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The Eastern Desert of Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period: Archaeological Reports

 | 
Jean-Pierre Brun
, 
Thomas Faucher
, 
Bérangère Redon
, 
et al.

The Italian Archaeological Mission in the Eastern Desert: First Results from the Area of Wâdi Gasus

Irene Bragantini, Giulio Lucarini, Andrea Manzo et Rosanna Pirelli

Texte intégral

Scope and goals of the project

  • 1 Members of the mission are: Irene Bragantini, Rosanna Pirelli, Yasser Abdelraman, Marco Barbarino, (...)
  • 2 Notable exceptions are the surveys conducted under the direction of S. Sidebotham in this area.

1The Italian Archaeological Mission in the Eastern Desert of Egypt is a joint project of several Italian and Egyptian institutions (University of Naples, L'Orientale, with University of Cairo, Faculty of Geology, and University of Helwan, Faculty of Archaeology), funded jointly by the Università degli Studi di Napoli l’Orientale and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The area granted to the Mission by the Egyptian Antiquity Ministry extends in an east-west direction from the Red Sea to the Nile Valley; it is limited to the north by the Wâdi Hamamah and to the south by the Wâdi al-Hammâmât (Fig. 1).1 The extent of the concession is borne out of the nature of the project, which is aimed at surveying the central area of the Eastern Desert to gain an image of the economic landscape of the area and the system of exploitation of its rich natural resources over the different historical periods. As in other projects of this kind, the cooperation of different scientific fields is required, utilizing different methodologies (topography, recording of human activity, assessing chronology). A large part of the research in this area dates to the mid 20th century:2 one of our aims is, therefore, to visit sites previously investigated to record them, check their present conditions and analyze them in the light of contemporary trends in interpreting archaeological evidence.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Map of the area granted to the Italian Archaeological Mission in the Eastern Desert.

© All rights reserved

  • 3 Preliminary reports of our activities, listing all the sites we have recorded, can be found in Brag (...)

2Our mission was authorized at the end of 2011: we immediately conducted our first season in January 2012. Thereafter, due to combined difficulties in obtaining authorizations from SCA and the military authorities, we were unable to conduct another field campaign until January 2015 (Fig. 2).3

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Itineraries of the missions 2012 and 2015.

© Google Earth -A. D’Andrea

3When I gladly accepted the kind invitation of the Collège de France, I was hoping to present the first results of the 2016 campaign, set alongside results from the geophysical analysis, due to start then too. Unfortunately, this has not transpired. Our mission, due to begin in January 2016, was among those foreign missions that could not get the required military permission before the end of that month. Hence Rosanna Pirelli, vice-director of the mission, and I left the country just before the anniversary of 25th January, as the Italian scholar Giulio Regeni was killed in Cairo.

The 'Graeco-Roman Station'

4Our work started at what is known as the ‘Graeco-Roman station’ in Wâdi Gasus. The site lies only 7 km inland, not far from the location of the joint archaeological mission from Orientale and Boston University on the harbour of Marsa Gawasis. Considering that some of our team members, viz. R. Pirelli, A. Manzo and A.  D’Andrea, had also taken part in the Marsa Gawasis project, we decided to start from the ‘Station’. Our aim was to place previous information on this ‘enigmatic’ site in the context of our research project. The prehistoric survey conducted by G. Lucarini (see below) started here too.

  • 4 Schweinfurth 1885, pp. 6-10; Murray 1925, p. 142, mentions ‘more ruined houses in the Wadî Gasûs’.
  • 5 Sidebotham, Zitterkopf, 1997, p. 228: “…very deep wells with huge piles of sand and other detritus (...)
  • 6 See http://www.unior.it/ateneo/14562/1/archeomode.html.

5The name ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ is somewhat misleading as the site does not resemble any of the praesidia laid out systematically along the main routes of the Eastern Desert by the Roman Imperial administration (Cuvigny 2006; ead. 2011) (Fig. 3). First, the ‘Station’ is formed in two distinct parts: at the bottom of the wâdi, a well is surrounded by a large rectangular enclosure of irregular plan (Fig. 4); both, well and enclosure, are already on the Schweinfurth plan.4 The structure recalls the ‘well-stops’ described in the northern section of the Via Hadriana.5 We hope to extract information on this well from the RadarSAt project housed at CISA of Orientale University (Principal Investigator Andrea D’Andrea, in collaboration with Daniele Riccio).6

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Wâdi Gasus, area of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ (bottom left) and of the well (top right).

© Google Earth - G. Cresciani

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Well and enclosure in the Wâdi Gasus.

© Google Earth - G. Cresciani

6On the terrace, 5 meters above the wâdi, but not immediately above the well, lay the different buildings composing the ‘Station’, named according to their positions (Western, Middle, Southern and Eastern Buildings: Sayed 1977). It is not easy to find a relation between them: they are not enclosed by walls, are but ‘loosely’ oriented on the terrace and are built in various techniques, with blocks of different sizes, stones and cuts. Only for the Western and Southern buildings is a possible function suggested by Sayed 1977, namely a chapel or temple for the Western building (see below), and perhaps a bath for the Southern (with no secure reasons).

7A water point only 7 km inland would obviously explain the human activity here. A. Manzo had already noticed that this is the closest and most convenient water source to the port of Wâdi Gawasis; moreover, during previous visits to the site, he was able to identify several 12th Dynasty rims of Marl C and Marl A3 jars, similar to the ones collected at Marsa Gawasis (see Manzo, below).

8The problem here, as found elsewhere in our survey, is posed by the difficulty both in comprehending the different pieces of evidence and in dating their creation and use. Without proper excavation, such matters cannot be resolved. What is more, we are not able to understand how the various physical evidence interrelates, i.e., how the various phases of a site are sequenced or how additions modified the pre-existing landscape.

9In fact, we are now confronted by a series of contrasting indications, with very little secure points to rely upon. This problem is compounded as we have no documentation of the previous and thorough excavation carried out on the site in the 1970s (Sayed 1977). Moreover, the site is being constantly vandalised, as the sequence of images from 2007 to 2013 in Google Earth well indicates (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: ‘Eastern Building’ (2007-2013).

© Google Earth - R.  Pirelli

  • 7 The survey was conducted by I. Incordino and A. Lena, who also carried out a preliminary photograph (...)

10Strong deflation has prevented the formation of a ‘proper’ stratigraphy: Middle Kingdom water jars lie on the terrace ‘side by side’ with fragments of the Roman Imperial period. To estimate the volume and relative percentages of residual pottery, a survey was conducted in 2015.7 12 squares (10 x 10 m) were mapped out, and diagnostic fragments were inventoried (Fig. 6). Cups and small cups, water containers in a very fine-textured, pale brown or yellowish fabric (some of them with incisions made before firing), cooking pots and casseroles, a few unguentaria, fragments of amphorae (among them a bifid handle of a Italic Dressel 2/4, Peacock & Williams Class 10, fired to a dark grey colour (Fig. 7), and fragments of ‘saggars’ (see below) were recorded: these can indicate the people who frequented the site and their activities here. A percentage of around 20% Middle Kingdom residual pottery was counted, the remaining 80% being datable to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Fragments of Nubian pottery, comparable to finds from Marsa Gawasis of the same date (see Manzo, below), were also identified in the same survey.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: outline of the buildings (in blue) and area of the pottery survey (in green).

© Google Earth - G. Cresciani

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: Dressel 2-4 amphora handle.

© A. Lena

11Regardless of when the built structures had been inhabited, we can, nevertheless, hypothesize that the availability of water (till recently signalled by some acacia trees) attracted people here. It must also be noted that a high percentage of Middle Kingdom pottery was recovered not from near the well on the wâdi bottom, but higher up on the terrace: this distribution points to some organized presence here since that period.

  • 8 The structure, built “not even before the second half of the 3rd century CE”, was destroyed by fire (...)

12Among the buildings of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’, only the ‘Eastern Building’ can be more properly analyzed, thanks to its plan and state of preservation (Fig. 8). The structure is rectangular, with small rooms opening on the sides of a small central court, a kitchen and the remains of a stair. The building should, in fact, be identified as a ‘resting place’ for people travelling in the area, especially for people arriving from the sea. While a parallel is hard to find in the system of praesidia laid out by the Roman administration along the main roads of the Eastern Desert, the ‘Eastern Building’ can be best compared to the ‘Road station’ analyzed by Katharina Rieger in the Marmarikè plateau; this is dated by her as operative from Roman to Early Byzantine times.8 Both the sites in fact offer evidence of remains dating from different periods, indicative of a variety of human activities.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: ‘Eastern Building’.

© G. Ciucci

13Two points can give us an idea of the ‘mixed activities’ taking place at various times on the terrace: the inscriptions from the ‘chapel’ and the ‘saggars’.

Religious activity in the area

14Let us start with the chapel: the name is given to a structure now almost completely ruined, where according to 19th century travellers two stelae from the Middle Kingdom were on display. Intense and careful observation of reproductions of the stelae has led Rosanna Pirelli to recognize that the two inscriptions were actually not stelae, but rock-cut inscriptions removed from their original basalt-rock location (Pirelli in Bragantini, Pirelli, 2013a, pp. 59-62; ead., below: first group of inscriptions).

  • 9 It should also be recalled that in Roman period Pharaonic or Ptolemaic objects were displayed in te (...)

15We have no data by which to understand when (and why) this removal took place and the inscriptions were displayed here. Nonetheless, the evocative power of objects ‘from the past’ in ancient societies and the new functions they acquire in new locations may allow us to hypothesize that this action could have taken place at any moment in the life of the chapel (Bragantini in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 72). The recent find of a Middle Kingdom stela from the Sarapis temple in Berenike (Hense, Kaper, Gerts 2015) confirms the reuse of Pharaonic materials within structures dating to the Roman period (cf. Sayed 1983, 34).9 We must also remember that Sayed states that “no Pharaonic monument or inscription was found, although [he] excavated the station to its very foundation” (Sayed 1978, 69). In our present state of knowledge, we can, therefore, hypothesize that the stelae could have been on display in the ‘Station’ during the Roman period: this is, in fact, the best attested period on the site.

16Given the text of the two ‘stelae’ (one of them recording a safe return from a sea voyage, an important indication of the ‘state of mind’ of the people travelling in the desert: Sayed 1977, p. 141), the primary location should represent an important point in the ‘inscribed landscape’ of the area, in some way connected to a port, hence giving us some information on possible routes between Wâdi Gasus and a nearby harbour (Wâdi Gawasis?). Our survey has, in fact, identified one track providing an easy route between these widian (Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p. 167).

  • 10 The cup was identified in the section under the level pertaining to the building of the Eastern Bui (...)
  • 11 I’m greatly indebted to Hélène Cuvigny for a preliminary reading and interpretation of this importa (...)
  • 12 Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 70, Fig. 45; p. 74, Fig. 53. Limestone anchors similar to the ones di (...)

17Religious activities on the terrace of the ‘Station’, even if we cannot localize them precisely, may be inferred by various other indicators: Sayed (1977, pp. 145-146, figs. 9 d-e) published a small, ithyphallic Min, a votive object pointing to mining-related activity (which is known to have taken place in this area). Further, a stray find of the 2015 campaign, a complete miniature cup imitating Hellenistic Black Glaze ware, was identified in the section exposed by the bulldozers: this might suggest some form of religious activity here in Ptolemaic times10 (Fig. 9). A preliminary reading of an ostrakon reproduced in Sayed (1977, p. 145, Pl. 9c) and dated to 11-10 BC definitely implies a text of religious character.11 Cult activity on the terrace could also have taken the form of small dedicatory ‘altars’: one could have housed a basalt anchor, found not far from the ‘Station’ within a circle of stones, perhaps part of an ‘offering’ made after a safe return from a sea voyage.12

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: miniaturistic cup (imitation Black Ware).

© A. Lena

The ‘saggars’

18To further complicate the situation, we found a huge quantity of fragments of ‘saggars’, ceramic crucible used to fire faïence ware (Bragantini, in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, pp. 68-69). As in all our survey activity, we have not removed objects from beneath the ground surface, but the count of the base fragments scattered on the ground gave a substantial minimum number of individuals (MNI) of 156. It was my hope that the geophysical survey planned for the 2016 field mission would pinpoint structures: my growing fear is now that the fast destruction of the evidence will soon deprive us of the archaeological base on which to conduct our analysis.

19P. Nicholson has recently published his findings from Kom Helul-Memphis (Nicholson 2013), attesting the production of faïence objects on the site. Based on previous research of Flinders Petrie and himself, Nicholson distinguishes two stages in this production, carried out in different ovens and in different containers. Larger and coarser ‘saggars’, in a calcareous fabric, were used in the first phase of production; no remains of glaze are to be found on these objects. The second stage, the glazing proper, dealt with smaller versions, made both in a silt and in a marl/mixed fabric. These latter sorts preserve on their walls or bases significant remains of glazing. Although ‘saggars’ can be used more than once, Nicholson stresses that if too much glaze accumulates, this build-up could affect the process, staining and spoiling the colour of the faïence objects, the focus of the production.

20Saggars from the terrace of the Station at Wâdi Gasus share exactly the same typology, fabrics and technology as the ‘glazing’ vessels from Kom Helul, suggesting an identity of the workshop practices and a chronology belonging to early Roman times, as indeed is proposed by Nicholson. They are handmade, with an average diameter of 33 cm and an average height of 13 cm. The calcareous fabric might be of different colours, from cream to brown (Fig. 10); finger prints are frequent on the exterior surface of our ‘saggars’. The base is flat, sometimes slightly larger than the body, the rim might or might not be grooved. A green/turquoise ‘glaze’ is almost always preserved on the internal walls (Fig. 11a-b). Nicholson states that the marl-mixed clay sort is usually found with pale turquoise glaze, while darker green and blue glazes (rarer at our site) are associated with the silt fabric.

