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Catalogue of potential ancient ports in the Black Sea

Catalogue des abris et ports antiques potentiels en mer Noire
Arthur de Graauw
p. 129-144


A ‘harbour’ is a place where ships can seek shelter. The concept of ‘shelter’ has to include anchorages, landing places on beaches, and ports with infrastructures. Even though ancient seafarers could sail 50 to 100 nautical miles in a day, it was important to know where they could find safe shelter within two to three hours of navigation, i.e. only approximately 10 miles. For safe sailing, a total of at least 300 shelters was therefore required around the Black Sea and Azov Sea. This paper presents a list and map of 388 known ancient harbours in the Black Sea and Azov Sea, and concludes that ancient ports are probably still to be found in Ukraine and southern Russia.

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1 - Methodology
2 - Results
3 - Analysis

First lines

1 - Methodology

A ‘harbour’ is a place where ships can seek shelter. The concept of ‘shelter’ has to include anchorages, landing places on beaches, and ports including structures such as access channels, breakwaters, jetties, landing stages, quays, warehouses to store commodities and equipment, shipsheds and slipways. Shelters of interest include all places which may have been used by seafarers sailing over long distances. Villae maritimae are also of interest, but shelters used by local fishermen, who may have landed their boats on the beach in front of their homes, are of less interest. In this study, only maritime harbours and some river ports that could be reached by deep-sea ships are considered.

This paper presents work done to collect, identify and locate ancient harbours. It is based on a study of existing documentation, i.e. on the writings of 78 ancient authors and many modern authors, including the Barrington Atlas.

The ancient authors are usually historians, philosophers or...

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Electronic reference

Arthur de Graauw, « Catalogue of potential ancient ports in the Black Sea », Méditerranée [Online], 126 | 2016, Online since 01 January 2018, connection on 19 January 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.8326

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About the author

Arthur de Graauw

Coastal Engineering & Shiphandling, Grenoble, France,

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Tous droits réservés

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