The impact of coastal erosion on the archaeology of the Cyrenaican coast of Eastern Libya

K Westley, Julia Nikolaus, Ahmed Emrage, Nic Flemming, Andrew Cooper

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Abstract

Coastal erosion in Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya) represents a major problem for archaeology and heritage management. The area is rich in archaeological sites, often understudied or not fully documented, but also has extensive stretches of vulnerable eroding coastline. This study demonstrates the extent and impact of erosion via shoreline change assessment at two spatial scales. Firstly, wide area assessment using shorelines extracted from a time-series of medium-resolution Landsat imagery. Secondly, site-specific assessment using recent and historic Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery. In both cases, extracted shorelines at different timesteps were compared using the Digital Shoreline Analysis System (DSAS) tool to quantify rates and magnitudes of shoreline movement. The results show extensive zones of erosion at and around the key ancient harbour sites of Apollonia, Ptolemais and Tocra. They also suggest increased rates of coastal retreat in recent years, which is likely linked to anthropogenic actions such as sand mining and urbanization. Forecasts based on present-day shoreline change rates, coupled with ground-level documentation of the vulnerable shorelines is used to identify archaeological features and structures which will likely be progressively damaged or destroyed over the next 20 years. The ability to actively protect archaeological sites is unclear, but there is a clear need for mitigation in the form of enhanced awareness of environmental problems (e.g. caused by sand mining) and more intensive survey/documentation of sites and areas which will be lost in the coming years.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0283703
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume18
Issue number4
Early online date12 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding information: This study is part of the Maritime Endangered Archaeology (MarEA) Project, funded by Arcadia - a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin (https://www.arcadiafund.org.uk/) (Award# 4067; authors KW, JN). VHR satellite image provision was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) Third Party Missions Program (https://earth.esa.int/eogateway) (Proposal # 60657; authors KW, JN). Fieldwork was supported by the British Institute for Libyan and Northern African Studies (formerly Society for Libyan Studies: https://www.bilnas.org/) (authors JN, AE). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
Funding:ThisstudyispartoftheMaritime EndangeredArchaeology(MarEA)Project,funded byArcadia-acharitablefundofLisbetRausing andPeterBaldwin(https://www.arcadiafund.org.

Funding Information:
This study is part of the Maritime Endangered Archaeology (MarEA) Project, funded by Arcadia - a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin (https://www.arcadiafund.org. uk/) (Award# 4067; authors KW, JN). VHR satellite image provision was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) Third Party Missions Program (https://earth.esa.int/eogateway) (Proposal # 60657; authors KW, JN). Fieldwork was supported by the British Institute for Libyan and Northern African Studies (formerly Society for Libyan Studies: https://www.bilnas.org/) (authors JN, AE). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We are indebted to our Libyan partners working on the Cyrenaica Coastal Survey and their tireless field documentation of endangered archaeological sites. Particular thanks to Saad Buyadem and Fouad El-Gumati for their field observations and photographs, and to Prof. Abdelkarem Elgazali for information on local coastal erosion.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Westley et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Keywords

  • Shores
  • Image processing
  • Archaeology
  • Beaches
  • Linear regression analysis
  • Sediment
  • Erosion
  • Urbanization
  • Libya
  • Sand

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