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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.

Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir: Gold Mining in Byzantine Times in the Eastern Desert

Carol Meyer

Texte intégral

1The purpose of this paper is to present a summary of the results of many years of archaeological research at the site of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir in the central Eastern Desert of Egypt. It will give a brief overview of the field seasons, some aspects of life in the ancient settlement at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir, and a review of the ancient ore extraction and processing techniques.

  • 1 The results of all six seasons are published in Meyer 1995; Meyer, Heidorn, Kaegi and Wilfong 2000; (...)

2In brief, the Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir Project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago carried out four seasons of survey and one of excavation, plus one study season in 2001 in Quft. The survey project began mapping the southeast end of the site in 1992 and worked its way northwest in 1993 and 1996 and made a big push to complete the map of what we now call the Main Settlement in 1997. It is about half a kilometer from one end of the site to the other (Fig. 1). In 1999 we had our only chance to excavate, and only excavated three of 237 buildings, a small sample indeed (Fig. 1, 2). In addition to mapping the Main Settlement (blue on Fig. 3), we carried out walking surveys of the surrounding areas and located fourteen outlying clusters of ruins (red on Fig. 3) of the same 5th – 6th century Byzantine date.1

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Bi'r Umm Fawâkhir Main Settlement.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Overview of central section of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir (red dots mark Buildings 93, 177, and 181 clockwise from center left).

© C. Meyer

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Main Settlement and Vicinity.

© C. Meyer

3In the fifth and sixth centuries the Byzantine Empire had a staggering need for gold to pay for armies, navies, diplomatic efforts, a vast building program, and the glittering court at Constantinople. Unfortunately, by that time many of the old gold sources had been worked out or lost to enemies, so when the call went out to get gold, new sources and difficult recovery techniques sometimes had to be utilized. It is pretty clear that the mines at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir were a government operation. No one else had the capital resources in terms of grain and supplies or the authority to summon up, organize, and supply so large a labor force in a remote desert.

  • 2 Krokodilô (Wâdi Mweh) was reused in the 5th and 6th centuries (Brun 2003a, p. 204), and it is hard (...)
  • 3 Modern assays range from 4+ to 27.9 grams per ton of ore at the Wâdi el-Sid versus 1.73 to 9.1 gram (...)

4When the miners set out from the Nile, presumably from Coptos (modern Quft), they were heading into deep desert, but not into the unknown. The ancient route through Wâdi Hammâmât towards the Red Sea (Fig. 4) was still marked by the mostly abandoned but still impressive Roman period praesidia, and one or two of them were reoccupied during the Byzantine period.2 The miners were also heading towards a known gold-mining zone. The mines in the Wâdi el-Sid, a few kilometers south of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir (Fig. 3), had been worked for gold since at least the New Kingdom period, as attested by the Turin Gold-mining Papyrus and some New Kingdom sherds, huts, and trenches. The Byzantine period miners, however, worked the zone to the north, around the wells of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir, possibly because the Wâdi al-Sid mines had been exhausted by the technology known at that time. It is important to note that the ores in the Wâdi el-Sid are much more productive than those at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir;3 only a very pressing need for gold could make the latter worthwhile.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Eastern Desert, Byzantine period sites marked in red.

© C. Meyer

5We will not go into the geology of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir, fascinating as it is, except to say that the gold occurs in quartz veins injected in granite (Fig. 5). Specifically, the pinkish Fawâkhir granite is a Precambrian stock (ca. 590 ma) injected into even older, dark ultramafic rocks. At the contact zone between the granite and the ultramafic rocks, the quartz veins are enriched with many metallic minerals, some of which carry gold. The other critical resource at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir is the wells, all-important in a hyper-arid desert, and the water is abundant and sweet, not brackish like so many of the other desert wells.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Geology of Bi'r Umm Fawâkhir vicinity.

© M. Badr el-Din Omar

  • 4 The name “Persou” known from Roman period ostraka seems to have referred to a station in the Wâdi H (...)