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in the Wâdi Gasus: fragments of ‘saggars’ in different colours fabrics.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 11a

Fig. 11a

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: fragments of ‘saggars’ with remains of green/turquoise ‘glaze’.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 11b

Fig. 11b

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: fragments of ‘saggars’ with remains of green/turquoise ‘glaze’.

© V. Zoppi

21Nicholson’s descriptions perfectly fit our fragments, the only difference being imprinted traces on ours of textiles, used to remove easily the fabric from the round object on which the ‘saggar’ was formed. Such were never mentioned in Nicholson’s extremely accurate descriptions (Fig. 12a-b).

Fig. 12a

Fig. 12a

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: imprints of gauze or textile under a vitreous glaze on ‘saggars’ walls.

© R. Pirelli, A. Zoppi

Fig. 12b

Fig. 12b

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: imprints of gauze or textile under a vitreous glaze on ‘saggars’ walls.

© R. Pirelli, A. Zoppi

22Fragments of pots preserving the same kind of glaze on their internal walls have been found in two sites in the Campania region of Italy, at Cumae and Liternum, in contexts dating to the late first century AD. This material has been attributed to a local production of Egyptian blue (Caputo, Cavassa 2009; Cavassa et al. 2010). Campanian containers are of two types: a cylinder with a slightly rounded rim and flat base (h. 51 cm and diameter of 37/39 cm, Cavassa et al. 2010, p. 238, Fig. 3; Cf Nicholson 2013, pp. 12-13) and a globular pot, with flattened rim and ring foot (Cavassa et al. 2010, p. 240, figs. 6-7). Their calcareous, creamy fabric has been attributed to local production (Crifa et al. 2012).

  • 13 Nicholson 2009, p. 2: “This (i.e., the fabrication of an object in faïence) would involve the colle (...)
  • 14 On the use of Egyptian blue, see now: Skovmøller et alii 2016).

23No remains of kilns or firing structures or any other production related objects have been identified on the terrace of the Station, nor is waste-material to be found among the preserved fragments. Nevertheless, their high number (MNI 156, see below) might point to a production on the spot. We must also recall that –notwithstanding the strong evidence and intense field activity at Kom Helul by Petrie and Nicholson– no ovens for the second stage of the production of faïence objects, the glazing, were identified there. We are, therefore, faced with the problem of what these ‘saggars’ might indicate; one could also speculate whether the fine-grained quartz powder (resulting from the gold processing in a site nearby –see below) could have been ‘reused’ in this faïence production.13 We must also recall that the production of faïence objects and of Egyptian blue are in some way connected (Rodziewicz 2005, p. 29; Nicholson 2013, p. 147).14

24Although no serious attempt has yet been made by us to join the fragments, I believe that we have evidence that the ‘saggars’ were broken on the site, in order to remove the finished objects. In 2011 we observed a high concentration of ‘saggars’ scattered on a roughly circular area (Fig. 13). This pattern had led to the hypothesis that it could comprise the remains of an oven: a limited excavation conducted in 2015 by Giulia Ciucci revealed that the round ‘shape’ was in fact a shallow pit filled with modern material. We, therefore, interpret the high concentration of ‘saggars’ here as the result of modern activity, probably some kind of sorting during Sayed’s excavations.

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: area with high concentration of fragments of ‘saggars’ (orthophoto G. Ciucci, A. Lena).

© G. Giucci, A. Lena

  • 15 The structure appears in the plan published by Sayed 1978, Fig. 3, reproduced after Wilkinson.

25Other remains of manufacturing activities on the terrace might be identified at its northern limit, where basalt stones mark out a longitudinal shape in the terrain filled with windblown sand, probably the remains of a subterranean mine.15

Irene Bragantini

Middle Kingdom and Nubian Pottery from the 'Graeco-Roman Station'

26In addition to Roman pottery, the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in Wâdi Gasus also yielded Middle Kingdom and Nubian sherds.

27The Middle Kingdom sherds can be assigned to the following typological classes:

  • 16 Moreover, unpublished fragments of this type of jar occur in the collections from several Middle Ki (...)

1. Fragments of Marl C large bag-shaped jars (zirs) with round-shaped thickened rim were recorded from surface assemblages both in 2010 and 2012 and in the pottery survey of 2015 (SU3/233, SU4/250) (Fig. 14a). They can be ascribed to a widely distributed class of jars with flat base dating to the late 11th-early 12th Dynasty (Schiestl and Seiler 2012, pp. 584-585, Type II.E.13.a; see also Arnold 1979, Abb 18, 5, 1988, Fig. 55b, Fig. 59, Fig. 62; Bader 2001, pp. 155-163, Abb 42 Typ 1-3, Abb 44-45; Bagh 2002, Fig. 10a-c; Wodzińska 2010, pp. 174-175, Type Middle Kingdom 17-18).16 The nearest site where similar jars were recorded is Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis, the Middle Kingdom harbor to the land of Punt, on the coast not far from Wâdi Gasus (Bard, Fattovich 2007, pp. 11, 13, 113-114, 26).

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

Middle Kingdom sherds from Wâdi Gasus: a) rim sherd of a bag shaped Marl C large jar (zir) with round-shaped thickened rim; b) rim sherd of a Marl A 3 bag shaped or ovoidal jar or bottle with thickened rim.

© A. Manzo

  • 17 See also unpublished sherd BM EA 74378 from el-Lahun.
  • 18 See e.g. the rim sherds from WG 2 surf. coll. B4, WG 10 corr. 7, and WG 27 SU 1 A5.

2. Fragments of bag shaped Marl C large and middle sized jars with everted rim and thickened rounded lip were recorded in 2012 (Fig. 15a). They can be ascribed to a class dating to the mid to late 12th and 13th Dynasty (Schiestl and Seiler 2012, pp. 602-603, Type II.E.13.g; see also Arnold 1988, Fig. 74, 60; Bader 2001, pp. 166, 172, Abb 52b, Typ 57e; Bagh 2002, Fig. 10d; Wodzińska 2010, p. 173, Type Middle Kingdom 16).17 Also in this case comparisons can be found at the nearby site of Marsa /Wâdi Gawasis.18

  • 19 See also unpublished sherds BM EA 50932, BM EA 74382, and BM EA 74399 from el-Lahun.

3. Fragments of Marl C large bag-shaped jars (zirs) with squat thickened triangular-shaped modeled rim were recorded from surface assemblages in 2012 and in the pottery survey in 2015 (SU1/7, SU2/2) (Fig. 15b). They can be ascribed to a class of jars dating from the end of the reign of Senwseret III to the 13th Dynasty (Schiestl and Seiler 2012, pp. 596-597, Type II.E.13.e; see also Arnold 1982, Abb 8, 5; Bader 2001, pp. 166-178, Abb 42 Typ 5, Abb 49b, Typ 57e, Abb 50a, Typ 57e, Abb 52d-e, Typ 57e; Kaiser et al. 1999, pp. 217-219, Abb 51; Stadelmann and Alexanian 1998, Abb 8, 5).19 Similar jars were recorded also at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis (Bard, Fattovich 2007, p. 114, 27).

  • 20 See e.g. the rime sherds from WG 3 surface collection, WG 16 SU 1 E-W 2-3, WG 27 SU 1, A4-B4, WG 27 (...)

4. A single fragment of a Marl C jar with flaring and pointed rim was recorded in 2012 (Fig. 15c). It can be ascribed to a class dating from the very end of the 12th to the end of the 13th Dynasty (Schiestl and Seiler 2012, pp. 686-687, Type II.J.2; see also Bader 2001, p. 196, Abb 65, Typ 60; Bourriau 1996, Fig. 4, 10; Wodzińska 2010, p. 190, Type Middle Kingdom 61). Fragments of vessels of the same class were widely collected at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis.20

Fig. 15

Fig. 15

Profiles of Middle Kingdom Marl C types from Wâdi Gasus: a) rim of a bag shaped large to middle sized jar with everted rim and thickened rounded lip; b) rim of a large bag-shaped jar (zir) with squat thickened triangular-shaped modeled rim; c) rim of a jar with flaring and pointed rim; d) rim of a mid-sized jar with everted neck and thickened triangular lip.

© I. Incordino, A. Manzo

5. A single fragment of a mid-sized Marl C jar with everted neck and thickened triangular lip was recorded in 2012 (Fig. 15d). It can be ascribed to a class dating to the late 12th and 13th Dynasty (Schiestl and Seiler 2012, 686-687, Type II.E.13.e, variant 8; Arnold 1982, Abb 11, 6; Bader 2001, pp. 124-125, Abb 28f, Typ 42). Jars of similar shape were collected at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis in late Middle Kingdom/Second Intermediate Period assemblages (Bard, Fattovich 2007, p. 115, Fig. 52).

  • 21 See also unpublished sherds UC 18670 from Harageh, UC 18560 from Diospolis Parva, and BM EA 74392 f (...)
  • 22 See e.g. the rim sherds from WG 8 SU 7, WG 8 SU 7 S of F1, WG 10 corr. 4, 5, 6, 7, WG 16 SU 1 E-W 2 (...)

6. A single fragment of a Marl A 3 bag shaped or ovoid jar or bottle with thickened rim was recorded in 2010 (Fig. 14b). It can be ascribed to a class of mid-sized jars or bottles dating to the 11th-very beginning of the 12th Dynasty (Schiestl and Seiler 2012, pp. 444-445, Type II.C.3.a; Arnold 1979, p. 36, Abb 22a, 3-4a; Bourriau 2004, Fig. 1, 5; Wodzińska 2010, p. 195, Middle Kingdom 75).21 Sherds to be ascribed to similar vessels were also recorded at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis.22

28Moreover, several fragments of Nubian type were identified in the pottery survey (Fig. 16). They were characterized by brown or gray ware organic and/or mineral tempered ware (?) with oblique incised and/or crossing bands of incised lines covering the external surface. Similar fragments were recorded in the nearby site of Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis where they date from the early Middle Kingdom to the Early New Kingdom (Manzo 2012, pp. 217-218, Fig. 2c). Two rim sherds of Nubian type from Wâdi Gasus are characterized by a horizontal band of notches parallel to the rim delimiting the lower part of the vessel covered by oblique parallel incised lines (Fig. 17). This kind of vessel, although not unknown, is very rare in Egypt and also in Lower Nubia, where it dates to the Second Intermediate Period-early New Kingdom (see e.g. Forstner-Müller 2012, p. 78, Fig. 14, 29; Manassa Darnell 2012, p. 124, Fig. 8), while it is common in Upper Nubia, especially in the region of the Fourth Cataract and in Eastern Sudan, where it dates from the early to mid-2nd millennium BC (Manzo 2014, p. 1151, Pl. 3). Similar sherds, but with the decorative pattern starting not immediately under the rim have been collected at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis, where they were associated with Middle Kingdom materials (Manzo 2012, p. 220, Fig. 2h), as it is apparently also the case at the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in the Wâdi Gasus.

Fig. 16

Fig. 16

Group of sherds of Nubian type from Wâdi Gasus.

© I. Incordino, A. Lena

Fig. 17

Fig. 17

Detail of two rim sherds of Nubian type from Wâdi Gasus characterized by an horizontal band of notches parallel to the rim and delimiting the lower part of the vessel covered by oblique parallel incised lines.

© I. Incordino, A. Lena

Final remarks

29The systematic study of the pottery recorded in the survey at the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in the lower Wâdi Gasus showed that the site was used not only in Roman times but also earlier. This was already proposed after a one-day visit of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ conducted in 2010 in the framework of the Italian-American project at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis (Manzo 2011, p. 221). The more systematic survey conducted in 2015 allowed a more detailed assessment of the Middle Kingdom ceramic assemblage from the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ and considerably enriched the number of the recorded types.

30According to the chronology of the recorded types, the use of the site may have started in the late 11th Dynasty, continued for the whole 12th Dynasty and extended to the mid-, possibly to the late 13th Dynasty. Therefore, the Pharaonic activity at the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ largely corresponds to the more intensive period of use of the harbour at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis (Bard, Fattovich 2007, pp. 110, 125).

31The first excavator of the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’, Abdelmoneim Sayed, suggested that the two inscriptions dating to the reigns of Amenemhat II and Senwsert II from the site in the Wâdi Gasus were reused in later structures and were originally erected at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis (Sayed 1977, p. 146). Of course, the evidence of a significant Middle Kingdom phase of use of the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ based on the ceramics may now support the hypothesis that these two inscriptions were originally erected not far from the place where they had been discovered (see Pirelli, below).

32The collection of Middle Kingdom ceramics from Wâdi Gasus consists almost exclusively of fragments of big and middle sized Marl C jars, the so-called zir. Significantly, only a single rim sherd of a Marl A3 jar was collected. Dealing with the regions of the Egyptian Nile valley where the Middle Kingdom vessels represented at the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ were manufactured it can be suggested that Marl C vessels were made in Lower Egypt, and the Marl A3 ones in Upper Egypt (Bourriau 1996, p. 31, 2004, p. 12), while the hypothesis that there may have also been a more southerly production center for Marl C vessels remains unproven (Seiler 2012, p. 433). Thus, it seems that all the types of large jars recorded at the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ but one were produced in Lower Egypt, in the Memphis-Faiyum area, most likely not far from the royal residence of the 12th Dynasty rulers (Bader 2001, pp. 35-36). This might suggest that the provisions for people frequenting the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ mostly consisted of commodities from Lower Egypt, as was the case in the same phases for the expeditionary corps frequenting the site of the Middle Kingdom harbour at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis (Bard, Fattovich 2007, p. 125). If the connection with ceramic workshops related to the region of the royal residence and, perhaps, with royal institutions is accepted, it may be also suggested that the expeditions in this part of the Eastern Desert were not only promoted but also effectively run by the central state authority.

