Nautical Archaeology conducted a limited survey of the site where two intact early Roman amphorae were found and raised. However, no further exploration of the site was made, until 2015 when the Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage started its systematic survey of the site. During the 2015 season, at least three separate clusters of ceramics were discovered along the northern edge of the bay. They extend from east to west and measure 100m X 200m, 50mX50m and 100mX50m respectively. Each of the clusters consists mainly of concreted broken amphorae in addition to other materials such as glass, wood and glazed pottery.
The objective of the 2016 season was to develop 3D models of the main areas that contain concentrations of ceramics within the bay of Marsa Bagoush. Also during this season several areas outside the bay were explored which resulted in the discovery of a new site. Accordingly, at present we have recorded the remains of cargo items from four shipwrecks which date to the Hellenistic, Roman and Islamic periods, as well as the 19th century.
The remains of at least 150 amphorae were recorded inside the bay the majority of which are Egyptian amphorae from the early Roman period, probably produced in the Mareotic region west of Alexandria. This indicates the existence of at least one shipwreck of that date. The rest of the remains date back to the Late Roman/Islamic period. That is in addition of two grapnel anchors and one admiralty 19th century anchor. Outside the bay, in 13m deep water, several cluster of Egyptian Hellenistic amphora sherds were recorded, indicating the existence of a different shipwreck.
Among the interesting items that were found during this season is a wooden mast that measures 7m. The mast was trapped under rocks at c. 13m deep of water. The mast was located c. 120m to the east of the Hellenistic amphora sherds outside the bay. Another unique item was a grinding stone that was found c. 50m north of the same site.
The seabed and archaeological remains were modeled using photogrammetry techniques with the aid of trilateration methods. The 3D models will be used for the study site formation and the distribution of artefacts. It will also be used for presenting the site to the non-diving community.
On the other hand, a preliminary survey was carried out on-land to the south of the shoreline. The survey resulted in discovering a series of interconnected rock-cut cisterns which probably date to the Roman Period. The cisterns are solid evidence that the site was occupied in antiquity. During the coming season, excavation of some silted spots inside the bay will be conducted using water dredges in order to expose and record the buried remains. Moreover, fabric analyses of ceramic samples will be carried out to determine its clay type and hence its exact origin. Also a sample of the wooden mask will collected for dendro dating. More exploration of the deeper water outside the bay will be also carried out.
The Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology & Underwater Cultural Heritage is deeply grateful to the HFF for supporting its activities and particularly the The Marsa Bagoush Survey Project.