American archaeologists stumble upon Neolithic and Graeco-Roman finds in Fayoum, Egypt


(eTN) – An American archaeological mission from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) unearthed an almost intact Neolithic settlement and the remnants of a Graeco-Roman village in Faiyum, while carrying out a magnetic survey. This discovery was announced today by Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that this discovery was made while the team was surveying the site while studying fluctuations in water levels of the lake, which caused artifacts to be either covered with meters of sediment or dramatically displaced by erosion.

This site was previously excavated by Gertrude Caton-Thompson in 1925, who found several Neolithic remains. This time, however, the magnetic survey revealed that the settlement was much larger than expected, and includes remains of mud-brick walls as well as clay fragments.

Dr. Willeke Wendrich of UCLA stated that the Faiyum Neolithic had so far been considered as one period but this view may have to change as the results of the study reveal it might be dated to different periods within the Neolithic times.

In order to understand the layout of the Qaret Al-Rusas Roman village, on the northeastern side of Lake Qarun, without excavating it, the mission carried out a magnetic survey. The map shows clear wall lines and streets in an orthogonal pattern typical of the Graeco-Roman period.

Early studies, said Wendrich, show that the site was covered by the waters of Lake Qarun at an unknown time and for an unknown period, as not only the surface is completely leveled but potsherds and limestone flakes are covered with a thick layer of calcium carbonate, which is usually indicative of a stand of 30-40cm deep water.

The mission’s work extended to Karanis on the northern edge of the Faiyum depression where remains of a Graeco-Roman city can be seen. Dr. Hawass says that when a team from the University of Michigan excavated the site between 1926 and 1935, they found the houses in excellent condition with many organic remains having survived through the ages. However, the site was not backfilled, and Wendrich points to damage to the buildings caused by rainfall and wind erosion. Excavations in the area uncovered remains of an ancient creek or pond. At that moment, it had not been established whether this fresh water source existed alongside the town or during earlier years.

The main purpose of the survey was to better understand the archaeological and zoo-archaeological remains at Karanis in a well-excavated context, as well as to understand the life and economic activities of the people who lived in Karanis on Fayoum.