Douglas L. Inman


The Minoans and Phoenicians appear to have developed a very superior "lay" understanding of waves and currents, which led to the development of remarkable concepts in working with natural forces in their coastal engineering works. For example, the Phoenicians developed a "continuous self-flushing" harbor at Tyre and possibly a "flushable" harbor for the removal of sand and silt at Sidon. It would appear that developments of this type were the outgrowth of the close association with and acute observation of nature that occurs where a coastal people learn to work with currents and sail, in the absence of technology for harnessing large amounts of power. However, harbor design became markedly stereotyped following the development of large engineering corps with the capacity for rapid and massive construction. The earlier innovative, natural concepts in harbor design appear to have become obscured by the end of the Roman era, and have remained relatively unused to this day. In view of man's present extensive intervention in the coastal zone, mostly based on "brute force" technology, a careful study of the ancients' ability to work with nature provides valuable insight for today's problems.


ancient harbors; modern harbors; harbors

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