Archaeological expeditions from the Netherlands and Flanders for which the NVIC acts as the primary facilitating institution in Egypt.
- The Leiden Excavations in the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara
- The Dakhleh Oasis Project
- Reconstructing the Villa of Serenus
- Deir el-Medina
- Tell Ibrahim Awad
- Rock art research at Qurta
- Belgian Middle Egypt Prehistoric Project
- Dayr al Barsha project
- The Qasr Dakhleh Project
- The pottery workshops in Fustat
Dr. Maarten Raven
From 1975 to 1998 the joint mission of the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) and the Egypt Exploration Society (EES, London) have excavated over 10 elit) tombs in the New Kingdom necropolis south of the pyramid of Unas, dating from the time of Akhenaten to the early Ramesside period (dynasties 18-19, c. 1350-1200 BC). Since 1999, the role of the EES has been taken over by the department of Egyptology of Leiden University. Apart from the original aim to find background information on tomb fragments and statues in the RMO, the abundance of the data makes it possible to formulate penetrating research questions on the underlying conceptualisation of the necropolis (e.g. patterns of spatial/chronological distribution, of offering cults, of access and communication, of architectural and iconographic design, of social status, of demography and of reuse in later periods), revealing the dynamics in various subsystems of the Egyptian culture. The project has a website and a supporting society, the Friends of Saqqara. The most important finds were those of the tombs of Horemheb (1975), Maya (1986) and Pay (1994) - all of them high officials of King Tutankhamun - and Meryneith (2001) and Ptahemwia (2007), who served under Pharaoh Akhenaten. In 2010 an anonymous tomb was found which is still being investigated. At the same time, galleries dating back to the Archaic Period (c. 2800 BC) have been found under the tombs of Maya and Meryneith. For more information and a list of publications: http://www.saqqara.nl/
The Dakhleh Oasis Project (DOP) is a study of an Egyptian oasis to determine its cultural evolution and parallel environmental evolution. Data is collected by examining the surface of the area, through aerial photography, archaeological excavation, mapping, restoration, modelling, the examination of minute and large objects, comparisons, and teamwork amongst the variety of scholars who come to study the oasis in detail. The field work is done with the permission and participation of Egyptian officials, as well a participating scholars from countries as diverse as Australia, Canada, USA, Netherlands, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Britain, and others.
This international team began this study in 1978 with six members and now numbers well over 100 people. In the oasis, the project is housed in two large buildings at 'Ain el-Gindi, near Mut the oasis capital. Teams assemble in the oasis each winter between October and April. There are geologists, botanists, zoologists, physicists, archaeologists, photographers, draughtsmen, conservators, surveyors, papyrologists, art historians, Egyptologists, epigraphers and students of various disciplines. Daily, in the field camp, there is a transfer of information and ideas, and cooperation between various team members on problems that arise as the result of new discoveries.
The field work began in 1978 with a walking survey of the oasis landscape, when detailed observations of ancient sites and landscape indications and features were noted and discussed. This occupied project members from 1978 until 1982. A total of 450 ancient sites, dating somewhere between the Middle Pleistocene, 400,000 years ago, when man first appeared in the oasis region, down to the present day. Old Stone Age hunters, Neolithic settlers, ancient Egyptians, Romans, Christians, Muslims, have all been a part of the cultural evolution in the oasis region – truly a microcosm of the whole eastern Saharan and Egyptian landscapes. Since 1982, after the completion of the walking survey, the project has undertaken various excavations to investigate various details of all the various aspects of our discoveries.