33As far as the function of the recorded types is concerned, the use of big jars similar to the ones of the classes recorded at the site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ as fixed long-term storage facilities has already been recorded at other sites (see e.g. Shaw, Bloxam 1999), and this might suggest that these vessels had a long life and that the morphologically earlier vessels were progressively replaced by the later variants and types only when they were broken. Therefore, a longer life for the large storage vessels than for the other classes of pots may be assumed for the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in the Wâdi Gasus as well as for Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis and for the other sites at some distance from the Nile valley. The type of the vessels from Wâdi Gasus may suggest that a station, perhaps on the way to Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis, was located there in the Middle Kingdom and that the well of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ was in use at that time. In particular, as already suggested, the well in Wâdi Gasus may have provided at least part of the water needed at the site of the Middle Kingdom harbour at Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis (Manzo 2011, 222).

34Also the few Nubian sherds from the pottery survey seem to confirm links with the site of Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis. More specifically, the two rim sherds seem to verify connections between the assemblages from this area of the Egyptian Eastern Desert and more southerly regions of Nubia and possibly even Eastern Sudan. Actually, some of the Nubian materials from Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis may be traces of groups of Nubians participating in Egyptian expeditions in this sector of the Eastern Desert, while some others, different from the Nubian materials usually occurring in the Egyptian and Lower Nubian Nile valley sites, may, perhaps, be ascribed to local inhabitants of the Eastern Desert or, in some cases, were considered as imported from more southerly regions, possibly on the occasion of the Egyptian maritime expeditions (Manzo 2012, 225-229). Given their typology, all these should be regarded as possible interpretations also for the Nubian materials from Wâdi Gasus.

35The continuation of research on the ceramic collections from the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in Wâdi Gasus will certainly provide further insights into the organization and management of the exploitation of this sector of the Eastern Desert in Middle Kingdom times and into the likely connection between this site and the harbor of Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis.

A. Manzo

Gold mining site

  • 23 Tailings observed in 2012 appeared heavily disturbed by bulldozers in 2015.
  • 24 Bragantini, Pirelli 2012, p. 111: among the possible function of the site listed in Sidebotham et a (...)

36In 2012 and 2015 we conducted short visits to a mining site (Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, pp. 85-88, Site 7): this must be identified with a mine visited by Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm (Klemm, Klemm 2013, pp. 84-86: 5.2.6), as may be confirmed by comparing satellite images of both itineraries. However, we must stress that the ‘…abundant green-glazed pottery’ recorded by the German scholars has not been observed by us at all. Although other mineral resources were probably also mined here, fine-grained tailings point to gold as the principal mining activity at this small site (Fig. 18-19). The amount of material processed here can be calculated by the dimensions of the tailings, around 450 m3.23 The metal was extracted in opencast trenches from quartz veins present in the granite formation of the area, as is clearly visible in a picture taken in 2012 near Umm el Howeitat el Bahri24 (Fig. 20).Two washing-tables, partly rock-cut and partly built (Fig. 21), lay side by side not far from the tailings area (Klemm, Klemm 2013, pp. 17-18).

Fig. 18

Fig. 18

Gold mining site, area of tailings.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 19

Fig. 19

Gold mining site, detail of one of the tailing.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 20

Fig. 20

Opencast trench near Umm el Howeitat el Bahri.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 21

Fig. 21

Gold mining site, washing table: in the centre, irregular breach with drainage function.

© R. Pirelli

37We have now mapped only part of the site (Fig. 22). The only structure known here, rectangular in plan and built of slabs, possesses a commanding view over some 40 ‘huts’ densely packed in the limited space of the lower part of the site. It probably accommodated those in control (Fig. 23). Huts are built of unworked, dry rounded boulders with no sign of modifications or architectural features, such as niches or jambs. (Fig. 24-26). The site, therefore, appears to have had a short life: its layout would suggest people working side by side for a limited period of time. The uniformity displayed in setting out the site and in the type of huts would point to a form of controlled activity.

Fig. 22

Fig. 22

Gold mining site, map of the area with huts (in yellow) and rectangular building (in red).

© Google Earth - G. Cresciani

Fig. 23

Fig. 23

Gold mining site, rectangular building (photogrammetry: G. Ciucci, A. Lena).

© G. Ciucci, A. Lena

Fig. 24

Fig. 24

Gold mining site, ‘hut’.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 25

Fig. 25

Gold mining site, ‘hut’.

© G. Lucarini

Fig. 26

Fig. 26

Gold mining site, ‘hut’.

© R. Pirelli

  • 25 My warmest thanks to Ms Meyer for kindly providing relevant texts on her researches in Bir Umm Fawa (...)

38Meyer (2011, pp. 166-173) points out in some detail the labour force, skills and organization needed in order to process gold from rock mining; although our site is of limited dimensions, her considerations can help us in posing questions on the working and living conditions here.25 As far as we can judge from our limited activities, the dearth of surface pottery and the lack of dumped debris would point to a low-scale operation. Two fragmentary rims of Egyptian Red Slip A/Aswan ware, imitating 6th c. African Red Slip forms (Hayes 1972, p. 389, Fig. 85e), the wall of a shallow bowl with painted decoration, fragments of walls and handles of Egyptian amphorae (“Late Roman 7”), the bottom and ring handle of a “Late Roman 6” amphora (Fig. 27-28) (Dixneuf 2011, AE 5/6, pp. 142-145), all point to a late Roman-Byzantine chronology, although a fragment of pottery dating to a late Pharaonic period (XXV/XXVI dynasty) has also been identified (A. Manzo, pers. comm.). Moreover, a grinding stone probably reused as crushing stone (Fig. 29) could point to an exploitation of the site prior to the late Roman era. Here, it is important to observe that a careful, contextual analysis of the epigraphic record could help to reconstruct the system of exploitation of the local resources. In an area where the evidence is poor, where uncontrolled recent human activities have occurred and where working conditions are arduous, this ‘traditional’ methodology can be of the utmost service to us: the more so as ‘returning to old sites with new questions’, informed by a ‘global’ approach to the sites, is one of the declared approaches of our research project. Analysis of the ‘Psammetik inscription’, indicating a strong presence of Min in the inscribed landscape of the area, gives a deeper meaning to this well known document (Pirelli in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, 79-85; ead., below: second group of inscriptions): its position marks the starting points of two extremely important tracks, one leading to the rich water-spring of Bir Abu Gowah, still active today (Fig. 30), the other to the mine, both part of the same ‘system’.

Fig. 27

Fig. 27

Gold mining site, fragment of Egyptian Red Slip A/Aswan Ware.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 28

Fig. 28

Gold mining site, ring handle and wall of a ‘Late Roman 6’ amphora.

© R. Pirelli

Fig. 29

Fig. 29

Gold mining site, grinding stone (reused as crushing stone?).

© I. Bragantini

Fig. 30

Fig. 30

Spring of Bir Abu Gowah.

© R. Pirelli

  • 26 Bragantini, Pirelli 2012, p. 105; Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 90, Site 6: petroglyphs with camels (...)

39Some epigraphic evidence illustrating the recurring presence of people involved in the ‘social activity’ of ‘inscribing the landscape’ has also been recorded: this is set on high slabs of basalt, in the same ‘nodal’ point in the landscape26 (Fig. 31). Not far from this area, a stray granite block features an important element, although difficult to make sense of at the moment: might it be the last remains of a built structure, once housing an inscription. This might explain the six slots preserved in its front face (Bragantini in Bragantini, Pirelli 2012, p. 103) (Fig. 32).

Fig. 31

Fig. 31

Petroglyphs with camels.

© R. Pirelli

Fig. 32

Fig. 32

Granite block.

© V. Zoppi

  • 27 For rotary grindstones dated to the ‘Arab period’ cf. also Tawab et al. 1990, p. 361 Fig. 16.

40Ample evidence of the periods the gold mining site was worked comes from rotary grinding stones scattered there: most of them are made of basanite (Fig. 33) and granodiorite (Fig. 34). A Roman date is usually proposed for these sorts of grindstones (Meyer 2011, p. 153; Klemm, Klemm 2013, pp. 16-17), but this has been challenged during the Colloquium by scholars favouring an Islamic one on the basis of still unpublished findings from the French archaeological mission at Samut.27 Given the date range assigned to these simple devices, both from Egypt and from sites in the rest of the Empire (Meeks 1997; Longpierre 2012), one could suggest that earlier rotary grinding stones could be reused in Islamic contexts.

Fig. 33

Fig. 33

Gold mining site, base of a rotary grinding stone.

© I. Bragantini

Fig. 34

Fig. 34

Gold mining site, rotary grinding stone.

© I. Bragantini

41We face here the same problem we met at the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’: the lack of data by which to reconstruct a coherent system of exploitation of the material resources of the area and to understand the way this landscape changed over the time, i.e.: the way new ‘functions’ and new ‘activities’, introduced by ‘new agents’, modified existing situations, especially in terms of people involved in new and pre-existing activities.

  • 28 Keenan et al. 2000, p. 1171: ‘…current human and natural depredations make urgently needed future f (...)

42Such data are not easily obtained without ‘proper’ excavation, an act though which, in turn, poses problems of feasibility, in terms of time, costs and –last but not least– pressure put by our own work on the local SCA inspectorates. As is only to be expected, work carried out up to now has raised new questions and problems, but the problems of site conservation will soon make future campaigns extremely difficult to conduct.28

Recent human activities in the area

43Finally, we have observed some interesting recent human activity, but not investigated because of lack of time and expertise. It could certainly offer important prospects to interested scholars. This consists of groups of a few rooms apiece, usually of small dimensions, built with roughly cut local stones (mostly sandstone, although one site on the bottom of Wâdi Gasus might have reused ancient stones from the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’; Fig. 35). Pottery is usually present in abundance: ‘amphoras’ (two-handled water containers, mostly in a creamy-coloured fabric) and cooking wares, whose shape, fabric and technology have a ‘traditional’ look. Usually appearing in large fragments, it is quite possible in some instances to completely reconstruct the vessels (Fig. 36). Although we have not recorded these sites, two main ‘patterns’ can be visualized. Pottery and other objects might be deposited in small dumps, away from the ‘living quarters’; or they may still lie in situ in the very living areas, as if the site had been rapidly abandoned (Fig. 37). Either circumstance would provide a vivid image of the living conditions of those working here. ‘Traditional’ pottery is constantly associated with other objects (tins, electric devices), pointing to a chronology around the middle of the past century.

Fig. 35

Fig. 35

Modern settlement in Wâdi Gasus, built with stones from the ‘Graeco-Roman station’?

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 36

Fig. 36

Traditional kitchen ware abandoned in a modern settlement.

© V. Zoppi

Fig. 37

Fig. 37

Dumping area associated with modern settlement in Wâdi Gasus.

© V. Zoppi

44The sites are likely to be related to phosphate mining activities, well attested by the nearby ‘ghost city’ of Umm el Howeitat (Bragantini, Pirelli 2012, p. 113, note 148). This last might well offer rich promise for a global research project in contemporary archaeology (Fig. 38).

Fig. 38

Fig. 38

Distant view of the city of Umm el Howeitat.

© I. Bragantini

Irene Bragantini

Diachronic human activity along the wâdis: from the Middle Stone Age to the Classical period

45The investigation of the archaeological evidence along the courses of the Wâdi Gasus, Wâdi Gawasis, Wâdi Safaga and Wâdi Wasif, dealt with the following paramount aspects:

1: Survey and excavation tests of the Miocene terrace where, the so-called ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ is located. The portion of the terrace west of the Roman buildings revealed the presence of several basalt cobble structures and steinplätze hearths.

2: Survey along the course of the Wâdi Gasus, Wâdi Gawasis, Wâdi Safaga and Wâdi Wasif in order to detect possible evidence of Holocene and Pleistocene occupations on top of the fluvial terraces.

Site of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’

46The site is located on a terrace commanding the Wâdi Gasus at about 8 km from the coast (Fig. 39). The site’s surface deposit, where the archaeological evidence is clearly visible, is a deflation surface characterized by a sandy aeolian deposit with basalt gravels. On the terrace’s surface west of the Roman settlement, 8 basalt cobble structures and 9 steinplätze hearths have been detected (Fig. 40). These features are characterized by clusters of large basalt cobbles of fluvial origin, showing a tumulus shape or an irregular circle or arch arrangement. In all these cases the diameter ranges between c. 2 and 4 m. The nature of these features is not clear; the ones which show the most typical tumulus-like shape could be interpreted as funerary structures, ritual monuments or landmarkers. Larger and more structured tumuli, detected on the northern edge of the Eastern Desert, and more specifically along the course of the Wâdi Araba, have been interpreted as landmarkers (Tristant 2014, p. 33). The ones showing a circular or arched shapes might have been foundations for huts whose superstructures comprised perishable materials (hides and branches). Unfortunately, the entire area shows traces of pirate excavations and almost all the features were vandalized. The observation of the illegally excavated deposits, which are now visible as small mounds in proximity of each pit, did not show the presence of any element of material culture. The structures showing circular or arched shapes have parallels with the dwelling slab structures of the Western Desert oases that date back to the Early and Mid Holocene (Hamdan and Lucarini 2013; McDonald 2009), but it is also possible that the Wâdi Gasus specimens might be stone clusters piled as blocks for the Roman buildings. A brief survey carried out on the adjacent portion of the terrace, located ca. 150 m to the west, revealed the presence of other basalt cobble structures.

Fig. 39

Fig. 39

General map of the region with distribution of the archaeological sites (EMSA: Early Middle Stone Age site; MSA: Middle Stone Age site; MSA/N: site with mixed Middle Stone Age and Neolithic artefacts; N: Neolithic site; RM: raw material procurement area; S1-RS: Site 1 – Roman Station) (images Google Earth and wikimedia).

© All rights reserved

Fig. 40

Fig. 40

Site 1 ‘Graeco-Roman Station’. Map of the site with distribution of the archaeological features (map M. Barbarino).

© M. Barbarino

47The 9 hearths detected on the surface of the terrace belong to the typical steinplätze type fireplace, which are common from numerous sites of the Egyptian Western Desert and are also known in other regions of the Sahara (Gabriel 1987; Gallinaro 2014). These types of features can be usually related to ephemeral campsites of small groups of nomadic hunters or herders who used to transit in the region, stopping in the area only for a very short time. The examples we detected comprised clusters of basalt gravel or small fractured cobbles usually arranged in a circle. In some cases the features are quite well preserved and are characterized by small circular cobble mounds clearly visible on the surface. In other instances, more weathered specimens show the basalt gravel scattered in a wider area. These are often not as detectable on the surface due to the similarity of the naturally blackish basalt cobbles and the burnt ones.

48The whole terrace shows a high number of lithic artefacts scattered on the surface, Roman and Middle Kingdom pottery sherds, shell fragments (the species Lambis lambis, Tridacna maxima and Tricornis tricornis have been identified) that could have been exploited as food. A few grinding stones and quartz pebbles have also been identified. A large upper grinder manufactured in pink granite and showing one flat and highly polished working surface is noteworthy. It has to be stressed that, whilst the historic pottery is particularly rich on the eastern area of the site, in relation to the Roman buildings and where the lithic artefacts are almost completely absent, moving towards the western edge of the terrace, pottery sherds become scanty and the number of lithic elements increases significantly.

49Some lithic artefacts scattered on the surface –i.e. 2 small multiple platform cores and 6 retouched tools, including 3 denticulates, 2 sidescrapers and 1 notch– have been collected; no curated artefacts have been found. The opportunistic character of the types detected, mainly used for scraping activities and quickly manufactured using locally available flint, does not permit us to assign these materials to any specific cultural horizon. Comparison with similar materials coming from the Egyptian Western Desert (Lucarini 2014) suggests a Mid Holocene exploitation of the area, possibly around c. 6000 BC even if an association with the later Roman remains present in the area cannot also be ruled out (Fig. 3, a-d). Conversely, 3 highly patinated sidescrapers and 1 denticulate manufactured on Levallois flakes surely attest an earlier occupation of the area that dates back to the Middle Stone Age (hereafter MSA) (Fig. 41, e-h).

Fig. 41

Fig. 41

Site 1. Lithic artefacts; a: core; b-d: denticulates; e: notch; f, g: MSA sidescrapers; h: MSA denticulate.

© G. Lucarini

50The manufacturing and use of stone tools was a common practice even during historic times, and this was testified by the excavation of ‘Hearth 1’, one of the 9 steinplätze present in the area. This feature was mapped with a north oriented, 1x1 m, grid including the entire scattering area of the surface gravel and lithic artefacts (Fig. 42a). The surface collection yielded 85 debitage elements (1 core side, 3 flakes, 62 chunks and 19 chips) and 2 retouched tools (1 sidscraper and 1 notch on backed flake). Considering the high amount of working debris that was found, it is likely that this area may have been devoted to knapping activities.

51The stratigraphy of the feature shows a superficial (c. 1 cm thick) layer made up of loose yellow aeolian sands mixed with blackish basalt angular gravel. The hearth stones are larger basalt cobbles. The underlying deposit (Layer I) is made up of yellow and slightly consolidated aeolian sands (c. 3 cm thick), which are mixed with ash and charcoal in correspondence to the hearth’s core (Fig. 42b). A charcoal sample was AMS dated to 1907±45 bp – 230 cal. AD (LTL16488A). Layer I deposit yielded only 5 lithic artefacts, among which 1 core side, 1 blade and 3 chunks. The hearth deposit was overlaying a sterile hard whitish carbonatic sediment (caliche).

Fig. 42

Fig. 42

Site 1. Steinplatz hearth 1; a: surface; b: layer I (grid: 1x1 m).

© G. Lucarini

52Since a precise stratigraphic correspondence is not available thus far, we cannot be sure whether this evidence of human presence in the area during the 3rd century AD can be related to workers involved in the activities carried out in the Roman Station, or whether the steinplatz type fireplace(s) are the remnants of temporary camps for nomadic groups.

Survey - Wâdi Gasus, Wâdi Gawasis, Wâdi Safaga, Wâdi Wasif

53A survey has been carried out along the course of the Wâdi Gasus, Wâdi Gawasis, Wâdi Safaga and Wâdi Wasif (Fig. 43). The prehistoric sites are mainly concentrated on the terraces on the sides of the wâdi. A total of 5 Neolithic sites, 6 MSA sites and 2 areas showing both the presence of Neolithic and MSA materials have been detected (cfr. Fig. 39). These sites are mainly lithic assemblages or lithic workshop areas. No grinding stones have been found and there is no association between lithics and Pharaonic or Roman pottery. No tumuli, circular structures or hearths have been detected. Sometimes the lithic assemblages are connected with raw material (chert) procurement areas, which are also abundant along the wâdis. Along a tributary wâdi connecting Wâdi Gasus and Wâdi Gawasis, a group of MSA sites have been found. One of these yielded outstanding finds: a fractured bifacial handaxe and a hacheraux-like tool, that can be ascribed to an early stage of the MSA occupation of the region (Fig. 44). Substantial evidence of human occupation of the region during the Early MSA came from Sodmein Cave, located c. 40 km north-north-west of Quseir and only c. 30 km south, south-east of the areas investigated by our team. Sodmein Cave is one of the very few contexts in North Africa which yielded MSA evidence in a secure and well-dated stratigraphic sequence (Moeyersons et al. 2002; Veermersch et al. 1994). In particular, the lower MSA layer of the cave, attributed to the Early Nubian complex, has been dated to c. 115,000 years ago (Mercier et al. 1999, p. 1344). During this period, the cave’s deposit yielded evidence for a wet climate outside the cave, probably characterized by a savanna environment (Moeyersons et al. 2002, p. 847).

Fig 43

Fig 43

Bir Wasif.

© G. Lucarini

Fig. 44

Fig. 44

Early MSA bifacial handaxe found along the wâdi connecting Wâdi Gasus and Wâdi Gawasis.

© G. Lucarini

54Evidence of intensive exploitation of the region during the Holocene is also already well-known from Sodmein Cave and from Tree Shelter, a rock shelter located only 1 km from Sodmein Cave. Both of these sites yielded clear evidence of an occupation of the region during the Holocene, with dates ranging from 5500 to 5000 BC in Sodmein Cave and from 5700 to 3700 BC in Tree Shelter (Linseele et al. 2010, p. 820; Vermeersch 2008). Sodmein Cave is also the site which yielded the oldest evidence of domesticated caprines in North Africa (Vermeersch et al. 2015).

55As for the northern edge of the Eastern Desert, presence of Neolithic sites is attested along the course of the Wâdi Araba (Tristant 2010). A steinplatz dated to c. 4800-4500 BC is also reported from the site ME03/10/24, along wâdi Bili, inland from El Gouna. This structure was interpreted as a temporary camp for nomadic herder groups (Vermeersch et al. 2005).

Giulio Lucarini

The Pharaonic inscriptions of Wâdi Gasus in context29

  • 29 This paper –containing new observations and hypotheses on some of the texts of Wâdi Gasus– also col (...)
  • 30 One of them was intentionally hacked out with a rock hammer, sometime between 2012 and 2015, Bragan (...)

56Three groups of Pharaonic inscriptions have been discovered so far in Wâdi Gasus, the proposed division being based on the nature of their content:
- the 1
st group includes two Middle Kingdom inscriptions; James Burton and John Gardner Wilkinson stated that they found them in the “Graeco-Roman station” of Wâdi Gasus;
- the 2nd group was discovered by James Burton in 1820’s and studied, for the first time, by Georg Schweinfurth at the end of the same century; it comprises a great scene of the time of Psametik I and a number of short royal and private texts devoted to the god Min, most of them engraved between the end of the III Intermediate Period and the 26th dynasty;
- the 3
rd group was recorded by Leo Arthur Tregenza in the 1950s and comprises three texts engraved in a lead mine of the 26th dynasty, in Wâdi Roussas (a tributary of Wâdi Gasus);
Memory of the 2nd and 3rd group of documents was almost lost, partly because they have been unfortunately removed or destroyed.30

First group of Pharaonic inscriptions: the Middle Kingdom “stelae”

  • 31 Not even, they do pose any problem of reading and interpretation. The two “stelae” were studied and (...)
  • 32 The first who puts this site in connection with a Hydreuma was Schweinfurth (1885).

57Although both the inscriptions are rather well preserved, and have been previously studied and published more than once,31 their original collocation and context are far from being definitely solved. One of the most debated questions regards the place of their alleged discovery by James Burton and John Gardner Wilkinson in the “Graeco-Roman Hydreuma”32 in Wâdi Gasus.

58In Sotheby’s catalogue for the auction of 25th July 1836, Burton describes the two documents as follows:

59A tablet of basalt, found in a small temple in Wâdi-Jasoos, on the shores of the Red Sea. The sculpture in is Intaglio and the “Cartouche” gives the Prenom of Pharoah (sic) Osirtesen the Second” and then “This is an exceedingly interesting Tablet from the circumstances of having been found in the immediate vicinity of a station, and of some extensive mines, the high antiquity of the workings of which it tends to prove” (Fig. 45).

Fig. 45

Fig. 45

Khnumhotep’s “stela” found by Wilkinson in the “station” of Wâdi Gasus (drawing by Burton, Mss ADD. 25629, 49).

© Burton

  • 33 I am extremely grateful to Patricia Usick (Dep. of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, The British Museum) for (...)

60Another Royal Tablet in Basalt; found in the same temple in which the sculpture is also in Intaglio. The “Cartouche” here gives the Prenom of the Pharoah Amun-M-Gori? who lived about sixteen hundred and twenty years before Christ, immediately after the death of Joseph. The inscription on it gives the twenty-eighth year of his reign, and on it he is represented making offering to Khem” and then “No other tablet or inscription having been found in this neighbourhood, it would appear that the station and mines were abandoned at no very remote period from this date” (Fig. 46).33.

Fig. 46

Fig. 46

Khentykhetywr’s “stela” found by Burton (drawing by Burton, Mss ADD. 25629, 50).

© Burton

  • 34 See note 32.

61The first “tablet” is the stela of Khnumhotep, which bears the date of the first year of the reign of Senuseret II (found by Wilkinson), and mentions tՅ-nṯr; while the latter is that of Khentikhetyur, dated to the 28th regnal year of Amenemhat II, which mentions Punt (found by Burton).34

  • 35 British Library: Add Mss 25626, 66; Weill 1910, in Aufrère 2002; Tregenza 2004, pp. 182-183.

62More than 100 years later, Abdel Monem Sayed visited the site of Wâdi Gasus during a survey of this region, with the purpose of finding the “port” of Saww mentioned in the latter stela. After a season’s work on the site, he stated that neither the archaeological evidence nor the architectural remains could be dated earlier than the Graeco-Roman era and, for this reason, the station could not be the original context of the two Middle Kingdom documents. So he proceeded southwards up the coast to the site of Marsa Gawasis already mentioned by Burton, Weill and Tregenza.35 Here the archaeological situation was completely different, as almost all the findings were found to date from the 12th dynasty. Sayed thus hypothesized that the “stelae” originated from here and that they were later re-employed at the “station”.

  • 36 Manzo in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 54; Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p.166.
  • 37 Manzo 2011, p. 221.
  • 38 Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p. 166.

63New archaeological data, however, have altered our views about the “station” in Wâdi Gasus:36 the results of a surface survey by A. Manzo on the site37 have been recently confirmed by a more systematic surface collection by A. Lena and I. Incordino, who have registered that 18% of the pottery from the site dates to the Middle Kingdom,38 thus removing the chronological incompatibility of the “stelae” in respect of a possible original location in the “station”.

  • 39 Mss ADD. 25626, 66. I am grateful to the British Library for providing me with the digital copies o (...)

64Starting from these new data, I decided to examine the question in depth, due to some doubts deriving above all from their texts. Thus, I collected and reviewed all the information at my disposal, including Burton’s book-notes kept in the British Library.39

  • 40 Sayed 1977.
  • 41 Sayed 1978.

