Wadi el-Jarf (Egypte):Divers uncover world's oldest harbor in Red Sea
Archaeologists find monumental harbor built by King Cheops 4600 years ago at Wadi el-Jarf to import stuffs to build the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Source - http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.754616
Remains of the harbor structure by the Red Sea and the anchor deposits, near Wadi el-Jarf - Pierre Tallet
The oldest known harbor in the world has been discovered by archaeologists diving off Egypt's Red Sea coast at Wadi el-Jarf. The site was found near a huge archive of papyri – which is also the oldest known to date, and which describe how the harbor was built and used by the great King Cheops to import materials to build his flagship monument, the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The monumental harbor discovered under the waves at Wadi el-Jarf has been dated to 4,600 years ago, right in Cheops' time.
Cheops, also known by his Egyptian name Khufu, reigned from 2580 to 2550 B.C.E. He had the harbor erected 180 kilometers south of Suez, in the foothills of the desert mountains.
The site is nowhere near Giza: it seems it served mainly to import relatively lighter copper and minerals, which were used to manufacture the tools that were employed to build the pyramid.
The mere fact of the monumental harbor's existence gives us insight into the efficiency of the administration and its ability to organize highly complex logistical operations nearly five millennia ago, says Prof. Pierre Tallet of Sorbonne, the head of the excavations.
The jetty of King Cheops' harbor, peeping above water at low tide - Pierre Tallet
The area of Wadi el-Jarf was first identified as being of interest in 1823 by the British explorer Sir John Gardner, who noted the rock-hewn galleries in his diary. Now marine archaeologists from the French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo and Sorbonne University have discovered the monumental submerged harbor complex built by Cheops.
Over the millennia, the ancient Egyptians traded briskly with peoples around the region, operating from coastal towns on both the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. (Ancient Egyptian wares have been found as far north as Scandinavia, but could have reached there through middlemen in Europe.)
King Cheops himself was not only a great pyramid builder but evidently also a great businessman, trading along the Canaanite coast up to Byblos (today in northern Lebanon), and inland to the Sinai Desert and Jordan. The ancient Egyptians may have built the harbor to secure their supply of strategic resources, such as copper and turquoise, which were mined in the southern Sinai.
Indeed, the entire history of pharaonic Egypt was inextricably linked with use of boats and ships. Sail boats augmented with oars could travel 80 kilometers in a day, convenient not only for trade, but to quickly deploy troops.
Detail of Cheops' harbor jetty after excavations, near Wadi el-Jarf. Note the L-shape extending into the sea. Pierre Tallet
Among the astounding discoveries beneath the waves at Wadi el-Jarf was a monumental 200-meter long L-shaped pier built of large limestone blocks. The pier also functioned as a breakwater, offering sheltered anchorage for the boats moored within.
The diving archaeologists discovered 22 limestone ship anchors in situ in the mooring area, which probably fell off ships, since no wrecks have been found.
Several large storage jars lying on the seabed next to the anchors were also found underwater.
In addition to dock structures, the archaeologists also discovered several pottery kilns, attesting to local ceramic production.
Thousands of locally made globular storage jars were found everywhere throughout the site – and also on the opposite bank of the Suez Gulf, at the Egyptian coastal fortress of Al-Markha. The fortress protected Egyptian trade in Sinai and was evidently supplied with provisions from the harbor.
A limestone anchor found in situ, near Wadi el-Jarf, in the harbor built by King Khufu (Cheops) to import material to build the Great Pyramid of Giza some 4600 years ago. Pierre Tallet
Enviably efficient administration
Next to the wharf, the archaeologists found the remains of large stone structures, measuring 30 meters long by 8 to 12 meters in width. Tallet postulates that these were administrative centers for the port's operations, and were also used to store material and foods for the miners working in Sinai. They may have also provided accommodation to teams briefly staying on the coast.
Between two of these structures, the archaeologists found a deposit of 99 stone anchors, some of which still had ropes attached. A significant number bore inscriptions in red ink with the name of the boat to which they belonged. That is truly an impressive level of organization for nearly 5,000 years ago.
The galleries hewn from the rock where the papyri were found lie six kilometers from shore. The tunnels carved into the hill average three meters in width and 15 to 20 meters in length, though some galleries were over 34 meters long. Each gallery was narrowed by a series of large blocks of limestone and was finally sealed by a last block, arranged as a sort of gate.
The galleries were used for storage, from oars to tools to food and water supplies: Three of the galleries were crammed with several dozen large locally made storage jars, which probably served as water containers.
One of the limestone anchors found at Wadi el-Jarf, site of the oldest-known harbor in the world, built by King Cheops to import materials to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. Pierre Tallet
Most of the jars were inscribed with destinations, also in red ink, and the upper parts of each pot bore the name of the work team to which it belonged.