Discoveries include the prehistoric rock art made by man during the Neolithic, which includes a wide variety of animals, both domestic and wild. One of the most interesting of these are the many scenes of giraffes, being held by a tether held by a human; yet no physical remains of a giraffe have been discovered, despite the many other large African animals for which bones have been found. During the Neolithic, many cultural traits first appear, which are followed, some 500 years later, in the Nile Valley. At about 100,000 years ago, we have discovered that most of the Dakhleh Oasis was submerged beneath a lake which was at least thirty-five metres deep. There were at least seven stone-built temples in Dakhleh, located in various settlements. These date to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, although two of them go back into Pharaonic times. They are well made and decorated with relief carving. There are in addition, several mudbrick temples, also of the Ptolemaic-Roman periods. They are well made and decorated with relief carving. There are, in addition, several mudbrick temples, also of the Ptolemaic-Roman periods, which are undecorated and were probably built by locals. There is a large and important archive of 18th - 19th century documents of the villagers of el-Qasr, and there is an archive of Manichaean texts which comprise about one-quarter of all known texts of this Middle Eastern cult of the 2nd - 10th centuries AD. Greek texts, written on thin boards include two bound books – the earliest codex books ever found in the world. There is the only known temple dedicated to the god Tutu; and, at another temple, a new deity, Amun-Nakht, never before known to Egyptology. There are many more.
Aims of the Dakhleh Oasis Project are many and varied and depend on the individual scholars who participate. Discoveries are physical and intellectual, and will often be joined together. A coherent picture of the whole, including the cultural and physical evolution of man in a changing environment is one goal we all share. Restoration, both on paper and in the oasis is another. So, we are restoring the multi-storey mudbrick houses of el-Qasr; a replica of a Roman villa, complete with painted decoration on the inside walls, has been built on site at Amheida. A decorated capital from the forecourt of the temple at 'Ain Birbiyeh is being recovered from its fallen location and will be rebuilt either at the site or at the new Dakhleh Oasis Museum.
Currently, there are some eight teams being fielded by the DOP. These include that at the Islamic village of el-Qasr, the Pharaonic and Roman settlement at Amheida, the epigraphic study of the temples at Deir el-Hagar, Amheida, Mut el-Kharab, Ismant el-Kharab,and 'Ain Birbiyeh; excavation at the settlement sites at Amheida, 'Ain el-Gazzareen, Mut el-Kharab, Ismant el-Kharab. 'Ain Birbiyeh; physical anthropology of the human remains at the cemeteries of Ismant el-Kharab; excavation of the Roman walls at el-Qasr; mapping and study of stone quarries for temple construction; studies of texts in ancient Greek, in Coptic, and in Arabic languages; and a linguist studies the differences in the dialects between villages in the oasis.
Our publications are numerous, including several hundred in various academic and scientific journals, some sixteen monographs on various aspects of our oasis work published by Oxbow Press and by the National Archives Documentary Service in Cairo; museum collections in Toronto, at the Royal Ontario Museum, at the New Valley Museum in Kharga Oasis, and in the National Musaeum in Cairo. The project holds open meetings each three years as public symposia, which are also published.
Future plans are rather open-ended. Our inclination is to follow the evidence we discover, which often leads into unexpected avenues and new ventures.
In 1979, while surveying the late antique city of Amheida (ancient Trimithis), a team of the Dakhleh Oasis Project discovered the upper part of lavishly decorated walls. The main building, including the decorated rooms, was subsequently excavated in 2004 and 2007 by a team from Columbia University, directed by Roger S. Bagnall (it is now a project of New York University). It turned out to be a fourth century ‘villa’, once occupied by a family of high social status (the owner was a city councilman).
The well-preserved decoration in four of the rooms depicts geometrical patterns as well as figurative scenes. Both the paintings in situ and the collected fragments pose considerable conservation problems; the layer of plaster is very thin and extremely fragile. The best way of conserving this precious building for future generations is refilling it with sand – after extensive documentation.
Because this unique Villa would be destroyed by being exposed to the public, the plan was made to build a full size reconstruction of the main house. In order to recreate the full splendor of this building the decision was taken to reconstruct the painted decoration as well. The project is financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cairo and administered by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo. The Villa was built by Nicholas Warner and finished in 2009, next to the site of Amheida. By the beginning of this year the decoration team moved in and started with two of the main rooms, the ‘Green Room’ and the ‘Red Room’. The decoration consists mainly of geometrical patterns, including hundreds of circles, heartshaped petals and tens of thousands of dots. The most beautiful part is the border in the Green Room, a wavy band with birds, grapes and flowers.
In the meantime lots of work is done to put more of the fragments together in order to reconstruct the decoration of the Domed Room. Next year the decorators will move into this central hall of the Villa to start on the reconstruction of the intricate and rich decoration there.
Dr Rob Demarée of Leiden University is working at the Cairo Museum to study their collection of ostraca from Deir el-Medina. A large part of this collection remains unpublished; this promises to bring more information on this workmen's village, which is one of the specialities of Demarée and the Egyptology section of Leiden University. More information on their website.
Dr Willem van Haarlem
From 1988 to 2004, regular excavations have been going on at Tell Ibrahim Awad, Sharqiya province, in the Eastern Nile Delta by the Netherlands Foundation for Archaeological Research in Egypt. The site of Tell Ibrahim Awad was selected for further excavation in 1986, after soundings indicated a rich 1st Dynasty tomb (in the zone later designated as Area B) and a large mud-brick wall (in Area A). This wall appeared to belong to a large early Middle Kingdom temple. These soundings were made during an extensive survey between 1984 and 1988 around the town of Faqus.
Tell Ibrahim Awad is situated just outside the village of Umm Agram in a remote corner of the central part of the Eastern Nile Delta. The highest point is now just ca. 2 m above the agricultural plain, but this must have been more in earlier days. About 30 years ago, the central part of the tell was leveled for a fruit tree orchard, thus destroying part of the archaeological record. An extensive subsoil drilling programme has shown that the present surface of approximately 20 000 m2 comprises not much more than 10 % of the original tell surface, the remainder having been reclaimed gradually for agricultural activities. A future magnetic survey may produce more data about the original extension. Finds made in 1999 during drainage activities in the area have confirmed the original extension of the tell as previously established by drilling.
The core of the tell is formed by a sandy turtleback or gezira in the curve of a former Nile branch, but this gezira is now no longer visible under settlement and flood deposits. There were several shifting Nile branches nearby. In fact, this shifting may have been the cause of the abandonment of the tell after the early Middle Kingdom, comparable to that of nearby Piramesse as residence after the New Kingdom, when this river port became inaccessible due to the silting up of its waterways.
The first excavations were carried out on two locations, A and B. Since 1994, the work has been focused on Area A, with a temple and a settlement with cemetery.
The untouched surface of Area A is about level, and is covered with low vegetation such as camel thorn and halfa-grass. Remains of an old irrigation ditch are visible in Area B.
The excavation of the temple site was completed in 2001, when the sand of the original gezira, the supposed building site of the first temple, was reached. This cult location was almost continually in use from Naqada IId to the early Middle Kingdom. The most intriguing and numerous finds were made in the temple of the First Intermediate Period/Late Old Kingdom. They consist of several Early Dynastic deposits of votive offerings and cult objects. The contents of these deposits show close parallels to contemporaneous finds in temples in nearby Tell el-Farkha, and in Upper Egyptian Abydos, Hierakonpolis and Elephantine.
A cemetery beside the temple consisted of about 80 burials, dating from the late Old Kingdom to the early Middle Kingdom. The burials were very poorly provided with gifts, mostly consisting of some pottery and beads.
The cemetery excavations will be resumed in 2011, this time under the aegis of the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, and directed by Willem van Haarlem.
-Willem van Haarlem, An Introduction to the Site of Tell Ibrahim Awad, in: Egypt and the Levant 10 (2000), 13-16
-D. Eigner, Tell Ibrahim Awad: Divine Residence from Dynasty 0 to Dynasty 11, in: Egypt and the Levant 10 (2000), 17-36
-Willem van Haarlem, Temple Deposits at Tell Ibrahim Awad (Amsterdam, 2009)
-Willem van Haarlem, D.L. Phillips, J.C. Rose, Bioarchaeology of Tell Ibrahim Awad, in AegLev 19 (2009), 157-210
Dirk Huyge (Director) & Wouter Claes (Vice-Director)
In 2007, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels started rock art research at Qurta, on the east bank of the Nile, along the northern edge of the Kom Ombo plain. The project was funded by Yale University. Three sites have been identified on the upper part of the Nubian sandstone cliffs bordering the Nile. The majority of the rock art consist of naturalistically drawn animal figures. The bulk of these animals are representations of wild cattle or aurochs, but birds, hippopotamus, gazelle and hartebeest are also present. In addition, there are also several highly stylized representations of human figures (mostly shown with protruding buttocks, but no other bodily features) and a small number of probable non-figurative or abstract signs. All the images are very darkly coloured, bear a substantially developed patination and/or rock varnish and show traces of intensive weathering. This in itself is already an indication of considerable antiquity.
Based on the particularities and the nature of the rock art, its general geographical and archaeological context, there is little doubt that the rock art repertoire at Qurta is extremely old. It can most probably be attributed to the Late Pleistocene Ballanan-Silsian culture which is dated to about 16000 to 15000 BP. As such, Qurta constitutes the oldest graphic activity recorded in Egypt until now. Whatever its precise chronological position in the Late Pleistocene, the Qurta rock art is quite unlike any other rock art found elsewhere in Egypt and Africa. It moreover provides clear evidence that Africa in general and Egypt in particular possess prehistoric art that is both chronologically and aesthetically closely comparable to the great Palaeolithic art traditions known for a long time on the European continent.
- D. Huyge, M. Aubert, H. Barnard, W. Claes, J. C. Darnell, M. De Dapper, E. Figari, S. Ikram, A. Lebrun-Nélis & I. Therasse (2007), ‘Lascaux along the Nile’: Late Pleistocene Rock Art in Egypt, in: Antiquity –Project Gallery, vol. 81, nr. 313 (http://antiquity.ac.uk/ProjGall/huyge/index.html).
- D. Huyge (2008), Côa en Afrique: Art rupestre du Pleistocène récent le long du Nil égyptien – Côa in Africa : Late Pleistocene Rock Art along the Egyptian Nile, in : INORA, nr. 51, p. 1-7.
D. Huyge & W. Claes (2008) : ‘Ice Age’ Art along the Nile, in: Egyptian Archaeology. Bulletin of the Egypt Exploration Society, p. 25-28
The Belgian mission to Elkab continued its work from 9/1 until 19/3/2000, directed by Dr Luc Limme and Dr Dirk Huyge (Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, and sponsored by the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders). Continued was the investigation of the 2nd Dynasty cemetery on the lower slope of the main rock necropolis. So far more than 30 tombs have been excavated containing skeletons of both adults and children in contracted position. Many of the tombs are lined with unworked sandstone slabs. They are arranged in three circular structures, possibly originally covered by a mound and having a tumulus-like appearance. The grave gifts include pottery, stone vessels, faience and stone necklaces, and bone bracelets. In addition, a number of test trenches was sunk in the area immediately North of the town enclosure (between the Northern wall and the small temple of Tuthmosis III). Several thoroughly looted and/or previously excavated shaft and mastaba tombs of the Old Kingdom were found, including a large, well-preserved mudbrick mastaba structure with an offering niche on its Eastern side. Associated with this structure was a huge amount of pottery, mostly votive beer jars, datable on typological grounds to the 4th Dynasty. In the main rock necropolis epigraphical work was continued and completed in the tomb of Setau (EK4), dating from the Ramesside period (20th Dyn).
A. Burnet, Elkab. Richesses d\'un sanctuaire, in: Archeologia 338 (1997), 44-51
S. Hendrickx, D. Huyge, Elkab, 1995. Tombes rupestres de l\'Ancien Empire, in: BLGIECE 20 (1997), 36-39
L. Limme, S. Hendrikx, D. Huyge, Elkab: Excavations in the Old Kingdom Rock Necropolis, in: Egyptian Archaeology 11 (1997), 3-6
This research project of the Catholic University of Leuven was created in 1976 by Professor Dr Pierre Vermeersch, who assumed its direction until 2003.
