Ancient Tyre and its harbours: 5000 years of human-environment interactions

Nick Marriner, Christophe Morhange, Nicolas Carayon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The exact location and evolution of Tyre's ancient harbour areas have been matters of scholarly conjecture since the 16th century. Here, we use geoscience techniques to precisely relocate the ancient northern harbour, the city's principal transport hub during antiquity, and reconstruct its geomorphological evolution (Marriner, N., Morhange, C., Boudagher-Fadel, M., Bourcier, M., Carbonel, P., 2005. Geoarchaeology of Tyre's ancient northern harbour, Phoenicia. Journal of Archaeological Science 32, 1302-1327.). While a natural anchorage is inferred during the Bronze Age, we expound the increasing weight of anthropogenic forcings from the Iron Age onwards, culminating in a technological apogee during the Byzantine period (Hohlfelder, R.L., 1997. Building harbours in the early Byzantine era: the persistence of Roman technology. Byzantinische Forschungen Internationale Zeitschrift für Byzantinistik 24, 367-389.). Using coastal stratigraphy and underwater archaeological data (El Amouri, M., El Helou, M., Marquet, M., Noureddine, I., Seco Alvarez, M., 2005. Mission d'expertise archéologique du port sud de Tyr, sud Liban: résultats preliminaries. Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises, Hors-Série 2, 91-110; Frost, H., Recent observations on the submerged harbour works at Tyre. Bulletin du Musée de Beyrouth 24, 103-111; Noureddine, I., Helou, M., 2005. Underwater archaeological survey in the northern harbour at Tyre. Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises, Hors-Série 2, 111-128) we demonstrate that Poidebard's (1939. Un grand port disparu, Tyr. Recherches aériennes et sous-marines, 1934-1936, Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, Paris) Egyptian harbour is in reality a drowned quarter of the ancient city. Informed hypotheses are proposed for a possible second anchorage at Tyre, and it is demonstrated that presently drowned portions of the sandstone ridge served as outer harbours during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Stratigraphic data in the vicinity of Tell Mashuk, Chawakir and Rachidiye are also presented and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1310
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank the Association Internationale pour la Sauvegarde de Tyr, the Department of Antiquities of Lebanon, the Franco-Lebanese program Cèdre, ECLIPSE/CNRS and the Leverhulme Trust for technical and financial support. This research is a contribution to the project ArcheoMed: patrimoine culturel de la Méditerranée (InterReg IIIB MEDOCC ArcheoMed, Funded by: EU FEDER and MEDA). We kindly thank Claude Doumet-Serhal, Ezra Marcus and two anonymous referees for their remarks in helping to improve an earlier version of this manuscript.


  • Ancient harbour
  • Coastal geomorphology
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Geoscience
  • Holocene
  • Mediterranean
  • Tyre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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