65In Sayed’s opinion, the mention of the port on the “stela” of Khentykhetyur confirmed that its original location should be on the coast and not in a wâdi.40 He assumed, moreover, that the other stela might also have the same provenance. However, if we observe the plate of Wilkinson that Sayed published in a detailed paper (in Arabic, Fig. 47),41 we will see that the British explorer placed only one of the “stelae” on his map of the “station”, while he provided no indication for the second “tablet”. Burton, nonetheless, stated that he had found the second stela “in the same small temple at Aenum”. He later took both of them to Britain and put them on sale in the same auction at Sotheby’s. How should we interpret this? We could suppose, either that both were in the same place and that Wilkinson saw only one of them, or that the second “stela” was found in a different place, although not very far from the other. Moreover, in some notes in Burton’s diary of 18th April 1831 we read:

‘Leave Aboo Gowah at 25 minutes before 1.

  • 42 See supra note 40.

At the entrance of the wady Eastward it becomes wide… We passed the Chapel of Osirtesen! again and proceeded onwards to the Sea winding around amongst the hills into another wady so as not to fall upon the Coast too far South and arrived at a little port with ancient alàms in 3h 25’- but we came out of our way and I believe we could have done it in 3 hours or (as we rode)= 15 miles. At the end of Wâdi Djasoos must be the ancient town upon the coast I saw the first journey I made along here This must be Philoteras?”.42

Fig. 47

Fig. 47

Sayed’s plate with the spot of the stela found by Wilkinson (Sayed 1978).

© A.M. Sayed

  • 43 Meredith 1953, p. 102.
  • 44 The Arabic term indicates a sign or marker.
  • 45 Some interesting observations on Wâdi Gasus and Wâdi Gawasis were made in 1910 by Raymond Weill, in (...)
  • 46 Pirelli 2007.
  • 47 Nibbi, 1976, pls. IX-X. In Birch’s catalogue, 1880, pls. III-IV, only front drawings of the “stelae (...)
  • 48 Where both the stelae (not only Wilkinson’s) could have been reused in the Roman period notwithstan (...)
  • 49 I keep here the denomination of “basalt” contained in the restoration report of the Durham Museum, (...)
  • 50 I am extremely grateful to Rachel Grocke, who gave me all the modern information on the “stelae”.

66He evidently calls “Chapel of Osirtesen” the place where Wilkinson had found the stela from the time of Senuseret II, but says nothing about the other one. In this regard, in his paper of 1953, Meredith states that: “Inside a small temple at ‘Aenum’ Wilkinson found and copied a Sesostris II stela and it may be here (a hint in one of his rough maps suggests another site nearer the sea) that Burton found a second Twelfth Dynasty stela, of the previous reign (Ammenems II)”.43 It is also interesting to remark that when Burton proceeded eastward, he did not follow the main Wâdi Gasus, but turned slightly southward and reached the coast and a site with ancient “alàms”,44 evidently the site of Marsa Gawasis. This route fits well with the itinerary suggested by Weill to go from Wâdi Gasus to Wâdi Gawasis.45 Could Burton have found “his stela” along this route? In this regard, it is interesting to observe more carefully his drawings. In his block-notes, two details of the “stela” of Khentykhetywr were particularly revealing (see Fig. 46): the decoration does not occupy the whole polished surface, but it leaves a blank basis at the bottom; moreover, unlike the other “stela”, this one is represented from a ¾ view, and this made it possible to realize that its back was not finished: the “stela” in other words was not formed as a slab to be embedded in a structure (as the stelae from the nearby site of Marsa Gawasis, for instance),46 but it looked to be directly carved on a rock wall from which it was roughly detached. The same consideration could be drawn observing with greater attention the two pictures of the “stelae” published in 1976 by Nibbi,47 where it appeared to me that both the monuments were not originally movable objects: their present stela-shape appeared to be the issue of a conservative intervention, following their removal from Egypt. If this were true, there would be an interesting implication: originally, the two documents were neither erected in a built wall, nor embedded in a rock wall, so that their primary collocation should be looked for in a different site, although probably not far from the “station”.48 To check this hypothesis, I contacted Rachel Grocke, Deputy Curator of the Durham University Museums, who sent me the records of the two monuments and an extract of a report along with some pictures taken during the conservative intervention on the “stela” found by Wilkinson. Both the artefacts confirmed to be “basalt”49 blocks detached from a rock wall and exposed in the shape of a stela (Fig. 48, 49).50

Fig. 48

Fig. 48

Block with Khentykhetywr’s inscription (Courtesy of the Durham University Museum).

© Durham University Museum

Fig. 49

Fig. 49

Block with Khnumhotep’s inscription (courtesy of the Durham University Museum).

© All rights reserved

  • 51 On this subject, however, see below.

67I thought that their material, moreover, might help us to suggest their origin: theoretically, it could not be –as proposed by Sayed– in the lower course of Wâdi Gawasis,51 where a rock of coral origin characterizes the terraces; their original location could preferably be looked for in the same Wâdi Gasus with its greywacke outcrops. These considerations lead me to check the possibility that such a situation could be looked for in the small wâdi connecting Wâdi Gasus to Wâdi Gawasis.

  • 52 Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p. 167.

68My hypothesis was checked during the last campaign, in 2015. Based on a previous analysis of the area through Google Earth, we identified a wâdi, likely to be the right one: travel by car was very fast (15 minutes) and without obstacles and, on the way back, the path was easy and comfortable to walk through. However, the geological nature of the wâdi (mostly evaporates with flint pebbles) also revealed to us that this could not be the site of provenance of the two Middle Kingdom inscriptions.52

69Thus, where were these inscriptions originally placed? We can suggest two hypotheses:

  • 53 Sayed 1977, pp. 138-177; Bard, Fattovich 2007, pp. 30-32.
  • 54 On the nature of the “Paneia”, see Bernand 1977, pp. 269-271.
  • 55 I do not take into consideration a third possibility, i.e. that the “stelae” could have been placed (...)

- the blocks were roughly detached from a rock wall in an inner part of the wâdi and then transported to Marsa Gawasis, to be erected not in a wall, but in a structure built of dry-piled stones, similar to one of the circular shrines on the terrace;53
- the inscriptions were carved directly on the rock wall, which functioned as a very simple cult place, similar to the later
Paneia,54 scattered in many wâdis of the Eastern Desert.55

  • 56 For the last reports of the mission, see CISA Newsletter 2009; 2010; 2011.
  • 57 Pirelli 2010, p. 238.
  • 58 And not from the area of the caves and niches inside the wâdi: Pirelli 2010, pp. 239-241.

70The first hypothesis would mean to go back to Sayed’s theory. However, after more than 10 years’ investigation of the Italian-American mission in Wâdi/Marsa Gawasis, we have new information about the port.56 Numerous documents have been brought to light, adding significant details on the typology, chronology and distribution of the epigraphic materials. On the base of these new data, we can say that the content of the two inscriptions from Wâdi Gasus perfectly fit Type I stelae found on the site,57 and, considering their chronology, they could come from the coral terrace above the Marsa.58.

  • 59 Bard, Fattovich 2010, pp. 8, 12, 23. I am grateful to Rodolfo Fattovich, who gave me further inform (...)
  • 60 On this subject see Schumacher 1988, pp. 69-72 and Aufrère 1998, p. 14.

71A newly discovered limestone stela in Wâdi Gawasis (WG 29) –to be inserted in Type I– can be usefully included in our discussion. The stela was found outside the entrance to Cave 8, at the northwestern edge of the site,59 inside the wâdi, but, according to the archaeologists of the mission, it may have slid down from (a structure?) above. In year 2 of the reign of Senuseret II, the herald Henenu “arrived at the temple of Min, according to the desire of his Majesty”. Interestingly its date immediately follows that of the inscription of Khnumhotep, which bears the date of the first year of Senuseret II and tells “Year one: establishing his monument in Ta-netjer” (Fig. 45). I think this might be seen as a clue that the two texts could refer to one and the same monument and that the inscription of Khnumhotep was recording an event that did happen in this area, between Marsa Gawasis and Wâdi Gasus. On this matter, however, we must stress that the “stela” of Khnumhotep is the only one, among the inscriptions we are dealing with, that is devoted to the god Soped and not to Min. In this region, however, the two gods share several features and some epithets, and are surly linked to each other, even by means of assimilation with other deities.60 Furthermore, the inscription of Khnumhotep is among the oldest inscriptions recorded in this area, so that it could be conjectured that, in this phase, Min had not yet become the undisputed “Lord” of the region. This is confirmed also by the inscription of the other and earlier stela of our First group, that of Khentykhetyur, which is devoted both to Haroeris and to Min of Coptos.

72This does not, however, solve the question of where the two monuments of our First group were erected. If we suggest it could have been in Marsa Gawasis, a difficult question challenges our hypothesis, because, as we have seen, the versos of the blocks are not worked and flattened, like the other stelae found in Wâdi/Marsa Gawasis (including that of Henenu). However, we could suggest that they might have been erected in structures built of dry-piled stones, as those of the private monuments found on the terrace above Marsa Gawasis, where different kinds of epigraphic supports have been found, such as limestone slabs or reused anchors. As the two inscriptions are clearly of a private nature, I do not think it is likely to propose a second possibility, i.e. that they were erected in a state cult chapel or temple, considering also that no such a structure has been found thus far in Marsa/Wâdi Gawasis.

73However –due to their particular condition– I am not convinced that we can exclude at all a location at a different site. This leads us to my second hypothesis, i.e. that their original place was somewhere else, at a site where their function was not only to commemorate the achievements of the Egyptian officials they represent, but also to mark a sacred place along the route between the Red Sea and the Valley. My suggestion is that it might be close to the second group of Pharaonic inscriptions and graffiti, in Wâdi Gasus.

Second group of Pharaonic inscriptions: a Pharaonic “Paneion”?61

  • 61 See above, and note 55.

74The second group of inscriptions comprises a number of short royal and private texts devoted to the god Min, which were carved between the end of the III Intermediate Period and the 26th dynasty.

  • 62 Schweinfurth 1885, p. 10; Tregenza 2004, pp. 179-181.
  • 63 Klemm, Klemm 2013, p. 85
  • 64 I am greatly indebted to Joachim Quack for authorizing me to publish this picture and to Claus Jurm (...)

75According to earlier explorers (Schweinfurth, Tregenza)62 and others who visited the area during the last few decades (Klemm and Klemm),63 on the northern side of Wâdi Gasus, a great scene devoted to Amon-Ra and Min was engraved in the time of Psametik I. Unfortunately, we could not find it, and, after a long search, both on the field and in literature, I came to the conclusion that it is no longer present at its original site. It was removed some decades ago, as a local guide had already informed us during our first short survey in 2012. The picture (Fig. 50) taken by Joachim Quack between 1992 and 199464 shows that only a small portion of the wall (with two cartouches) was still preserved, while a “Great scene of Psametik I” had been already removed by cutting along the rock veins. During our last survey in 2015, we visited the place, thanks to the coordinates provided by our colleagues, and ascertained that, unfortunately, also this small portion of the rock wall with the cartouche had also been since removed. Already before learning about this, we had decided to designate as Site 4 the spot where this scene should be. The site proved to be just opposite the mouth of a wâdi ending in the wide round basin of Bir Abu Gowah, an important water source, probably active until recent times.

Fig. 50

Fig. 50

Picture of the cartouches of the two “Divine adoratresses” (Courtesy of J.F. Quack, Photo 1992-1994).

© J.F. Quack

  • 65 Burton, British Museum, Add. MS 25629, pp. 48-50, mentioned in Vikentiev 1952.
  • 66 Schweinfurth 1885.
  • 67 Leclant 1953.
  • 68 Vikentiev 1956
  • 69 Kitchen 1996, pp. 175-183; Jurman 2006, and Bibliography.

76Burton first saw and drew the scene,65 then Wagner drew it, again, for Schweinfurth who published it in his long article on Wâdi Gasus in 1885. This was accompanied by an appendix by Erman with some notes on the scene and its inscriptions.66 It was eventually photographed by Tregenza (1951) and Leclant (1952),67 and published by Vikentiev.68 In recent years, part of its inscriptions have been the object of new studies by scholars dealing with the chronology of the final phase of the Third Intermediate Period and the beginning of the 26th Dynasty.69

  • 70 Pirelli, in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, pp. 79-85.

77Despite the remarkable interest it has aroused since its discovery, the “grand composition rupestre de Wâdi Gasus”, as Vikentiev called it, was described in all its details only recently by the present writer.70

  • 71 Vikentiev 1956.

78Most publications focus either on a limited part of the composition (the “main scene”, see below) or on specific passages of the inscriptions. Vikentiev himself employed Wagner’s drawings and part of Burton’s, the latter having been sent to him by Meredith, who had copied only the central part of the scene, the same photographed by Tregenza and then by Leclant.71

  • 72 Dodson, Hilton 2004, p. 242. Jurman 2006, published a recent photograph of a part only of the scene (...)

79In recent times, the image was published in full only once, and on the basis of Wagner’s drawing, which is not very accurate.72

  • 73 MS 25629, 66.

80Thus, to provide a comprehensive description of the scene, we need to take into account all the versions at our disposal: Burton’s drawings (Fig. 51),73 Wagner’s copy (Fig. 52), Vikentiev’s drawing (Fig. 53), along with Tregenza’s and Leclant's photographs (Fig. 54, 55).

Fig. 51

Fig. 51

Burton’s drawing of the “Great scene” of Psametik I in Wâdi Gasus (Mss ADD. 25629, 48).

© Burton

Fig. 52

Fig. 52

Wagner’s drawing of the “Great scene” of Psametik I in Wâdi Gasus (Schweinfurth, 1885).

© Wagner

Fig. 53

Fig. 53

Vikentiev’s drawing of the “Great scene” of Psametik I in Wâdi Gasus (Vikentiev 1956).