The present director is Professor Dr Philip Van Peer.
The main aim of the project is to establish the Palaeolithic occupation history of the Lower Nile Valley and the Eastern Desert through interdisciplinary field research.
During the campaign in 2003, the last one under the direction of P.M. Vermeersch, areas around Wadi Bili (Hurghada) and Denderah were surveyed. At the newly discovered site of Taramsa-8, a test excavation revealed the presence of Palaeolithic mining pits which may be of Middle Pleistocene age.
After an interruption of 7 years, the fieldwork was resumed in 2010. The project has now established a collaboration with Collaborative Research Center 806 'Our Way to Europe' of the University of Köln, aiming at investigating migration corridors for Pleistocene human populations. Work at the site of Sodmein Cave near Quseir was resumed and another campaign is planned for the fall of 2011.
In March-April 2004, a Belgian-Egyptian team, sponsored by the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders and directed by Dirk Huyge of the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, continued rock art research at the sites of El-Hosh, on the west bank of the Nile, about 30 km south of Edfu. In addition to further recording, excavations were undertaken at several locations in order to find archaeological traces of the creators of the rock art. These activities led, amongst others, to the unexpected discovery of an intact tomb of the Naqada II period.
The rock art of El-Hosh has already been the subject of a survey organized in November 1998 (Huyge et al. 1998; Huyge 2000-2001). On that occasion a multitude of sites with thousands of petroglyphs was located. Attention was paid mainly to the oldest manifestations of rock art in the area representing intensively patinated, mushroom-shaped, curvilinear and geometric designs (including possible representations of labyrinth fish traps), as well as a number of seemingly associated anthropomorphic figures and zoomorphs. These drawings occur at three sites: Gebelet Jussef, Abu Tanqurah Bahari and Abu Tanqurah Qibli. At El-Hosh, it has been possible, for the first time in African rock art research, to obtain direct ages (termini ante quem) for the rock drawings on the basis of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating of organic matter enclosed in rock varnish [see Huyge et al.200; Huyge et al. 2002-2003]. The results indicate that part of the rock art at El-Hosh pre-dates the early 7th millennium BP 9mid 6th millennium cal BC), making it the oldest graphic activity thus far recorded in the Nile Valley.
Further surveying of the El-Hosh area in March-April 2004 has led to the discovery of several new rock art localities bearing an archaic repertoire of drawings. The most remarkable find, however, was a new petroglyph location at the southernmost tip of Abu Tanqurah Bahari. It shows several images of bovids executed in a ‘Franco-Cantabrian, Lascaux-like’ style. They are quite different from the stylized cattle representations in ‘classical’ Predynastic iconography of the 4th millennium BC. On the basis of patination and weathering, these bovid representations are definitely extremely old (possibly Late Palaeolithic or Early Neolithic?). They are comparable to similar bovid images that had been discovered in 1962-1963 on the opposite bank of the Nile, in the Gebel Silsila area (see Smith 1985).
With the intention to recover archaeological traces of the people responsible for the creation of the archaic rock art repertoire at El-Hosh, several soundings were made at the site of Gebelet Jussef. Three of the four soundings were made at shelter-like overhangs in the vicinity of rock art panels. Unfortunately, the shallow deposits in these shelters were thoroughly disturbed and no archaeological material was found in situ. The finds, mainly ceramics, indicate that the site of Gebelet Jussef was frequented throughout the Predynastic and early pharaonic periods. Traces of occupation phases which could be linked to the pre-7th millennium rock art repertoire, however, were not found.
