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Title: The Port of Berenike Troglodytica on the Red Sea : a landscape-based approach to the study of its harbour and its role in Indo-Mediterranean trade
Author: Kotarba-Morley, Anna Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 5830
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The port site of Berenike Troglodytica - located on the Egyptian Red Sea coast - served the spice and incense routes that linked the Mediterranean World (specifically the Roman Empire) to India, Southern Arabia and East Africa. In the Greco-Roman period the site was at the cutting edge of what was then the embryonic global economy, ideally situated as a key node connecting Indian Ocean and Mediterranean trade for almost 800 years. It is now located in an arid, marginal, hostile environment but the situation must have been very different 2300 years ago, at the time of its founding. At the time of elephant-hunting trips during the Hellenistic period before the inception of its important role in the global markets of the day in the Roman period Berenike would have to have looked much different to what we can now imagine. What was it like then, when the first prospectors visited this location at the time of Ptolemy II? Why this particular place, and this particular landscape setting seemed such a propitious location for the siting of an important new harbour? Given the importance of the port over almost a millennium it is perhaps surprising that very little is known about the different factors impacting on the foundation, evolution, heyday and subsequent decline of the city; or the size, shape, and capacity of its harbour. The intention of this research is to address this shortfall in our knowledge, to examine the drivers behind the rise and fall of this port city, and to explore the extent to which the dynamics of the physical landscape were integral to this story. Using an innovative Earth Science approach, changes in the archaeological 'coastscape' have been reconstructed and correlated with periods of occupation and abandonment of the port, shedding light on the nature, degree and directionality of human-environment interactions at the site. This work has revealed profound changes in the configuration of the coastal landscape and environment (including the sea level) during the lifespan of Berenike, highlighting the ability of people to exploit changes in their immediate environment, and demonstrating that, ultimately, the decline of the port was partly due to these landscape dynamics. To further explore these themes the landscape reconstructions have been supplemented by semi-quantitative analyses of a suite of variables likely to influence the initial siting of new ports of trade. These have shown that although the site of Berenike was ideal in terms of its coastal landscape potential, possessing a natural sheltered bay and lagoon system, the choice of location was not solely influenced by its environmental conditions. Additionally, a detailed review of vessels that plied Red Sea and Indian Ocean routes is presented here in order to better understand the design and functioning of Berenike's harbour. This serves the purpose of identifying unifying features that provide more detail about the size and draught of vessels and the potential capacity of the harbour basin. By using this multi-scalar approach it has been possible to reconstruct the 'coastscape' of the site through the key periods of its occupancy and those phases immediately before and after its operation. This has wide-ranging implications for researchers studying ancient ports along this trade network as a larger database will tease out more details about how influential the landscape was in the initial siting of the port and its subsequent use and decline.
Supervisor: Robinson, Damian ; Wilson, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Roman Archaeology ; Maritime Archaeology ; Archaeological Science ; Archaeology ; Roman seafaring ; Landscape Archaeology ; Ptolemaic period ; Harbour geoarchaeology ; Indian Ocean trade ; Periplus Maris Erythraei ; Roman Egypt ; ports of trade ; Spice Route ; Indo-Roman trade ; Ancient ports ; Red Sea coast ; Parameters of attractiveness ; Sea level change ; Berenike Troglodytica