Archaeology Magazine

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Red Sea Vessel Unearthed in Berenike

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

(S.E. Sidebotham/Berenike Project, PCMA UW)BERENIKE, EGYPT—Iwona Zych of the University of Warsaw and Steven E. Sidebotham of the University of Delaware unearthed part of a ship’s hull dating to the Roman period while digging at the site of Berenike, a port on the Red Sea founded in the third-century B.C. They think that the ship had been dismantled and stored in a warehouse. “This will be the first time that we know the actual size and construction of a Red Sea vessel, because no ancient vessels, or even wrecks have survived to this day,” Zych told Science & Scholarship in Poland. Near the port, the scientists found a large cemetery for small animals that had been buried in damaged clay vessels or covered with pieces of pottery. Most of the 60 animals were cats, but dogs, two vervets—one of which had been wearing a metal collar—and a baboon were also recovered. Archaeozoologist Marta Osypinska thinks the animals may have died of a plague brought to the port from another location, or that they may have been used in rituals performed before a journey. The team also mapped the site’s streets, an administrative center, and a tetrapylon, or gate with four entries. To read about another vessel uncovered recently in Egypt, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat."