In Morocco, as in other countries with extensive shorelines throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region), the need for more effective management of the factors that impact cultural heritage of the coastal zone has not gone unnoticed. The coastline of Morocco extends across the northwest Maghreb region of Africa, from the western Mediterranean to the eastern Atlantic. Cultural heritage resources include archaeological remains that reveal a myriad of past human activities in the country’s coastal zone, from Middle Paleolithic habitation sites to historical large-scale port infrastructure. As more than 60% of Morocco’s population and 90% of the country’s industries are situated in the coastal zone, cultural and natural resources alike are facing risk of deterioration and loss.
By focusing on northern Morocco as a case-study, this article aims to fill this gap by identifying six factors that affect its coasts with examples of their documented and potential impacts on archaeological sites: coastal zone development, sand extraction, coastal sedimentary processes, storm waves and tsunamis, sea level rise and pollution. The information compiled to determine these factors was derived from published archaeological, geological, biological and hydrographical studies. The impacted sites were observed during surveys conducted between 1999 and 2019. The data presented aim to provide a clear correlation between the processes and their impacts. This article, therefore, offers a preliminary assessment to support the development and content of ICZM plans.
The information presented in this article will directly feed into subsequent types of assessment, where vulnerable areas or zones are identified using applicable data with baseline measures on all known archaeological sites. An effective methodology that is presently being implemented in the MENA region includes the newly-established MarEA Project (Maritime Endangered Archaeology, part of the larger EAMENA Project – Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa). Recently, my colleague Azzedine Karra and I completed a detailed Desk Based Assessments (DBA) of Essaouira, on the mid-Atlantic coast for the MarEA Project, using satellite imagery, published data, archival information.