Sunday, July 19, 2009

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea'

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea'
Executive Producers, Dennis Gelbaum. Michel Pons and Steven Sidebotham

A broadcast 6x30 series, web based series of 3-minute updates and highlights, a 24/7 live 'webcast' from our liveaboard and a feature length documentary revealing a never-seen part of classical history - the ancient ports, anchorages and shipwrecks of the Pharaos - especially from the Ptolemaic, Roman and early Byzantine periods.

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' is an archeological reconstitution of a portion of the antique sea trade route, with anticipated discoveries of ancient ports, anchorages and shipwrecks and antique settlements/cities. Our expedition will include both land and underwater investigations at stops along the ancient maritime routes linking the northern Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, in the countries of Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' will be focused on a number of sites which may be associated with the ancient ports of Kleopatra’s harbor, Ptolemais Theron (also named Ptolemais of the Hunt, built by Philadelfus in 254BC and served as a hunting ground for the capture and the shipping of elephants to be used in Alexander’s army as war-tanks and the place where the circumference of the earth was discovered), Panchrisos, Berenice near Saba, The Altars of Konôn, the Grove of Eumedes and other ancient coastal cities along the African coast.

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' will scientifically identify and date the occupation of the sites visited before, discover what the coastal ruins, spotted on satellite imagery, exactly are to confirm the locations of the Ptolemaic-Roman settlements known only through literature, and the two oldest fish-farm complexes from Pharaonic time.

Such a project has never before been undertaken.

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' - is a four week adventure in the Red Sea - navigating as the Ancients did - searching for classical looking architecture, ruined ‘houses’, water management systems, underground cisterns and more… The danger to sail inside the reefs is real. The depth on charts is only approximate and on several occasions we are sure to experience zero depth below the keel.

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' multi-media project provides us with a unique opportunity to educate and exchange cultural, historical and geographical knowledge one can’t read about in books or experience in a traditional classroom. 'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' will help define, give credibility to and/or rewrite the world's history and geoheritage - and Sudan's patrimony.

Arriving at Port Sudan, the Republic of Sudan's main port city, we board 'My Cuba Libre", a liveaboard powered catamaran captained by Ricardo and start our four week adventure - recreating conditions of ancient merchant ships in coastal navigation and facilitate access to many remote locations that would be difficult to approach from land. We will search for artifacts at natural moorings, identify underwater piers and classical looking ruins on land, and near obstacles to navigation.

Our adventure takes us between Port Sudan, Eritrea and fish farms near the border.

'Ptolemais and the Red Sea' expedition will help define the significance of Berenike, port of the Ptolemaist and reveal two, possibly three additional ports. These findings will demonstrate that global trading between Europe-Africa-India-China-started in these ports - in about 254 BC by Greek Pharao Philadelphus controlling ports down to Djibuti - and that the Roman Empire extended to the south along the coast and islands of the Red Sea, taking over the Ptolemaic places and constructing new buildings, cisterns and piers for boats.

By compiling and studying detailed satellite imagery and combining this with reading the ancient literary sources, Nautical charts, and sparse archeological literature published on this part of the Red sea, we will be able to select among the GPS positions of coastal remains that we believe are the most likely ancient settlements linked with the maritime trade route and that have not been previously published.

We will anchor the boat at moorings near the three sites that we previously visited and will try to date the occupation and identify them by collecting artifacts and ceramics. We will visit the three other sites (with GPS positions) that we propose to identify and consult with local residents and fishermen to locate other ancient remains. The discoveries will be documented precisely using GPS positioning, photography and, where feasible, the drawing of more detailed measured architectural plans. This data will form the basis for the publication of a gazetteer that can be used in more detailed possible follow-up investigations and excavations.

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