Abstract

The evolution of coastal systems during the Holocene resulted from complex interactions and temporal shifts in the relative contribution of sea-level changes, climate change, and sedimentary processes. Along the Red Sea Coast, a 0.5–2 m highstand of sea level at 5 ka can be directly attributed to far-field effects resulting from the reduction in land ice following the last glacial maximum. At the ancient Egyptian harbor of Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, the site of the world's oldest archaeological evidence of long-distance seafaring, stratigraphic and geomorphologic evidence has been identified for this highstand. Here, wadi sediment input, enhanced by a period of wetter climate of the African Humid Period (early to mid- Holocene), forced the closure of coastal embayments, despite ongoing, relatively rapid sea-level rise. A stable, shallow bay persisted at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis as a result of coincidental aridization and a highstand of sea level during the mid-Holocene. This bay served as the primary harbor for ancient Egyptian trade along the Red Sea coast. During the late Holocene, shoreline progradation was dominated by sea-level fall, driven by isostatic processes. These results demonstrate the interplay of various global (sea level), regional (climate, sea level), and local (sedimentation, bathymetry) controls on the coastal evolution of the Red Sea and how these controls dictated the response of a complex civilization. Furthermore, they highlight the crucial role played by sedimentation in governing coastal response to changing sea levels.

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