Redefining the harbor basins of Berenike and rethinking their characteristics: results of geoarchaeological studies

Ania Kotarba

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The coastal location of Berenike benefits from at least two basins (the lagoon and the embayment), both of which are highly conducive to accommodating significant mooring areas with little need for human modification of the existing natural landscape. However, given that these basins are also very efficient sediment traps, with the potential to infill with coastal, fluvial and windblown sediments, high levels of maintenance must have been necessary to prevent them from silting up and becoming unnavigable.

Whilst the current coastal situation of the site does not seem propitious for hosting a large volume of maritime traffic, the design and construction techniques of early historic merchantmen, the available navigational and mooring techniques of the time (e.g., using oars for entering and exiting ports), the location of the Red Sea at the crossroads of Indian Ocean and Mediterranean commerce, and the configuration of natural features of the coastal landscape, all meant that Berenike must have possessed a sheltered harbor with sufficient water depth to accommodate high volumes of incoming and outgoing merchant vessels. It is the reconstruction of this harbor and its configuration that are the key concern of this chapter.

This chapter brings together the results and interpretations of scientific analyses [see Chapters 4 and 5, in this volume] in order to reinterpret key archaeological and landscape features that played a significant role in the development of the site of Berenike Trogodytica. Focusing on crucial aspects of the new data, it combines the results of the coastal geomorphological survey with those from the analyses of the subsurface sediment facies. Using data derived from an Earth Science approach and integrating these datasets with traditional archaeological information, it aims to document about 800 years of human–environment interactions at Berenike, and to evaluate the site history within its dynamic environmental setting. This chapter also revisits interpretations previously put forward regarding the founding and evolution of the site, the configuration of its functional areas, and its ultimate decline and abandonment, interpretations that were based solely on field observations and archaeological material, without the benefit of subsurface topographic data.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBerenike 2010/2011
Subtitle of host publicationReport on two seasons of excavations at Berenike, including a survey in the Eastern Desert and reports on earlier work
EditorsSteven Sidebotham, Iwona Zych
PublisherThe University of Warsaw Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-83-942288-8-0
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePCMA series
PublisherThe University of Warsaw Press


  • Berenike
  • harbor basin
  • lagoon
  • geoarchaeological studies


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