In addition, a number of circular stone structures were investigated at the southern extremity of Gebelet Jussef. On the basis of the rough ceramics found in and near these constructions, these are probably ‘Bedouin’ and/or ‘Nubian’ in nature. Their function and age remain unknown. Below one of the structures, but evidently unrelated to it, an intact tomb was found, dug into the bedrock. This tomb is clearly of Naqada IIC age (c. 3500-3400 BC) and contained a skeleton and a number of grave goods including two small Rough jars, two large Red-Polished bowls and a superb Decorated vase. The latter item is decorated with boats, human figures and birds. The deceased faced west and was buried in a contracted position, the hands covering the face. Below the skeleton lay several well preserved fragments of a reed matting. According to a preliminary anthropological analysis (by Dr. Caroline Polet) the skeleton is probably that of a female aged between forty and fifty and with a stature of about 1.55-1.60 m. It is currently unknown whether or not this tomb indicates the location of a Naqada II cemetery.
D. Huyge, M. De Dapper, D. Depraetere, M. Ismail, E. Marchi, R. Mommaerts, I. Regulski and A. Watchman, Hilltops, Silts, and Petroglyphs: ‘The Fish Hunters of El-Hosh (Upper Egypt)’, Bulletin van de Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis/Bulletin des Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire 69 (1998), 97-113.
D. Huyge, ‘Rock Art Research in Upper Egypt: The Environs of El-Hosh. Report on the work done in 1998’, Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Egypte 76 (2000-2001), 45-52.
D. Huyge, A. Watchman, M. De Dapper and E. Marchi E., ‘Dating Egypt’s Oldest ‘Art’: AMS 14C Age Determinations of Rock Varnishes Covering Petroglyphs at El-Hosh (Upper Egypt)’, Antiquity 75 (2001), 68-72.
D. Huyge, M. De Dapper, E. Marchi and A. Watchman, ‘Les chasseurs de poissons d’El-Hosh (Haute-Egypte): l’art rupestre le plus ancien de la vallée du Nil’, in J. Polet (dir.), Afrique: Archéologie & Arts 2 (Paris, 2002-2003), 39-46.
P.E.L. Smith, ‘An Enigmatic Frieze from Upper Egypt : A Problem in Nilotic Rock Art’, in M. Liverani, A. Palmieri and R. Peroni (eds), Studi di paletnologia in onore di Salvatore M. Puglisi (Roma, 1985), 359-368.
Director: Professor dr Harco Willems (Catholic University of Leuven).
This project began in 1988 as an initiative of Harco Willems, then working for Leiden University. The original intention was to publish the field records of Reisner’s expedition in 1915 in conjunction with an epigraphic record of some Middle Kingdom tombs. Because Reisner's records are kept in the Museum of Fine Arts at Boston, a joint mission was started with that museum and the University Museum at Philadelphia; this collaborative effort realized one field campaign (1990). After hibernating between 1992 and 2001, Harco Willems restarted the project, which is now based at K.U.Leuven. Its is mainly funded by Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen and the Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds of Leuven University.
The project aims at providing a regional description of the archaeology of the region around Dayr al-Barsha, the southern limit being at al-Shaykh Sa’id and the northern one at Dayr Abu Hinnis. A main focus of attention is the cemeteries at the desert fringe in this entire area, which span the period between the Third Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman Period. The current research interest is to analyze the spatial distribution of the many cemeteries in the region. Based on surface surveys, ground- and satellite-based remote sensing, targeted excavations, and epigraphic work, the project is generating site histories of each of the cemetery sites in the region, in order to establish a basic demographic profile of the buried populations. Preliminary results can be summarized as follows.
In the Third Dynasty, a poor but huge cemetery emerged on the hill slopes between northern Dayr al-Barsha and Dayr Abu Hinnis. Later in the Old Kingdom (as of the Fifth Dynasty, but mainly in the Sixth) several rock cut tomb cemeteries emerged on the north and south flanks of the Wadi Nakhla (in Dayr al-Barsha). At the same time, an important cemetery for provincial governors, which is now being investigated, emerged at al-Shaykh Saʽid. In the First Intermediate Period a cemetery of the highest elite emerged in what is now the village centre of Dayr al-Barsha. In the Middle Kingdom a vast cemetery extended from here across the desert plain and the hilltops further east, the latter area being occupied by the nomarchs' tombs. In the Second Intermediate Period and Early New Kingdom, poorer burials were mostly deposited in older tombs. After this, burial activity stopped almost until the Late or Ptolemaic Period. Probably the main provincial cemetery was now moved to Tuna al-Jabal on the west bank. Extensive late cemeteries exist, however, near al-Shaykh Saʽid. All these cemeteries must relate to settlements in the Nile Valley.
