Preliminary Report on Coring in the Harbour of Alexandria, 2007


J. P. Oleson, C. Brandon, R. L. Hohlfelder


From 5-13 May 2007 Chris Brandon, John Oleson, and Derek Klapecki worked with the team of divers directed by F. Goddio in the inner harbour of Alexandria. The ROMACONS group worked under Goddio’s permit from the Egyptian Antiquities Department, and he and his team very graciously assisted our team with the clearance of our equipment and procedures, as well as providing housing, boats, diving equipment, and space on his boat, the Princess Douda, for our work. (Figure 1: The Princess Douda)


 Princess Douda


We were also assisted by John Cole, at that time Director of the Oxford Institute of Underwater Archaeology. Goddio’s project is funded by the Hilti Foundation, and the ROMACONS work by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. (Figure 2: Oleson and Brandon studying core on Princess Douda)


JPO and CB


The ROMACONS team recovered four cores from submerged harbour structures in the great eastern harbour basin of Alexandria (Figure 3: plan of harbour and core locations)




Two cores (ALE.2007.01 and 02) were recovered from a thin bed of concrete within a single-use barge form at the base of the Antirhodos Island (Brandon 1996). A third core (ALE.2007.03) was taken from the largest of sereral large concrete pilae extending south from the modern western breakwater. (Figure 4: Core ALE.2007.03, detail)




The fourth core (ALE.2007.04) was taken on a jetty extending nor-northeast from a peninsula at the south end of the Royal Harbour.

Although the analysis is not yet complete, these cores closely resemble those taken at Caesarea in 2005 (Hohlfelder et al. 2007). The mortar is a distinctive bluish-green colour with a rich pozzolanic additive; the aggregate consists mostly of the local kurkar aeolianite sandstone. Given the design of the formwork and the visual appearance of the mortar, it seems likely that all these samples are Roman in date.



Brandon, C. 1996, “Cements, Concrete, and Settling Barges at Sebastos: Comparisons with Other Roman Harbour Examples and the Descriptions of Vitruvius,” in A. Raban, K. G. Holum, edd., Caesarea Maritima: A Retrospective after Two Millennia, Leiden, pp. 25-40.

Hohlfelder, R. L., Brandon, C., and J. P. Oleson, 2007, “Building a Roman Pila in the Sea: Experimental Archaeology at Brindisi, Italy, September 2004,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36: 409-15.