Monthly Archives: May 2012

Black Assarca Island & Factual Errors in the Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology

In 2011, Oxford University Press published “The Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology.”  Edited by Alexis Catsambis, Ben Ford, and Donny L. Hamilton, the volume complies chapters written by experts on the various subjects within the field.

The shipwreck at Black Assarca Island is included in the chapter “The Red Sea.”   While I am glad to my work included in this fine volume, there are two errors in the section that need correcting.  The first is the date: the wreck was excavated in 1997, and not in 1977 as stated in the handbook.  The second is the statement that Black Assarca is a ‘barren rock outcrop.”  This is far from the case.  As I state in my article from 2000: “Essentially, it is nothing but a massive sand-covered coral head lying two meters above sea level.  Except for a sandy beach on its northern side, the island is nearly featureless….  The island is populated by only goats and hand-sized spiders.  The flora is limited to grass and a large cactus species….” (Under the Erythraean Sea: An Ancient Shipwreck in Eritrea, page 3).  So barren and rock the island is not.

Additionally, the section would have been better if more up-to-date information was used, namely my 2008 article “The Byzantine-Aksumite Period Shipwreck at Black Assarca Island, Eritrea” published in Azania 43, although perhaps the chapter in the handbook was written prior to the publication of this article.

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