This is old news (early 2008), but I didn’t come across this information before and maybe my readers didn’t either, so I think it is important enough to be stressed here.
By now we all know that Alexander the Great built a half-mile long causeway to connect the island of Tyre to the mainland in today’s Lebanon in 332 BC. This achievement goes down in history as one of the most daring engineering projects of its time and many theories have circulated about how successfully or unsuccessfully Alexander managed the construction of this dike.
We owe it to the recently developed geoarcheology to shed additional and important light on this enterprise. Nick Marriner, member of France’s National Center of Scientific Research and his colleagues published a study in which they show that Alexander took advantage of a natural sandbank located between the mainland and the island. With today’s technology of underwater studies and satellite pictures, this knowledge seems pretty obvious but it certainly was not the case in Alexander’s days! It turns out that the submerged sandbar was lying only one or two yards under the water level, which definitely must have been most helpful in the construction of this imposing causeway.
A good two thousand years later, we are able to conclude that this causeway altered the coastal currents on both northern and southern side of Tyre where the constant flow of sand helped to make this connection permanent. In fact, it reshaped Lebanon’s coastline forever.
The engineers from antiquity never cease to amaze me, and with them Alexander himself, of course.