© V. Vikentiev

Fig. 54

Fig. 54

Tregenza’s photograph of the “main scene” of Psametik I (Vikentiev 1956).

© V. Vikentiev

Fig. 55

Fig. 55

Leclant’s photograph of the “main scene” of Psametik I (Vikentiev 1956).

© V. Vikentiev

  • 74 Schweinfurth 1885.

81As to its dimensions, we can only hypothesize that the scene was about 3-3.5 m wide and 1.5-2 m high, on the basis of the approximate size given by Schweinfurth, i.e., 6 square meters,74 and its height to width ration, calculated on Wagner’s drawing.

  • 75 The last sign is amended by Vikentiev as n[b nTrw], but it is probably a mistake of the engraver.
  • 76 According to Vikentiev 1952, and not Min of Coptos as stated by Schweinfurth.
  • 77 I am conducting however a study on the names of Min in the Eastern Desert, and I am no more so sure (...)

82The main scene shows three royal figures on the left facing two gods on the right (of the viewer). According to our hypothetical reconstruction, the height of the figures does not exceed 85 cm. They stand on a long line representing the horizontal surface of the perch of the god Min. Psametik I is depicted in the middle in the act of offering two globular vases to Amon-Ra and Min. The king –whose name is inscribed in a cartouche above his headdress– wears the white crown with the uraeus, the wsḫt collar, and the šndyt. Interestingly, as Vikentiev already remarked, the image lacks its own caption, the king being mentioned only in the caption for his daughter Nitocris, who stands behind him: “Daughter of King Psametik, the Divine Adoratress Nitocris”. Amon Ra –whose name is inscribed above him with the epithet nb nswt tՅwy–75 wears a double-plume headdress with a sun disk, and holds the wՅs sceptre in his right hand and the n sign in his left hand. Behind him is the ithyphallic god Min wearing the same headdress. According to Vikentiev, the inscription referring to him says “Min of the Mines,76 and Horus, Isis, the Coptites”, recognising in the first part the same epithet of the god as that inscribed at the entrance of the lead mine of Site 3 (see below).77 His image is only shorter (almost imperceptibly) than Amon Ra’s.

  • 78 It is also interesting to note that the name of Pye is written in a rare spelling: the first sign i (...)
  • 79 As rightly pointed out by Vikentiev 1952.

83On the other side, behind Psametik, are two female figures, both of them slightly taller than the king. It is the king’s daughter and Divine Adoratress, Nitocris, followed by her adoptive mother Shepenupet II, defined as “her mother, God’s Wife, Shepenupet, mՅ(t) rw, daughter of king Pye,78 mՅrw. Both the priestesses wear the double-plume headdress, the uraeus, and the wsḫt collar, and hold in their right hand an n sign, the only difference being in their coiffure (Nitocris wears a short bag wig, Shepenupet long tripartite hair). While Nitocris is actively participating in the offering, as indicated by the gesture of adoration of her left arm, Shepenupet is merely assisting her daughter, with her left hand on her shoulder. All the inscriptions (even those referring to the gods) face right, including two private names, those of Wenamun and Paynekhet, respectively to left and below the scene. The position, sizes and attitudes of the figures and the texts referring to them indicate that the central figure is the Divine Adoratrice Nitocris, not Psametik I.79

  • 80 Not in the copy on which Vikentiev could work.

84Around the main scene, seven smaller groups of figures and texts are engraved, five depicting the ityphallic god Min facing right (Groups 1-5), one group containing two short vertical inscriptions with cartouches (Group 6); and the last group showing the god Amon-Ra facing left (Group 7: not present in Wagner’s copy). These groups, however, are only reproduced in Burton’s original drawing80 and in Schweinfurth’s copy, which is, however, far less accurate.

85Generally speaking, we remark that several details are differently rendered in the two versions: the style and sizes of the figures of the lesser groups, their position in respect to the figures of the main scene, their texts and even the accuracy of the engraving. Moreover while Wagner’s drawing reproduces the whole scene as organized on the rock wall, Burton’s drawing, although more accurate, is reproduced on two different pages of his block-notes, the two parts not being on the same scale (Fig. 51). Moreover, while Wagner reproduced only a few hieroglyphic signs, Burton’s copy allows us to realize that the texts –all but one dedicated to the god Amon– perfectly match the typology of dedication texts to Min, as found also in Wâdi Hammamat.

  • 81 Pirelli, in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, pp. 82-85

86A complete description of the seven groups of images and short inscriptions was published by the writer in 2013;81 here I am going to summarize their content briefly.

  • 82 Ibidem.

87Scenes 1 to 5 show the god Min and, in front of him, an inscription devoted to him, sometimes accompanied by a kneeling human figure. Where the inscription is readable on Burton’s drawings, I could recognize names datable to the Late Period and verify that some of them are also present in contemporaneous inscriptions in Wâdi Hammamat.82 In any case, they cannot be earlier than the offering scene of Psametik I and Nitocris, a datum which can be confirmed also by the fact that the surface on which the “great scene” is carved, was flattened and smoothed, eventually erasing what was engraved earlier.

88In one scene only (Group 7), the god Amon and not Min receives offerings, in this case by a royal figure. I am inclined to think that this scene could be earlier both for its style (detectable in the accurate drawings of Burton) and for its position. Only some traces are visible, just above the main scene, in the photographs by Tregenza and Leclant (see Fig. 54, 55), but it seems that the smoothing of the lower surface, partly affected the feet of the god.

  • 83 Kitchen 1996, pp. 175-183.
  • 84 Jurman 2006.

89The sixth group is completely different from the others, and is formed by the cartouches of two more divine adoratresses, Amenirdis and Shepenupet, preceded, respectively by “12th Regnal Year” and “19th Regnal year” and followed by the expression n.t. The interpretation of the dates and the identification of the two priestesses have been much debated. According to Kitchen, they should be identified as Amenirdis I and Shepenupet I,83 while in a recent study, Jurman suggested that they could be Amenirdis I and Shepenupet II.84 In all cases, the cartouches prove to have been engraved earlier than the great scene, both if we accept Kitchen’s interpretation, who recognizes Shepenupet I, and if we favour Jurman’s hypothesis, who is inclined to identify Shepenupet II: she is here defined “living”, while in the great scene she is “deceased”.

90As we mentioned above, the position of this scene at the outflow of a wâdi leading to a water source is no coincidence. There must be a connection with the exploitation of the area. The cartouches of Amenirdis and Shepenupet and the scene with Amon clearly prove that the site was not inaugurated by Psametik I, and that the inscriptions on the rock wall should be an important signal, probably addressed to expeditions arriving here to exploit mines and/or caves in the surrounding area. In this respect, it is useful to recall that, on the mining site (re)discovered by the Italian mission in 2012 (see above) and mainly dated to the late Roman period, we also collected one sherd dating back to the 25th/26th dynasty and one grinding stone which could also be earlier.

  • 85 On the identity of the gods to be worshipped here, and their link with Min, see above, note 61.

91Shall we cautiously propose that the Middle Kingdom inscriptions of Khentykhetyur and Khnumhotep also come from here, and that this rock wall should be interpreted as a sort of Pharaonic Paneion?85 Unfortunately, this hypothesis cannot be confirmed as the site has been completely destroyed (Fig. 56).

Fig. 56

Fig. 56

The supposed rock wall, where the offering scene of Psametik I and Nitokris should stay.

© R. Pirelli, 2015

92The monumental size of the “main scene”, however, indicates that, in the 26th dynasty Egyptian institutions (both the king and the Office of the Divines Adoratrices, the “pr-dwՅt-nṯr) had a strong interest in the exploitation of the area and of a lead mine, not too distant from this site, where the Third group of inscriptions was found.

Third group of Pharaonic inscriptions: area of the lead mine

93With the help of a local guide, we reached the lead mine identified by Tregenza in 1951. It opens in the upper course of a large wâdi, which starts in a north-south direction, swerves east-westward, and finally flows into Wâdi Gasus, about 1.5 km east of the “Greek-Roman Station”.

94About halfway up the steep western wall of the wâdi are three circular shafts dug with great precision. They are protected by small walls of large stones and open more or less at the same level along what appears to be a fairly regular path. At a first quick exploration, the incline of the wells, which is almost vertical for the first few meters, then becomes less steep and expands into a sort of chamber, from which tunnels branch out.

  • 86 Tregenza 2004, p. 181.
  • 87 Tregenza 2004, p. 181. Vikentiev, instead, affirms that it was M. Simpson who found the stela and i (...)
  • 88 Tregenza 2004, p. 181.

95At the entrance of one of these chambers (Fig. 57) we located the hieroglyphic inscription (Fig. 58) copied by Tregenza and mentioned in his publication.86 Although he misinterpreted the identity of Min Biaty, taking him to be the Chancellor of Thebes instead of a god, he gave correct information about the general content of this short inscription and of two longer texts engraved on a “small stela” –actually little more than an oblong block of granite, barely beveled–, which had been previously found close to the entrance87 by the Bedouins who had accompanied him.88

Fig. 57

Fig. 57

The entrance of one of the chambers of the lead mine; the arrow indicates the spot of the short inscription.

© R. Pirelli, 2012

Fig. 58

Fig. 58

The short inscription at the entrance of one of the chambers of the lead mine.

© R. Pirelli, 2012

  • 89 Vikentiev 1956.

96In his accurate study, Vikentiev found the short text (Inscription C) to be a cryptic label recording the name of the mine, its nature, and the name of the god who created it: “Lead mine, created by the god Min of the Mines”: “[tՅ bՅyt] ms (n) Mn bՅty dty]”.89 Unfortunately, as can be seen from two photographs taken 60 years apart, and then again in 2015 (figs. 58, 59, 60), only 2/3 of the inscription was preserved in 2012, while in 2015 we found it completely and intentionally erased with a stone, while a Islamic religious inscription was added using a charcoal stick.

Fig. 59

Fig. 59

The text of the short inscription (photo Tregenza 1951 in Vikentiev 1956).

© L.A. Tregenza

Fig. 60

Fig. 60

Galena mine: hieroglyphic inscription, intentionally destroyed.

© R. Pirelli, 2015

  • 90 49 cm tall, 19 wide and 19 thick.
  • 91 Ibidem.
  • 92 For the text and its dating, see Vikentiev 1956.

97Vikentiev also studied the two texts on the stela90 (inscription A and B)91 where the name of the mine is repeated twice, but written more in full (Fig. 61). The text on the recto states that in Year 14 (?) of Psammetichus I, the mine was placed in the charge of Padiusir at the behest of Montuemhat, Fourth Priest of Amon. Padiusir’s task was to find a “good way” to get there. The shorter text on one of the sides concludes that, having found the path, the expedition, led by Messhesy (probably a local guide), reached the mine in the “Land of the Living” and an offering was presented to the god Min (?).92

Fig. 61

Fig. 61

Facsimile of the “small stela” by Tregenza.

© V. Vikentiev, 1956

  • 93 Vikentiev 1956, p. 181, note 1.

98Neither Tregenza nor Vikentiev provided any information about the destination of the stela when it was removed by “M. Simpson [the local director of the Anglo-Egyptian Phosphate Co., A/N]... (qui) mis très aimablement à notre disposition la pierre en nous l'expédiant dans un emballage spécial, excluant toute possibilité d'endommagement pendant son transfert sur les pistes cahoteuses du désert oriental”.93

  • 94 Ibidem.

99I think that, on a preliminary basis, it may be useful to focus on some of the interesting insights these texts provide, which call for more thorough investigation in future missions. A first point to focus on is the enigmatic nature of the short inscription. According to Vikentiev, “cet ingénieux camouflage nous fait penser que, pour une raison ou pour une autre, on a jugé nécessaire de tenir secret le contenu de la mine de plomb de Wâdi Roussas”94 during the whole period during which the mine was exploited. The texts of the small “stela” should be, in his opinion, later than the short label (inscription C); more precisely, they should date back to the end of the extraction period, when it was no longer necessary to conceal the nature of the site.

100The content of the two texts, however, does not seem to fully back Vikentiev’s interpretation. The search for a “good way” to get to the mine and the offerings dedicated to a god at the end of an expedition crowned with success seem more consistent with the first steps of an enterprise rather than the final stages of an activity.

101For this reason, I agree with Vikentiev that text C was written at the time of the discovery of the mine by the team of scouts, probably lead by Messhesy, but I think that texts A and B were written earlier than he supposes: not at the end of the exploitation of the mine, but at the time of arrival of the workers and the soldiers charged with protecting both the workers and the site. In other words, the texts celebrate the official start of extraction activities.

102The high value that the Egyptians attributed to the mine is also confirmed, as previously alluded to, by the large scene of offering by Psametik I and the divine adoratress Nitocris.

  • 95 Meredith 1953; Sayed 1977; Tregenza 2004; Fuchs, Hašek, Poichstal 2006. Ogden, citing Garland, Bann (...)
  • 96 Castel, Soukiassan 1989.
  • 97 Ogden 2009, p. 168, with further literature.
  • 98 Wb V, 606, 4; Lesko 2002, p. 274

103This brings up the question of the reasons for such an interest in a lead mine, given that this mineral was rather common in this region of the Eastern Desert.95 In this regard, we must remember that lead is rarely found in nature as a primary ore: the ore from which it is most frequently extracted is galena (lead sulphide, PbS), but it can also be obtained from cerussite (lead carbonate, PbCO3), or from anglesite (lead sulphate, PbSO4). One could suppose that –as in the case of the deposits of Gebel el Zeit–96 what the Egyptians actually sought here was galena, from which they produced the well-known eye cosmetic, which also had medicinal properties.97 However, the importance of the site, proven by the content of the inscriptions and the scene of Psametik I, can hardly be explained with the simple extraction of qohl, morevover at Gebel el Zeit the product is referred to by the specific term of msdm.t, while in our case the word employed is dty, commonly translated by Egyptologists as “lead”.98

  • 99 Ogden 2009, pp. 154-155; 168-169; 170-171, with further literature.

