Kolkata 2011 – Abstract Ch. Ward, Ch. Zazzaro
Cheryl WARD, Chiara ZAZZARO
Coastal Carolina University – University of Exeter
Boat related activities at the pharaonic harbour of Mersa Gawasis
The Boston University and the University of Napoli “L’Orientale” have been conducting archaeological investigations since 2001 at the pharaonic harbour of Mersa Gawasis, under the direction of Kathryn Bard and Rodolfo Fattovich. Excavations revealed evidence of seagoing return voyages from the land of Punt, in the southern Red Sea, a region from which Egyptian obtained exotic and luxury products.
Written documents testify that official pharaonic expeditions of the 12th Dynasty started in the Nile Valley, and boat parts were transported for 180 kilometres across the desert to a harbour facility on the Red Sea coast. Boat builders with different specializations probably were involved in the expeditions in order to reassemble the ships and equip them with rigging and anchors. At Mersa Gawasis the team documented the disassembly of ships after long sea voyages. Marine encrustations, discards, a huge volume of wood debris with tool marks and marine borer damage, and dozens of reworked ship timbers, associated with tools, testify to systematic cleaning, disassembling and modifying of ship components.
The site offers a unique opportunity in pharaonic Egypt and in the Red Sea for investigating phases of work and spatial organization of maritime activities. Different excavated areas revealed evidence of diversification of activities which may reflect differentiation of shipyard workers’ labour and skills. Within the same activity area, different phases of dismantling and modification of ship timber can be distinguished allowing the reconstruction of the work process.
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