Reconstruction of this landscape is currently being undertaken, the aim being to contextualize the cemeteries within its floodplain environment. Therefore, geomorphological research is now also being carried out on the west bank, in collaboration with geographers of Leuven University.
Research is also focusing on ancient economic activity in the region, and most notably on quarrying. In collaboration with historians of Leuven University, the vast limestone quarries from the time of Nectanebo I in the Wadi Nakhla, which among other things contain hundreds of demotic graffiti, are being recorded. At al-Shaykh Saʽid, quarry and stone processing activity dating back to the Fourth Dynasty is being investigated. Here probably a royal domain of that date existed. The site was later re-used between the Amarna Period and the Late Period. Most importantly, a recent initiative is the investigation of the Amarna Period quarries in the entire region. Although some exist near al-Shaykh Saʽid, the most important cluster extends between Dayr al-Barsha and Dayr Abu Hinnis. This is currently being mapped and the texts, bearing on the building history of Amarna, are being recorded.
The area also contains extensive testimony of early Christian activity. Study of this has mostly focused on the laura and rock church of John the Baptist at Dayr Abū Hinnis.
Dr Harco Willems
In 1992 K.U. Leuven, then in collaboration with the Université Charles de Gaulle Lille III, began research at the Roman temple and surrounding settlement at Shanhur. Initially, the project was directed by Jan Quaegebeur, and, since the latter's death, by Harco Willems. Research has been mainly funded by Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen and the Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds of K.U.Leuven. This enabled an intensive programme of field research until 2001. In 2010, in collaboration with Swansea University (Martina Minas-Nerpel), a last field season was carried out sponsored by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung.
During the field campaigns, it has been possible to reconstruct the building history of the temple, which was initiated by Augustus, and where the latest texts date to the reign of Trajan. However, occasional finds at the site suggest that the temple had earlier precursors. To date, one volume of the final publication has appeared, which describes the decoration of the interior. From this, it appears that the temple was dedicated to a form of Isis of whom four manifestations were venerated. The temple clearly stands in the theological tradition of the temples at Coptos.
Architectural study has revealed that, as a secondary addition, a colonnade was built around the rear part of the temple (or at least at the northern and western sides), giving the building the partial appearance of a peripteral temple. As of the fifth century AD, the building became inhabited by Copts. There are clear traces that they ransacked and burned the temple prior to establishing themselves. Among the spoils, some badly damaged pieces of temple equipment were found.
Currently, the final volumes are being prepared for publication.
Director: Dr. Fred Leemhuis
The Qasr Dakhleh Project (QDP) started in 2002 with two objectives:
1. To document and restore some of the unique mud brick architecture of the little oasis town of al-Qasr in the Dachla Oasis.
2. To try to find out as much as possible about the history of al-Qasr.
Supported by the University of Groningen and the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo we were, over the years, able to restore or reconstruct five rather large houses, some of them four stories high. In the course of this some six hundred documents were found in the largest house; all part of a family archive. Since the end of 2006 we have tried to obtain permission to introduce water and electricity. The idea behind this was to make them ready for contemporary use, so that they will be maintained in good order. Just now, we have put the first electrical conduits in place.
After the discovery in 2006 of big part of a Roman wall of about six meters wide excavations were started in 2008 to know more about it. We now know that al-Qasr started as a Roman castrum. This year the excavations are going on. We hope to find indications of the continuity of habitation, or otherwise, since the Byzantines left the oasis.
