Ancient ports and seafaring traditions of the Egyptian Red Sea coast in the GrecoRoman period

MONDAY 20 MAY 18.00–19.30 

Ania Kotarba-Morley (Macquarie)

The Red Sea region is hostile to long-shore nautical activity as it lacks natural topographic features that could be used as harbours; only a few suitable bays for landing, where the wadi mouths allow the break in the reef, are located on its coasts. However, experiencing seasonally variable winds and currents parts of the Red Sea constituted favourable ground for maritime voyaging, contact and trade for millennia. Berenike Troglodytica was one of the most important harbours on the Egyptian Red Sea during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods – a major hub connecting trade between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. Its geographical position was chosen due to its extraordinarily propitious characteristics owing partly to its natural harbour, protected against the prevailing northern winds, as well as its location in the vicinity of an ancient viewshed – the large peninsula of Ras Benas. This seminar will collate different strands of evidence and compare the seafaring traditions in the region and the recent findings from the port area of Berenike with other key ports of trade on the Red Sea and around the Indian Ocean rims.