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Unformatted text preview: 397 chapter 28 Considering Sabkha Ghuzayyil Lake Tritonis in Coastal Cyrenaica T he preceding two chapters established the geographic and envi- ronmental setting for the myth of the Argonauts in Libya. Based on ancient narratives and their correspondence to known natural features, I place the former Lake Tritonis in the southeastern Gulf of Sirt, also called the Gulf of Sidra. For reasons established in this chapter and the previous chapter, I speculate that the now-extinct lagoon may have been located in or near the ancient equivalent of today’s Bight of Brega near the modern port of Marsa Brega, also known as Marsa al Burayqah, in the modern regional municipality of Ajdabiya, Libya. Perhaps Lake Tritonis approximately coincided with today’s Sabkha Ghuzayyil (Figure 7), which constitutes the least elevated region of modern Libya. Three thousand years ago, the ancient version of this depressional sabkha could have been situated adjacent to the gulf shore. Over three millennia the coastline changed, probably moving northward owing to normal marine and geological processes and blowing sand. Consequently, today’s Sabkha Ghuzayyil is situated inland from the Gulf of Sirt. From Lake Tritonis, the Argonauts’ coast-hugging departure took them one day’s sail northeastward past the coastal scarps of the western Jebel Akhdar where the coastline begins its lengthy, pronounced curve around the limestone-dominated Cyrenaican headland. Adhering to Triton’s instructions (Chapter 27), the Argonauts sailed straight rather than fol- lowing the Cyrenaican coastal curve toward Egypt. After a day of sailing followed by two nights and a day of rowing, the Argonauts approached Carpathus, a Greek island between Crete and Rhodes. 398 ArgoNAUtS IN coAStAl lIByA ~ part vIII MY VIEW OF PHYSICAL LAKE TRITONIS To me, Lake Tritonis may have been a laterally expansive lagoon–sabkha complex comprised of two parts: variably enclosed reef-waters and shoal- waters situated seaward of the main coastline, and a large, low-lying marine sabkha environment that in places was traversed by the lower reaches of one or more wadis. The sabkha environment in places contained lagoon- waters, depressional intertidal channels, and salt marshes. I envision the offshore part of Lake Tritonis as perhaps either a tidal- bar belt or a fanlike series of shoals protruding seaward from the general line of the beach. This seaward component was enclosed by low barriers formed by rocky reefs and abundant shoals and sandbars. I envision the onshore part of Lake Tritonis as a lagoon extending landward from the shoreline and in many places occupying a low-lying marine sabkha, which is a type of tidal salt flat in an arid coastal zone (Chapter 26). The landward portion of Lake Tritonis was situated among sandbars, windblown sand dunes, fossil dunes, sandy ridges, and low carbonate plateaus....
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- Spring '11