104As is well known, due to its chemical and physical properties, this metal was mainly used in the past in different alloys. In Egypt, however, from the New Kingdom onward, and even more during the Late Period, its proportion in copper alloys increased significantly, from 1-5% to 20-25%.99 This must have caused an increase in the demand for this metal –at least 5 times higher than before– which might well explain the emphasis placed by Psametik I on the discovery of this new deposit.

105A further hypothesis, however, should be considered. Lead ores are usually associated with zinc and silver minerals. For this reason, in the past lead was often regarded as a by-product of the extraction of silver.

  • 100 Ogden 2009, pp. 170-171. However, on this subject, see also Jurman 2015, pp. 51-68.

106In Egypt, similarly to what happens for lead, we witness –from the Third Intermediate period onward– a considerable growth in the use of silver, used to fashion precious artifacts wholly made of the metal (e.g., the sarcophagi of Tanis) or combining it with other materials (e.g., statue of the Metropolitan Museum, MMA 30.8.93), or for damascening.100

  • 101 Stos-Gale 1996.
  • 102 Actually even higher values have been detected in Egypt, in the “Black Vein” east of Umm Samiuki, w (...)
  • 103 Ibidem.

107However, there is no consensus among scholars on the origin of the silver employed in Egypt, although most agree that it was imported,101 differently from what was believed at the beginning of the last century. According to data published by Alford in 1901, the percentage of silver in galena from Gebel Gasus was about 85 g per ton.102 This quantity may have been enough, considering advancements in extraction technology, to warrant an attempt to produce silver from galena, or from one of the associated minerals, especially cerussite. This would have led to a renewed interest in galena and encouraged explorations to identify new deposits. On the basis of more recent analyses, however, Stos-Gale and Gale103 have challenged the percentages indicated by Alford, arguing that the content of silver in galena ores from the Eastern Desert is much lower and ruling out that silver could have been extracted locally in Pharaonic times.

  • 104 I am grateful to Yasser Abd el-Rahman for this technical advice.

108The current state of our investigation does not allow us to support our hypothesis with any data other than those briefly presented here. More detailed mineralogical investigations of the mine of Min Biaty are needed. The original lead ore should be analyzed for silver content and the area carefully inspected for traces of cupellation, such as litharge (the oxidized lead residue left by silver extraction), or for lead-bearing slag fragments at the station or near the mining sites.104

109Hopefully, future times will be easier to work and new investigations and analyses will give us answers to some of these questions.

Rosanna Pirelli

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Notes

1 Members of the mission are: Irene Bragantini, Rosanna Pirelli, Yasser Abdelraman, Marco Barbarino, Giulia Ciucci, Giovanna Cresciani, Andrea D'Andrea, Mohamed Hamden, Ilaria Incordino, Anna Lena, Giulio Lucarini, and Andrea Manzo. We are grateful for the help given by Mr. Hany Abu El-Azm, former Director of the Foreign Missions Affairs in Cairo, to the Chief Inspector for the Red Sea, Amr Abuelsafa Khalifa Ali and to the inspectors of the Safaga inspectorate, Mr. Ali Ahmed Ali Salama and Mr. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim Ahmed. Moreover, we gladly aknowledge the help given by Jean-Pierre Brun and Steven Sidebotham in the preparation of our texts.

2 Notable exceptions are the surveys conducted under the direction of S. Sidebotham in this area.

3 Preliminary reports of our activities, listing all the sites we have recorded, can be found in Bragantini, Pirelli 2012; Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a; Bragantini, Pirelli 2013b; Bragantini, Pirelli 2015.

4 Schweinfurth 1885, pp. 6-10; Murray 1925, p. 142, mentions ‘more ruined houses in the Wadî Gasûs’.

5 Sidebotham, Zitterkopf, 1997, p. 228: “…very deep wells with huge piles of sand and other detritus excavated from the wells being piled up around them to form huge mounds. Placed invariably in wâdi bottoms…”

6 See http://www.unior.it/ateneo/14562/1/archeomode.html.

7 The survey was conducted by I. Incordino and A. Lena, who also carried out a preliminary photographic documentation. Fabric and typological analysis have not been carried out for lack of time, and we hope to be able to work on the pottery as soon as we will resume fiedworks. For some chronological indications, see Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 68.

8 The structure, built “not even before the second half of the 3rd century CE”, was destroyed by fire in the second half of the 6th century: Rieger et al. 2012, pp. 149-153.

9 It should also be recalled that in Roman period Pharaonic or Ptolemaic objects were displayed in temples of Egyptian deities. On the reuse of Pharaonic and Ptolemaic architectural elements in Alexandria, cf. Francocci 2003. According to Savvopoulos 2010, the reuse of Pharaonic elements in Alexandria was particularly aimed at changing “Egypt into an ordinary Roman province, like all the others”.

10 The cup was identified in the section under the level pertaining to the building of the Eastern Building, thus pointing to activities performed here before the construction of the building: the date of the cup (III-II c. BC?) should therefore be interpreted as terminus post quem for the erection of the Eastern building.

11 I’m greatly indebted to Hélène Cuvigny for a preliminary reading and interpretation of this important document.

12 Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 70, Fig. 45; p. 74, Fig. 53. Limestone anchors similar to the ones discovered at Marsa Gawasis have been recorded on the site (A. Manzo, pers. communication), but this evidence has not been observed during our fieldwork.

13 Nicholson 2009, p. 2: “This (i.e., the fabrication of an object in faïence) would involve the collection and crushing of quartz pebbles, probably using pounders and quern stones, or the collection of quartz sand. The sand itself would normally have required some crushing or grinding to render it into a flour-like powder…”

14 On the use of Egyptian blue, see now: Skovmøller et alii 2016).

15 The structure appears in the plan published by Sayed 1978, Fig. 3, reproduced after Wilkinson.

16 Moreover, unpublished fragments of this type of jar occur in the collections from several Middle Kingdom sites at the British Museum (code BM EA) and in the Petrie Museum (code UC): UC 18670 from Harageh, UC 18560 from Diospolis Parva, BM EA 74395, BM EA 74421, BM EA 74435, BM EA 74443, BM EA 74589, BM EA 74633, BM EA 74635, BM EA 74663, BM EA 74392, BM EA 74395, and BM EA 74663 from el-Lahun.

17 See also unpublished sherd BM EA 74378 from el-Lahun.

18 See e.g. the rim sherds from WG 2 surf. coll. B4, WG 10 corr. 7, and WG 27 SU 1 A5.

19 See also unpublished sherds BM EA 50932, BM EA 74382, and BM EA 74399 from el-Lahun.

20 See e.g. the rime sherds from WG 3 surface collection, WG 16 SU 1 E-W 2-3, WG 27 SU 1, A4-B4, WG 27 SU 1, A5, WG 28 SU 4.

21 See also unpublished sherds UC 18670 from Harageh, UC 18560 from Diospolis Parva, and BM EA 74392 from el-Lahun.

22 See e.g. the rim sherds from WG 8 SU 7, WG 8 SU 7 S of F1, WG 10 corr. 4, 5, 6, 7, WG 16 SU 1 E-W 2, WG 16 SU 1 E-W 3, WG 16 tr. 3 SU 20, WG 18 SU 8, WG 19 SU 4 A3, WG 19 SU 8 A3, WG 19 SU 17, WG 19 SU 30 A1, WG 19 SU 24 C2, WG 19 SU 35 A2, WG 24 SU 17, WG 24 SU 32 C1, WG 24 SU 40 C1/C2-D1/D2, WG 28 SU 1, and WG 28 SU 4 East.

23 Tailings observed in 2012 appeared heavily disturbed by bulldozers in 2015.

24 Bragantini, Pirelli 2012, p. 111: among the possible function of the site listed in Sidebotham et al. 2002, pp. 192-198; 218-225, gold mining (ibid. 222) could therefore be most confidently considered.

25 My warmest thanks to Ms Meyer for kindly providing relevant texts on her researches in Bir Umm Fawakhir.

26 Bragantini, Pirelli 2012, p. 105; Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 90, Site 6: petroglyphs with camels and armed fighting figures appear side by side, highlighting ‘…a nexus between people, marking a symbolic, even spiritual connection with places to which individuals and groups frequently returned’ (Bloxham 2015, p. 797).

27 For rotary grindstones dated to the ‘Arab period’ cf. also Tawab et al. 1990, p. 361 Fig. 16.

28 Keenan et al. 2000, p. 1171: ‘…current human and natural depredations make urgently needed future fieldwork in this entire region a race against time’.

29 This paper –containing new observations and hypotheses on some of the texts of Wâdi Gasus– also collects and summarizes the results of my previous study on these documents, which I published in different contributions: Bragantini, Pirelli 2012; Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, where an almost complete bibliography is also published.

30 One of them was intentionally hacked out with a rock hammer, sometime between 2012 and 2015, Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p. 165(see below).

31 Not even, they do pose any problem of reading and interpretation. The two “stelae” were studied and published for the first time by Samuel Birch (1880), then published again by Adolf Erman (1882), and Alessandra Nibbi (1976), and referred to by Abdel Monem Sayed in his articles on the site of Wâdi Gawasis (1977).

32 The first who puts this site in connection with a Hydreuma was Schweinfurth (1885).

33 I am extremely grateful to Patricia Usick (Dep. of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, The British Museum) for sending me a PDF copy of these pages of the Catalogue of the very interesting collection of Egyptian Antiquities, formed by James Burton, Jun. Esq. during his travels in Egypt and also for providing me with precious information on this topic. My heartfelt thanks are also due to her colleague Neil Cooke for her helpful contribution to the discussion.

34 See note 32.

35 British Library: Add Mss 25626, 66; Weill 1910, in Aufrère 2002; Tregenza 2004, pp. 182-183.

36 Manzo in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, p. 54; Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p.166.

37 Manzo 2011, p. 221.

38 Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p. 166.

39 Mss ADD. 25626, 66. I am grateful to the British Library for providing me with the digital copies of all Burton’s manuscripts quoted in this paper and included in the plates.

40 Sayed 1977.

41 Sayed 1978.

42 See supra note 40.

43 Meredith 1953, p. 102.

44 The Arabic term indicates a sign or marker.

45 Some interesting observations on Wâdi Gasus and Wâdi Gawasis were made in 1910 by Raymond Weill, in his Journal du désert. In his opinion, the upper wâdi (Gasus) had no comfortable landing on the seashore, while the lower wâdi (Gawasis) offered very favorable access to the coast thanks to a break in the reef in front of it. Furthermore, according to Weill the two wâdis are connected 3-4 km from the sea, where the mountain range is lower, allowing easy passage from one to another: Weill, 1910, in Aufrère, 2002.

46 Pirelli 2007.

47 Nibbi, 1976, pls. IX-X. In Birch’s catalogue, 1880, pls. III-IV, only front drawings of the “stelae” are included, so that it is not possible to understand their overall shape.

48 Where both the stelae (not only Wilkinson’s) could have been reused in the Roman period notwithstanding the doubts mentioned above.

49 I keep here the denomination of “basalt” contained in the restoration report of the Durham Museum, although in many cases, a petrographic analysis of such kind of rock has revealed to be greywacke. Specific analyses are needed on the two artefacts to give the correct denomination of the rock and help us to better define the terms of our question on their provenance. For some hypotheses, see below.

50 I am extremely grateful to Rachel Grocke, who gave me all the modern information on the “stelae”.

51 On this subject, however, see below.

52 Bragantini, Pirelli 2015, p. 167.

53 Sayed 1977, pp. 138-177; Bard, Fattovich 2007, pp. 30-32.

54 On the nature of the “Paneia”, see Bernand 1977, pp. 269-271.

55 I do not take into consideration a third possibility, i.e. that the “stelae” could have been placed originally in a Middle Kingdom structure on the site where the Graeco-Roman station will be built. Indeed although Middle Kingdom pottery is scattered all over the site, no structure comparable to a shrine or chapel was found.

56 For the last reports of the mission, see CISA Newsletter 2009; 2010; 2011.

57 Pirelli 2010, p. 238.

58 And not from the area of the caves and niches inside the wâdi: Pirelli 2010, pp. 239-241.

59 Bard, Fattovich 2010, pp. 8, 12, 23. I am grateful to Rodolfo Fattovich, who gave me further information about this stela.

60 On this subject see Schumacher 1988, pp. 69-72 and Aufrère 1998, p. 14.

61 See above, and note 55.

62 Schweinfurth 1885, p. 10; Tregenza 2004, pp. 179-181.

63 Klemm, Klemm 2013, p. 85

64 I am greatly indebted to Joachim Quack for authorizing me to publish this picture and to Claus Jurman who provided me with a good copy of it. I have just received a further confirmation and one more picture by R. Klemm and D. Klemm: when they made their last survey in 1990 they also saw only the two cartouches of Amenirdis and Shepenupet (kind personal communication).

