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Ooids from Turkey and Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean and a love-story of Antony and Cleopatra

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Summary

Cleopatra’s beach is one of the most famous in Turkey for its distinctive white sand, composed largely of ooids. Legend has it that the Roman leader, Mark Antony, had this sand shipped from Alexandria in Egypt to create a beach for his lower Cleopatra, on Sedir Island in Gökova Bay, SE Aegean Sea. This study examines the reality of this leagend from a comparison of the oolitic sand from Cleopatra’s beach in Turkey with oolitic sand from the coast west of Alexandria in Egypt, the home city of Cleopatra, and only place in the Mediterranea where Holocene ooids occur in abundance.

The ooids on Cleopatra’s beach gave a pale browncreamy colour and dull surface texture. Most grains are spherical, with nuclei of terrigenous grains, peloids and bioclasts. The Cleopatra ooids have all the features typical of high-energy, shallow-marine ‘classic” ooids, but they occur in a very low energy bay and shown evidence of being out place there (microborings, discolouration, dull surface). In terms of size, shape, cortex fabric and mineralogy, the Cleopatra ooids show great similarities to those from the northern coast of Egypt, west of Alexandria. The Alexandria ooids examined have a white-cream colour with a high polish, although there are fewer silicate nuclei compared to the Cleopatra ooids. On the basis of textures and microfabrics, the hydrographic conditions at Gökova bay, the relatively small quantity of oolitic sand in this tiny pocket beach and the absence of this type of sand any-where else in Turkey, it is concluded that the oolitic sand was brought to Cleopatra’s beach from somewhere else, and that the northern Egyptian coast was the most likely source. This lends credence to the Antony and Cleopatra story. Calculations suggest that some 15 Roman corn barges would have been required to transport the quantity of sand now present on the beach in Turkey.

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El-Sammak, A., Tucker, M. Ooids from Turkey and Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean and a love-story of Antony and Cleopatra. Facies 46, 217–227 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02668082

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