Present situation of the site

The ruins of Berenike are located on the shore of the Red Sea, close to the border between Egypt and Sudan, in a deserted area just south of the village of Arab Saleh (Baranees). This village, at approximately 15 km (10 m) is inhabited by the Ababda, a nomadic people that live traditionally from herding sheep, goats and camels. The only feature indicating the remains of an ancient town is a hilly patch, covered with fragments of coral and pot sherds.

In the winter of 1999/2000 the Berenike expedition had its seventh season of work. During previous season (1994-1999) it had become clear that Berenike must have been inhabited until the sixth century AD. Even in the latest phase of occupation trade contacts were still extensive, albeit on a smaller scale than the two major periods of activity: the early Roman period (first and second centuries AD) and the fourth and early fifth centuries AD.

In all periods of occupation the inhabitants of Berenike had access to luxury items, such as finely decorated glass and imported ceramic fine wares. Their houses, although built of local materials of poor quality, such as fossil coral heads, gypsum blocks and sand bricks, were furnished with rich tapestries. Some of the buildings were decorated with marble flooring or wall revetments, imported from Asia Minor. Most food was imported from the Nile valley, over a distance of at least 375 km (235 m). Water was supplied by a number of wells at the foot of the mountains of the Eastern Desert, approximately 8 km (5 m) of the town.

Even almost 2000 years later the expedition team encounters the problems related to the remote location of Berenike which seem comparable to the challenges faced by the original inhabitants of Berenike. Water, food and all materials have to be imported from far afield and electricity to run computers and microscopes, supplied only by solar panels, is in short supply.


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