For more information, visit dachlalog.posterous.com
Dr Kim Duistermaat (NVIC) en Niels Groot (TU Delft)
Whoever visited Fustat recently will have noticed: new concrete buildings with domed roofs are being built in the pottery quarter between Coptic Cairo and the archaeological site of Fustat. What are they for? And what is happening to the old pottery workshops? And why has NVIC started a new ethnoarchaeological project there?
Fustat, medieval Cairo, was famous for its beautiful glazed pottery. Since then, potters have always been working in this area of the city. Nowadays, the potteries of Cairo are still concentrated here. They used to be located around the mosque of Amr Ibn el-‘As. But when the SCA fenced off the archaeological site of Fustat, the potters had to move. Most of them relocated to the south, to an area called ‘Batn el-Baqara’. However, in 1999 the Egyptian government wanted to remove the potters here too: the black smoke of their kilns created too much pollution. The potters, together with a local NGO, developed a plan to modernise their workshops. At this moment, the old workshops are demolished to make space for new buildings. It is planned that the potters will return here, and work in more modern and cleaner circumstances.
‘Traditional’ crafts are interesting for archaeologists. It is the only way to directly observe techniques, the use of tools and space, how people organise themselves and what material traces their activities leave. The potters in Fustat were documented by ethnoarchaeologists twice before. A French-Egyptian team made a detailed study of the workshops, buildings, tools and products in the 1970’s. Most potters were then producing ‘olla’s’, water jars, that were fired in enormous kilns with two or three floors. In 1998, a small NVIC team visited the potters again for a short documentation. The production of water jars had stopped, and they were making a variety of pots. Today, the potters are producing a diverse range of garden pots, rooftiles, lanterns and garden decorations. The enormous kilns have disappeared, and only smaller kilns are used. Because of the future changes, the work of the potters will change tool. Some of them will not be able to bridge the period between the demolishing of their old workshop and the move to the new buildings. They will relocate to another area in Cairo, or leave the craft. Others will continue, but their work will change. They will use gas kilns, have a different kind of space, and perhaps cater more for a market of tourists.
To document the pottery workshops in Fustat one last time in detail, before these changes take effect, the NVIC started an ethnoarchaeological documentation project in 2008. The project is carried out in cooperation with Leiden University and the Technical University of Delft, and is sponsored by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cairo. Based on archaeological questions, we are describing technology, use of space and organisation of the work. The descriptions are illustrated with maps, photo’s and video. The final publication will also contain information on the archaeological and historical information on pottery production in the area, and compare the current situation with the 1970’s. When the project started, about ten workshops were still active, of the more than 60 once located here.
Most of the fieldwork was carried out in October and November 2008. The Dutch team spent three weeks in Fustat, and consisted of A. van As, L. Jacobs (Leiden University) and Niels Groot (Delft University). They studies the techniques of production and the use of space. Three students of archaeology from Leiden assisted them (R. Zineldeen, N. Staring and J. Schoester). A visual anthropology student, F. Breeksema, recorded the work of the potters on film. The architecture was documented by D. Bakhoum and her assistants, while M. Kačičnik took care of the photographic documentation. K. Duistermaat is working on a study of the way production is organised, and P. Sheehan will provide an overview of the archaeological and historical sources for the pottery craft in Fustat.
During the project we were touched by the hospitality and willingness of the potters to assist us with our research, even when the whole group was roaming the area with a camera. They always answered our many questions in a friendly manner, and even if we did not have questions they were always ready to tell us all about their work.
Duistermaat, K. and N.C.F. Groot (2008), A new ethnoarchaeological documentation project at the Fustat pottery workshops, Egypt. Leiden Journal of Pottery Studies 24: 181-186.
Golvin, L., J. Thiriot and M. Zakariya (1982), Les potiers actuels de Fustat, IFAO Cairo.
Van der Kooij, G. and W.Z. Wendrich (2002), The potters of el-Fustat (Cairo) and el-Nazla (Fayoum). In: W.Z. Wendrich and G. van der Kooij (eds.), Moving Matters. Ethnoarchaeology in the Near East, Leiden: 147-158.