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Uncovered Treasures in Egypt

Discoveries at Naqlun

Hazel Heyer, eTN Staff Writer  Dec 14, 2009

A mission from the Polish Center of the Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw University unearthed a decorated clay vessel from a room in the Deir Malak Gubrail monastery in Naqlun, a site in Fayoum. The pot had been handmade in Aswan and contained coins, Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s Minister of Culture, announced today.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the collection of 18 gold coins and 62 fragments of coins, dates back to the Abbasid period (AD 750-1258). Underneath remains of a charred, collapsed wall, archaeologists also uncovered a chandelier and a well-preserved oil lamp, both made of bronze.

Wlodzimierz Godlewski, the head of the Polish mission, said that the monastic complex of Naqlun was built in the early 6th century AD. The area excavated this season, date to the 7th century AD, and was destroyed by a massive fire around the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century AD.

To the north of Lake Qarun in Faiyum region, a site rich in archaeological and paleontology remains, about 10-kilometer-wide, has revealed several million years of history. Fayoum, though being continually excavated, tried to prevent valuable information from being lost to planned tourism developments in the area. Such are massive tourist attractions such as Egypt’s Grand Museum which had already arrived there. The biggest museum in the world houses outdoor and indoor sections, the largest Ramses II statue which was moved from its famous location on Ramses Square in Cairo to the museum entrance. It hosts 80,000artifacts.

Full-scale excavations have taken place in Fayoum since March 10, 2009. The SCA archaeologists have found many valuable pieces of history in the area dating to the prehistoric period, including arrowheads and other finely crafted stone artifacts of Mousterian, Levallois, and Aterian type. The SCA has also uncovered pottery and stone beads dating to the same era, along with the remains of shelters used by prehistoric hunters. Archaeological remains from later periods are also present in the area. A cemetery that most probably dates to the Greco-Roman period has yielded coins and other small artifacts. The team also explored a tomb in this cemetery consisting of a deep shaft ending in two chambers, but further excavation is hampered by constantly shifting sands. In addition to the prehistoric and Greco-Roman remains found in the area, the archaeologists have revealed pottery, pipes, coins, and glassware traced to the Fatimid and Mamluk periods. Other finds include medical and cosmetic tools, as well as stone shot used in hunting animals during the Islamic era. Fossils of whales and other marine life dating back to around 40 million years ago have been uncovered in the area. In addition to cetaceans like those unearthed in the famous Valley of the Whales to the west of Faiyum, the SCA team found remains of sea cows and sawfish. These fossils are the remnants of a time when much of northern Egypt was submerged under an ancient sea.

Previous excavations were initiated in response to a plan by the Egyptian ministry of tourism to build hotels and resorts on the northern shore of Lake Qarun. The ongoing SCA excavations will ensure that valuable archaeological evidence is not lost to development, while reinforcing the need to protect all of Egypt’s ancient monuments for the future.

Discoveries at Naqlun
Image via Egypt Tourism

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