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

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley

Research output: Contribution to journalOther journal contribution


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. Founded by Ptolemy II (285–246 BC), 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. Given the port’s importance over such a long period of time it is perhaps surprising that very little is known about the foundation, evolution, heyday and subsequent decline of the city, or about the size, shape and capacity of its harbour. This thesis addressed this shortfall in knowledge by examining the drivers behind Berenike’s rise and fall and by exploring the extent to which the dynamics of the physical landscape were integral to its story. Using an innovative Earth Science approach, changes in the archaeological ‘coastscape’ of Berenike were reconstructed and correlated with periods of occupation and abandonment, shedding light on the nature, degree and directionality of human-environment interactions at the site. This geoarchaeological work revealed profound changes in the configuration of the coastal landscape and environment during the lifespan of Berenike, highlighting the ability of people to exploit variations in their immediate environment and demonstrating that the port’s decline was ultimately in part due to these landscape dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-423
Number of pages2
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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