Ancient harbours & canals
- King Øystein's harbour at
Agdenes, Norway, 12th century AD
- Harbours and trade during the Viking Age, Dan
Hedeby/Haitahabu. Viking age trading port destroyed by fire in 1050 AD. In the old harbour,
presently situated in north Germany, 4 Viking ships have been found.
Medieval harbour investigated by Stavanger Maritime Museum.
Ostia and Port of Claudius.
Ostia was the first harbour of ancient Rome, later replaced by the Port of Claudius, present Fiumicino.
The abandoned city was buried by sediment and sand, and excavated during the last century. The necropole
of Ostia has several good ship images on the gravestones. The museum area is easily accessed from Rome.
- Portus Julius (Portus Iulius), Bay
of Napes, Italy. In 37 BC this naval port was constructed by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa close to the ancient
city Puteoli (present Pozzuoli). Later the area was partially submerged, partially dried up, because of
volcanic activity. Now several parts are visible underwater.
The Greek colony Massilia was founded around 600 BC. The Roman docks were discovered in 1947, investigated
and made into a museum.
Roman port in Italy. In 1998 several well-preserved wrecks were
- Brioni. Roman port at
the Croatian coast. Investigated by German and Croatian archaeologists.
- Caesarea, Israel. Caesarea Maritima was founded by King
Herod in 22 B.C., constructed as an artificial harbour with concrete breakwaters, along the straight
unprotected coastline. The old port is partially submerged, now being investigated. It has been
arranged as un underwater archaeological park for visiting scuba divers.
- Leptis Magna (Lepcis Magna), Libya. Roman port
that silted up. Has been excavated on land.
- Roman Salt Ports, MR Bloch Archive, Israel
- Carthage, Tunisia. Traditionally
founded by Phoenicians in 814 BC. Remains of the Phoenician naval base can be seen near Tunis. The
circular boat house was reported to have slipways for 220 warships.
present Larnaca, Cyprus. Phoenician naval port from 5th and 4th centuries BC. Fragments of boat houses and
slipways are still visible.
- Alexandria, Egypt. The city was founded in 332 BC. This was
the location of the famous lighthouse of Pharos, maybe 100 m tall. In Medieval times it was all destroyed
by an earthquake.
- Tyrus (Tyre), Lebanon. The Phoenician port was taken by Alexander the Great
in 332 BC and used through Roman times.
According to Herodotus, in his Account of Egypt, Tyrus was founded in the 28th century BC.
Greece. The naval ports of Zea, Mounychia and Kantharos in Pireus are said to have had roofed slipways for
372 warships in the 4th century BC. Fragments are still visible.
- Dwarka. Indian port from from 1500-1400 BC and later,
that was washed into
the ocean by floods.
Some ancient inland waterways were very sophisticated. Transport on rivers or canals
was easier and safer than on open sea. Some of these constructions have been
- The ancient Suez canal. This was a fully navigable passage between the Nile River and the Red
Sea. Constructed c 500 BC, abandoned in the 8th c AD. Ref Skyllis 1/2000.
- The Xerxes Canal. Constructed by the Persians in northern Greece in 480 BC.
This passage was one-two kilometres long, crossing the Chalkidke peninsula, as part of
the Persian invasion on Greece.
- The ancient Florida canal. Constructed ca 200 AD.
Note on military harbours:
Hangar-looking boat houses and slipways were used during Antiquity for warships. The light, fragile and
expensive warships, like the triremes, were only on water during
missions, while on the other hand the heavier merchant ships were permanently in the sea. According to
Herodotus, such slipways were used already in the 6th century BC. Ref Les dossiers d'archéologie,
Editions Faton, juin 1993.
page by Per Åkesson, rev