65 Burton, British Museum, Add. MS 25629, pp. 48-50, mentioned in Vikentiev 1952.

66 Schweinfurth 1885.

67 Leclant 1953.

68 Vikentiev 1956

69 Kitchen 1996, pp. 175-183; Jurman 2006, and Bibliography.

70 Pirelli, in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, pp. 79-85.

71 Vikentiev 1956.

72 Dodson, Hilton 2004, p. 242. Jurman 2006, published a recent photograph of a part only of the scene he had received from Joachim Quack.

73 MS 25629, 66.

74 Schweinfurth 1885.

75 The last sign is amended by Vikentiev as n[b nTrw], but it is probably a mistake of the engraver.

76 According to Vikentiev 1952, and not Min of Coptos as stated by Schweinfurth.

77 I am conducting however a study on the names of Min in the Eastern Desert, and I am no more so sure that he was right. I think that, in this case, we must recognise a different epithet of the god, usually considered as a variant of the spelling of his name, attested from the New Kingdom, but I am still working on this matter.

78 It is also interesting to note that the name of Pye is written in a rare spelling: the first sign is the ideogram “ᒼnḫ”, followed by the phonograms “p” and double “yod”, instead of the regular writing: “p” + “ᒼnḫ” + “double yod”.

79 As rightly pointed out by Vikentiev 1952.

80 Not in the copy on which Vikentiev could work.

81 Pirelli, in Bragantini, Pirelli 2013a, pp. 82-85

82 Ibidem.

83 Kitchen 1996, pp. 175-183.

84 Jurman 2006.

85 On the identity of the gods to be worshipped here, and their link with Min, see above, note 61.

86 Tregenza 2004, p. 181.

87 Tregenza 2004, p. 181. Vikentiev, instead, affirms that it was M. Simpson who found the stela and informed Tregenza about it.

88 Tregenza 2004, p. 181.

89 Vikentiev 1956.

90 49 cm tall, 19 wide and 19 thick.

91 Ibidem.

92 For the text and its dating, see Vikentiev 1956.

93 Vikentiev 1956, p. 181, note 1.

94 Ibidem.

95 Meredith 1953; Sayed 1977; Tregenza 2004; Fuchs, Hašek, Poichstal 2006. Ogden, citing Garland, Bannister and Lucas, reminds us that, while the main galena mine region in Pharaonic times was Gebel Rossas (in Arabic, the “Lead Mountain”), south of Quseir, there are many other sites in the southern part of the East Desert where the mineral is abundant (Ogden 2009, pp. 168-169, with further literature). Interestingly, Vikentiev himself calls the wâdi where the mine of “Min Biaty” lies “Wâdi Roussas,” evidently on the basis of a local toponomastic tradition (Vikentiev, ibidem).

96 Castel, Soukiassan 1989.

97 Ogden 2009, p. 168, with further literature.

98 Wb V, 606, 4; Lesko 2002, p. 274

99 Ogden 2009, pp. 154-155; 168-169; 170-171, with further literature.

100 Ogden 2009, pp. 170-171. However, on this subject, see also Jurman 2015, pp. 51-68.

101 Stos-Gale 1996.

102 Actually even higher values have been detected in Egypt, in the “Black Vein” east of Umm Samiuki, where allegedly quantities as high as 200 g per ton were recorded (Kovačik, cited in Stos-Gale 1981).

103 Ibidem.

104 I am grateful to Yasser Abd el-Rahman for this technical advice.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende Map of the area granted to the Italian Archaeological Mission in the Eastern Desert.
Crédits © All rights reserved
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 884k
Titre Fig. 2
Légende Itineraries of the missions 2012 and 2015.
Crédits © Google Earth -A. D’Andrea
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 484k
Titre Fig. 3
Légende Wâdi Gasus, area of the ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ (bottom left) and of the well (top right).
Crédits © Google Earth - G. Cresciani
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 596k
Titre Fig. 4
Légende Well and enclosure in the Wâdi Gasus.
Crédits © Google Earth - G. Cresciani
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Fig. 5
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: ‘Eastern Building’ (2007-2013).
Crédits © Google Earth - R.  Pirelli
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Fig. 6
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: outline of the buildings (in blue) and area of the pottery survey (in green).
Crédits © Google Earth - G. Cresciani
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Fig. 7
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: Dressel 2-4 amphora handle.
Crédits © A. Lena
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Titre Fig. 8
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: ‘Eastern Building’.
Crédits © G. Ciucci
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 556k
Titre Fig. 9
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: miniaturistic cup (imitation Black Ware).
Crédits © A. Lena
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 632k
Titre Fig. 10
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ in the Wâdi Gasus: fragments of ‘saggars’ in different colours fabrics.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 720k
Titre Fig. 11a
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: fragments of ‘saggars’ with remains of green/turquoise ‘glaze’.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 772k
Titre Fig. 11b
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: fragments of ‘saggars’ with remains of green/turquoise ‘glaze’.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 636k
Titre Fig. 12a
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: imprints of gauze or textile under a vitreous glaze on ‘saggars’ walls.
Crédits © R. Pirelli, A. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 668k
Titre Fig. 12b
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: imprints of gauze or textile under a vitreous glaze on ‘saggars’ walls.
Crédits © R. Pirelli, A. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 612k
Titre Fig. 13
Légende ‘Graeco-Roman Station’ on the Wâdi Gasus: area with high concentration of fragments of ‘saggars’ (orthophoto G. Ciucci, A. Lena).
Crédits © G. Giucci, A. Lena
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titre Fig. 14
Légende Middle Kingdom sherds from Wâdi Gasus: a) rim sherd of a bag shaped Marl C large jar (zir) with round-shaped thickened rim; b) rim sherd of a Marl A 3 bag shaped or ovoidal jar or bottle with thickened rim.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 792k
Titre Fig. 15
Légende Profiles of Middle Kingdom Marl C types from Wâdi Gasus: a) rim of a bag shaped large to middle sized jar with everted rim and thickened rounded lip; b) rim of a large bag-shaped jar (zir) with squat thickened triangular-shaped modeled rim; c) rim of a jar with flaring and pointed rim; d) rim of a mid-sized jar with everted neck and thickened triangular lip.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 408k
Titre Fig. 16
Légende Group of sherds of Nubian type from Wâdi Gasus.
Crédits © I. Incordino, A. Lena
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 884k
Titre Fig. 17
Légende Detail of two rim sherds of Nubian type from Wâdi Gasus characterized by an horizontal band of notches parallel to the rim and delimiting the lower part of the vessel covered by oblique parallel incised lines.
Crédits © I. Incordino, A. Lena
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 464k
Titre Fig. 18
Légende Gold mining site, area of tailings.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 712k
Titre Fig. 19
Légende Gold mining site, detail of one of the tailing.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 832k
Titre Fig. 20
Légende Opencast trench near Umm el Howeitat el Bahri.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 868k
Titre Fig. 21
Légende Gold mining site, washing table: in the centre, irregular breach with drainage function.
Crédits © R. Pirelli
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 664k
Titre Fig. 22
Légende Gold mining site, map of the area with huts (in yellow) and rectangular building (in red).
Crédits © Google Earth - G. Cresciani
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 280k
Titre Fig. 23
Légende Gold mining site, rectangular building (photogrammetry: G. Ciucci, A. Lena).
Crédits © G. Ciucci, A. Lena
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 312k
Titre Fig. 24
Légende Gold mining site, ‘hut’.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 900k
Titre Fig. 25
Légende Gold mining site, ‘hut’.
Crédits © G. Lucarini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 848k
Titre Fig. 26
Légende Gold mining site, ‘hut’.
Crédits © R. Pirelli
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 944k
Titre Fig. 27
Légende Gold mining site, fragment of Egyptian Red Slip A/Aswan Ware.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 892k
Titre Fig. 28
Légende Gold mining site, ring handle and wall of a ‘Late Roman 6’ amphora.
Crédits © R. Pirelli
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1008k
Titre Fig. 29
Légende Gold mining site, grinding stone (reused as crushing stone?).
Crédits © I. Bragantini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 936k
Titre Fig. 30
Légende Spring of Bir Abu Gowah.
Crédits © R. Pirelli
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 872k
Titre Fig. 31
Légende Petroglyphs with camels.
Crédits © R. Pirelli
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-33.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 608k
Titre Fig. 32
Légende Granite block.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-34.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 772k
Titre Fig. 33
Légende Gold mining site, base of a rotary grinding stone.
Crédits © I. Bragantini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-35.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 844k
Titre Fig. 34
Légende Gold mining site, rotary grinding stone.
Crédits © I. Bragantini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-36.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 864k
Titre Fig. 35
Légende Modern settlement in Wâdi Gasus, built with stones from the ‘Graeco-Roman station’?
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-37.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 904k
Titre Fig. 36
Légende Traditional kitchen ware abandoned in a modern settlement.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-38.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 288k
Titre Fig. 37
Légende Dumping area associated with modern settlement in Wâdi Gasus.
Crédits © V. Zoppi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-39.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 884k
Titre Fig. 38
Légende Distant view of the city of Umm el Howeitat.
Crédits © I. Bragantini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-40.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 632k
Titre Fig. 39
Légende General map of the region with distribution of the archaeological sites (EMSA: Early Middle Stone Age site; MSA: Middle Stone Age site; MSA/N: site with mixed Middle Stone Age and Neolithic artefacts; N: Neolithic site; RM: raw material procurement area; S1-RS: Site 1 – Roman Station) (images Google Earth and wikimedia).
Crédits © All rights reserved
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-41.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 688k
Titre Fig. 40
Légende Site 1 ‘Graeco-Roman Station’. Map of the site with distribution of the archaeological features (map M. Barbarino).
Crédits © M. Barbarino
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-42.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 284k
Titre Fig. 41
Légende Site 1. Lithic artefacts; a: core; b-d: denticulates; e: notch; f, g: MSA sidescrapers; h: MSA denticulate.
Crédits © G. Lucarini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-43.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 884k
Titre Fig. 42
Légende Site 1. Steinplatz hearth 1; a: surface; b: layer I (grid: 1x1 m).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-44.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,3M
Titre Fig 43
Légende Bir Wasif.
Crédits © G. Lucarini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-45.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 952k
Titre Fig. 44
Légende Early MSA bifacial handaxe found along the wâdi connecting Wâdi Gasus and Wâdi Gawasis.
Crédits © G. Lucarini
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-46.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 520k
Titre Fig. 45
Légende Khnumhotep’s “stela” found by Wilkinson in the “station” of Wâdi Gasus (drawing by Burton, Mss ADD. 25629, 49).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-47.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 444k
Titre Fig. 46
Légende Khentykhetywr’s “stela” found by Burton (drawing by Burton, Mss ADD. 25629, 50).
Crédits © Burton
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-48.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 756k
Titre Fig. 47
Légende Sayed’s plate with the spot of the stela found by Wilkinson (Sayed 1978).
Crédits © A.M. Sayed
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-49.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Fig. 48
Légende Block with Khentykhetywr’s inscription (Courtesy of the Durham University Museum).
Crédits © Durham University Museum
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-50.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 224k
Titre Fig. 49
Légende Block with Khnumhotep’s inscription (courtesy of the Durham University Museum).
Crédits © All rights reserved
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-51.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Fig. 50
Légende Picture of the cartouches of the two “Divine adoratresses” (Courtesy of J.F. Quack, Photo 1992-1994).
Crédits © J.F. Quack
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-52.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 584k
Titre Fig. 51
Légende Burton’s drawing of the “Great scene” of Psametik I in Wâdi Gasus (Mss ADD. 25629, 48).
Crédits © Burton
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-53.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 780k
Titre Fig. 52
Légende Wagner’s drawing of the “Great scene” of Psametik I in Wâdi Gasus (Schweinfurth, 1885).
Crédits © Wagner
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-54.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 392k
Titre Fig. 53
Légende Vikentiev’s drawing of the “Great scene” of Psametik I in Wâdi Gasus (Vikentiev 1956).
Crédits © V. Vikentiev
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-55.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k
Titre Fig. 54
Légende Tregenza’s photograph of the “main scene” of Psametik I (Vikentiev 1956).
Crédits © V. Vikentiev
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-56.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 496k
Titre Fig. 55
Légende Leclant’s photograph of the “main scene” of Psametik I (Vikentiev 1956).
Crédits © V. Vikentiev
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-57.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 520k
Titre Fig. 56
Légende The supposed rock wall, where the offering scene of Psametik I and Nitokris should stay.
Crédits © R. Pirelli, 2015
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-58.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 968k
Titre Fig. 57
Légende The entrance of one of the chambers of the lead mine; the arrow indicates the spot of the short inscription.
Crédits © R. Pirelli, 2012
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-59.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 336k
Titre Fig. 58
Légende The short inscription at the entrance of one of the chambers of the lead mine.
Crédits © R. Pirelli, 2012
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-60.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 280k
Titre Fig. 59
Légende The text of the short inscription (photo Tregenza 1951 in Vikentiev 1956).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-61.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 360k
Titre Fig. 60
Légende Galena mine: hieroglyphic inscription, intentionally destroyed.
Crédits © R. Pirelli, 2015
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-62.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Titre Fig. 61
Légende Facsimile of the “small stela” by Tregenza.
Crédits © V. Vikentiev, 1956
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5238/img-63.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 512k

Auteurs

Dipartimento Asia Africa Mediterraneo, Università degli studi di Napoli l’Orientale
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, ISMEO, Roma
Dipartimento Asia Africa Mediterraneo, Università degli studi di Napoli l’Orientale
Dipartimento Asia Africa Mediterraneo, Università degli studi di Napoli l’Orientale

© Collège de France, 2018

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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