Category Archives: Research

The Ain el Mreisseh Underwater Archaeology Project

This is a video about the underwater project we ran in 2013 in Beirut, Lebanon. It not only covers the archaeology of the site but our efforts to build cooperation with the local sport diving community. The good folks at the Calypso Diving Center at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut played a key part in the project! The project was funded by the Honor Frost Foundation and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, with further aid and support from Jubaili Brothers and the American University of Beirut, as well as the support of the Directorate General of Antiquities.

Our team consisted of Lucy Semaan, Rupert Brandmeier, Monica Jubayli, and Dorothy Chakra.



Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, phoenicians, Research, shipwrecks, Uncategorized

The Red Sea Journal

The Red Sea Institute for Anthropological Research is pleased to announce the creation of its journal for the study of the Red Sea and surrounding regions. The journal will be peer reviewed and published online beginning in 2017. We welcome submissions on the anthropological fields–anthropology, archaeology, and ethnography, as well as history when pertinent to the aforementioned disciplines.  

For more information visit


Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, Red Sea, Research, Uncategorized

New Publication: Nabataean Seafaring and the Search for Shipwrecks in the Red Sea

Seafaring by the Nabataeans is virtually an archaeological unknown: Indeed, in the corpus of Nabataean studies the issue is not often addressed. The inhabitants of what is now northwestern Saudi Arabia and southern Jordan are mostly known for their rock-carved buildings and tombs, at least in popular venues. Ancient authors noted, however, that Nabataeans plied the waters of the Red Sea as traders or pirates, maintaining their major port at Leuke Kome, whose location remains undiscovered. Several harbors containing Nabataean aspects have been located along the Saudi coast through archaeological investigation, yet the study of the maritime aspects and accomplishments of the Nabataeans remains in its infancy. Nautical Archaeology in the Red Sea is also in its early stages, but research has begun to reveal the ships of antiquity and the cargoes they carried. This paper outlines the archaeological researches of shipwrecks in the Red Sea, and examines the potential of finding the remains of Nabataean seacraft on the sea lanes reaching from Aqaba to points along the Red Sea littoral.

Authors: Ralph K. Pedersen & Rupert A. Brandmeier

Published in: Studies on the Nabataean Culture II, Nabil I. Khairy, editor. Deanship of Scientific Research, The University of Jordan-Amman (2016): 11-24.

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, Papers & Lectures, Red Sea, Research, shipwrecks, Uncategorized

The Marsala Punic Warships: Reconsidering their Nature and the Function of the “Ram”

Denise Averdung and Ralph Pedersen are pleased to announce the publication of their article in the journal Skyllis concerning an evaluation of the so-called ram of the ships found off Marsala, Sicily by Honor Frost some four decades ago. The article includes the analysis of the two hulls from Marsala and the Marburg experiment in scale-model testing the feature in question.

A pdf of the article can be found here.

The Marburg Model

The Marburg Model

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, Papers & Lectures, phoenicians, Research, shipwrecks, Uncategorized

The Marburg Survey in Saudi Arabia, 2013: Jeddah

This year our survey in Saudi Arabia concentrates on the approaches to Jeddah. The founding of this important harbor city is in dispute- some sources put it as early as the 7th century, and others in the 10th. Perhaps locating ancient shipwrecks, anchorages, and other underwater sites will help illuminate a solution.

The survey began yesterday and continues through 2 October with our staff, Marburg students, and staff from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, News, Red Sea, Research, shipwrecks

The Marburg Nautical Archaeology Survey in Saudi Arabia, September 2013

Dr. Rupert Brandmeier examines an amphora sherd.

Dr. Rupert Brandmeier examines an amphora sherd.

The Marburg Survey is pleased to announce that we have received funding for the next survey in September from the Saudi  Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.  This grant, a generous gift for which we are most grateful, covers all of our expenses for two weeks except for airfare.

Our September survey will concentrate on the area of Shoaibah, said to be the ancient harbor for Mecca, where it is known that a few ships of antiquity and the early Islamic period were wrecked. In addition to the underwater survey, we will be searching the shores of the sea and lagoons for signs of harbors and harborage activities.

Now the search for airfare!  We have already received a generous private donation toward this goal, but more is needed–particularly to get my well-deserving students into the field and under the sea.

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, News, Research, Uncategorized

The Marburg Nautical Archaeology Survey in Saudi Arabia, A Synopsis of the March 2012 Season

Under the sea near Jeddah.

Under the sea near Jeddah.

In early 2012, Philipps-Universitat Marburg was granted a five-year permit to explore a section of the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia for the benefit of the kingdom.  During the period of 1 through 12 March 2012, our archaeological team from Philipps-Universität Marburg along with staff from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities conducted explorations on land and under sea for archaeological remains of harbors and watercraft. We conducted basic terrestrial research at the extreme ends of our research zone, at Rabigh and Al Shoaibah. Underwater investigations were conducted over six days at select points off the coast. The team’s efforts were rewarded with the discovery of one terrestrial site– a coral built jetty with accompanying shell middens– and one shipwreck.

Our preliminary survey was not just to find archaeological sites.  Our goals included:

  • The exploration of the Jeddah region for shipwrecks and harborages to determine their importance for future archaeological investigation and heritage preservation;
  • Examine the coastal dynamics of the region to further our understanding of the Jeddah area to create a long-term archaeological plan;
  • Begin the compilation of a preliminary map and database of the sites within the research region for the benefit of the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Antiquities;
  • Create a photographic and video-based record of the sites;
  • Build a relationship with our Saudi colleagues, as well as with the local pertinent personnel to further the research and promote heritage preservation.

We spent spent several days engaged in underwater exploration, diving through crystal-clear waters, surrounded by multi-colored coral and sealife.  Beginning on 6 March, we began examining various areas for shipwrecks. Starting with check-out dives in a secure lagoon, we began archaeological surveying as well as undertaking the first steps of diver training for the Saudi contingent from the SCTA.

Our efforts were quickly rewarded with the discovery of our first shipwreck, and only on our second day! Our dive master, Gerd Knepel was the first to spot it, returning to our vessel with photographs of an encrusted piece of pottery with a handle and neck but broken off at the shoulder.  But what was it?  Was it Ottoman? Byzantine? Or something earlier.  The following day, examining the find underwater, the realization dawned: we had a site containing ceramics of the Roman era, probably fourth or fifth century.  Afterwards, back home in Marburg, we were able to refine the date to the late third or fourth centuries AD with the aid of Turkish colleague.  Thrilling is an understatement!

At the end of our March survey, we had met most of our goals. We found one shipwreck from antiquity, examined areas of the sea previously unknown archaeologically, gathered information about the coast, and trained our Saudi colleagues in diving techniques and archaeological methods and practices.

We hope our some of our Saudi colleagues will form the core of a future group of nautical archaeologists in the kingdom. The shipwreck we discovered promises to add significantly to our knowledge of ancient Red Sea trade and seafaring along the Arabian coast, and indicates that other wrecks of various times remain to be located along the coast of Saudi Arabia. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Archaeology, News, Research