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BERENIKE

Egypt

Red Sea coast and Eastern Desert

City and harbor

(Hellenistic and Roman)

MAJOR DISCOVERIES:

  • Hellenistic fort and town fortifications (mid 3rd century BC)
  • Harbor bay with storage and workshop facilities (only known ship timber from excavations, representing a Roman ship from the 2nd century AD sailing in the Red Sea) and sacred temenos on an island in the harbor (including the “Lotus Temple”, 4th–5th century AD)
  • Pet dog and cat, and monkey cemetery, as well as early Roman ostraka and papyri archives on a rubbish dump, the finds highlighting the everyday material culture of the inhabitants of Berenike in the Roman period (from black pepper to coconuts)

DATING:

  • Fortified harbor complex founded in the reign of Ptolemy II (c. 276 BC)
  • Early Roman emporium on the Spice Route from India to Rome (1st–3rd century AD)
  • Port on the commercial routes to Africa, Arabia and India (4th–6th century AD)

American–Polish excavations from 2008, co-directed by Steven E. Sidebotham (University of Delaware) and Iwona Zych (PCMA UW). Continuation of an American–Dutch project in 1994–2001, co-directed by S.E. Sidebotham and Wilhelmina Z. Wendrich. Fifth site in Egypt to have a complete geophysical magnetic map of practically the whole area, project headed by Tomasz Herbich (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences).

Full excavation reports in the PAM Monograph series the PAM Monograph series (Berenike 2008–2009, PCMA Excavation Series 1, Warszawa 2011) reports in PAM (Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean). Reports from the American–Dutch excavations by CNWS, Leiden University, and Cotsen Institute of Archaeology–UCLA).

Site area about 28 ha, highest point on the town mound, 7.30 m a.s.l.

Harbor located in a sheltered bay behind Ras Benas cape, at the mouth of two bifurcated wadis, town on a fossil reef promontory.

Additional projects: Wadi Khashab – prehistoric cattle cemetery in the Eastern Desert (Polish NCN project, P. Osypiński);
Geoarcheological research (PhD project, A.M. Kotarba Morley, Oxford University)
Temple of Serapis in the town (Dutch project, M. Hense);
Survey of the emerald mines in Sikait and Nugrus in the Eastern Desert (American–Canadian project, J.-L. Rivard)

UPDATE: November 2014