Fachbereich Alte Geschichte, Sabine Huebner
Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route: Brief Overview of Excavations 1994-2022
Excavations since 1994 at Berenike have documented a bustling Ptolemaic-Roman (3rd c. BC-6th c. AD) emporium on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, that operated for about 800 years. Ptolemy II Philadelphus founded Berenike as a way station for transporting primarily ivory and elephants captured farther south along the African coast of the Red Sea. The city transformed in the Roman era into a truly “international” entrepôt, part of an extensive network linking primarily the wider Mediterranean world with other areas of the Red Sea and northwestern Indian Ocean.
As a nexus of a broad overland and maritime communication system, peoples, ideas and items from Europe, Africa and Asia either passed through Berenike or made it home. Our excavations have shed some light on the cosmopolitan nature of Berenike through its residents’ religious practices, the languages they spoke, the food they ate, the household pets they owned and, in general, the lifestyles they led at this forlorn port wedged between a hyper-arid desert and the sea.
This lecture will briefly highlight many aspects of life at Berenike over its long history and discuss how the city and its population changed until its eventual abandonment sometime before about 550 AD.
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