Ancient ports of trade on the red sea coasts -the ‘parameters of attractiveness’ of site locations and human adaptations to fluctuating land- and sea-scapes. Case study berenike troglodytica, Southeastern Egypt
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019. The Red Sea region is unfavourable for long-shore nautical activity as it lacks natural topographic features that could be used as harbours; there are only a few suitable bays for landing along its coasts, where wadi mouths allow for a break in the reef. However, experiencing seasonally variable winds and currents, parts of the Red Sea constituted favourable marine environments for sea voyaging, contact and trade for millennia. This paper focuses on the influence that the local environmental and climatic context (including land- and sea-scape), had on the location, development, and ultimate success or decline of key Classical (Greco-Roman) ports of trade on the Red Sea coast, most pertinently those involved in exchange on the Spice, Incense and Maritime Silk Routes. The importance of changes in geomorphological, climatic, landscape and sea level configurations that led to the alternation of these human-adapted landscapes will be discussed within the new theoretical framework of ‘Parameters of Attractiveness’ developed whilst focusing on a case study, the Greco-Roman port town of Berenike Troglodytica on the southern Red Sea coast of Egypt. These parameters- grouped into 4 main categories: Sea, Land, Resources, and Socio-Economic and Political-were designed in order to statistically quantify the attractiveness of particular sites along the rims of the Red Sea for use as trade ports.