Excavation efforts began back in 1994 but the report has only just been published
A fascinating 2,300-year-old fortress has been discovered on the coast of the Red Sea governorate by a team of archaeologists from Poland and America, reports Live Science. The fortress was built under the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt to protect the port of Berenike.
The discovery by archaeologists Marek Woźniakand Joanna Rądkowska was published in Antiquity, an academic journal under Cambridge University Press. The first excavation efforts started as far back in 1994 and concluded in 2001, but the scale and function of the site was only established in 2012 by the Polish-American team, with the full report published in December 2018.
"A double line of walls protected the western part of the fortress, while a single line sufficed farther to the east and north," the report explains. "Square towers were built at the corners and in strategic places where sections of the walls connected." The findings suggest that the fort was built to fend off a specific attack from the West.
The largest and most fortified section of the complex is an area which includes “three large courtyards and several associated structures, forming an enclosed fortified complex of workshops and stores." Impressive for its architecture, the fortress is both monumental and functional, paying homage to culture while still performing its protective function.
In its gatehouse, the excavators found wells, drains and pools that collected, stored and distributed groundwater and rainwater. The largest pools could hold over 17,000 litres of water, according to the report, which also suggest that, subsequently, the area had a “more humid climate than today.”
To the south of the northern defensive wall, the teams found what is described as an “ancient trash dump,” in which they found terra-cotta figurines, coins and the remains of a young elephant, suggesting the fort also used keep and release war-elephants. According to historical records, Berenike was indeed part of a larger chain of Red Sea ports that were built to supply elephants to Ptolemaic armies.
Under the Roman occupation of Egypt, which started in 30 B.C., the port of Berenike was also a commercial hub, which is suggested to have fostered trade ties between Egypt and Greece, Italy, South Arabia, India, the Malay Peninsula, Ethiopia and East Africa.
Images: Live Science