6When the miners reached Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir, they found earlier remains. The little Ptolemy III temple to Min still existed (Fig. 6); it was not destroyed until the early 20th century. The ancient Roman road, overlooked by one of the inter-visible watch towers on the Coptos to Myos Hormos route, ran east from the wells, past Outliers 2 and 3 (Fig. 3). A few Roman period remains have been reported, such as inscriptions in a cave behind the modern settlement, a few dozen ostraka, and bits and pieces recovered by modern miners. Several small granite quarries may be dated to the Roman period by the potsherds around them, especially amphoras, by quarry slots that look like those at Mons Claudianus, and by the fact that several partly cut blocks were built into Byzantine period houses (Fig. 7). If, however, there was Roman period praesidum at the Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir wells4 like those elsewhere along the Coptos to Myos Hormos road, then it is the most thoroughly destroyed one of all. If it existed near the wells, then it would have been subject to rare but heavy flash floods (Fig. 8), and anything that survived into the early 20th century was ground up by modern ore-crushing machines.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

Column segment from Min temple of Ptolemy III Evergetes.

© C. Meyer, T.G. Wilfong

Fig. 7a

Fig. 7a

Outlier 2 at center left; Quarry 1 at foot of rock outcrop behind; Roman road in wâdi bed from lower right to upper left.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 7b

Fig. 7b

Blocks with quarrying slots in Quarry 1.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 7c

Fig. 7c

Partly quarried block built into Building 126 in Main Settlement.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

Overview of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir. Outlier 2, Quarry 1, and Roman road on left; Main Settlement in wâdi on right; well houses at lower left; washed out area in foreground.

© C. Meyer

  • 5 See for example the study of Dolly’s Creek, Australia (Lawrence 1998, pp. 46-48).
  • 6 Prostitutes are well attested in the Roman period. The Coptos Tariff of A.D. 90 lists a very high f (...)

7Shortly after arrival at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir the ancient miners set about constructing shelter. The basic unit is a two or three room house (Fig. 9) of dry stone masonry with neatly made doors and built-in features such as wall niches and benches, but no cut stone or plastering. Roofs were probably palm logs, branches, twigs, and/or mats held down by stones. This informal architecture could be expanded as needed by adding house units or enclosing the space between two houses until a larger agglomerated building of five or six houses sharing party walls was created (Fig. 10). The Fig. 11 shows part of the site with the basic two or three room houses in orange and the agglomerated houses in blue. While there is no formal layout to the site, many of the houses are grouped around a shared area or small plaza; their doors open on the plaza and not onto the wâdi bottom that served as the main street. Thus these houses would have shared activities more easily than not. We believe that the organization of the town was based on kin groups with fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, and cousins; it is hard to see what other organization could pertain. Were wives and mothers present? We have no definitive evidence one way or the other, but we do know that cross-culturally speaking women are in short supply in mining towns and the newer the town the fewer the women.5 Prostitutes are a possibility. Certainly they are well attested in the earlier Roman period texts,6 but by definition they are not part of a stable family group. Scattered around the houses are a number of one-room outbuildings, shown in green on Fig. 11. We do not know whether they were used for storage, workshops, animal shelter, latrines, or many functions in turn, but they do not seem to have been kitchens. Excavations on either side of Building 93 revealed two open air kitchens there (Fig. 12).

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

Outlier 2 house.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Building 50, agglomerated house with 20 rooms.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

Orange= single houses; blue= agglomerated houses; gray= “plazas”; green= one-room outbuildings.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

Building 93. A= Dump 1 kitchen area, B= Dump 2 kitchen area.

© C. Meyer

  • 7 The puzzling Complex 26 in Outlier 6 (Fig. 3) is securely enclosed by a deep bay and thick walls, b (...)

8Thus. In one respect we have a remarkably complete town. It can be mapped house by house without excavation. Around the Main Settlement we can see features such as outlying clusters of ruins, paths, ancient roads, mines, and wells (Fig. 3). Our population estimate for the Main Settlement is a little over 1,000 souls. This number surely fluctuated over time, but occasionally may have been even greater; Outliers 1, 2, and 6 look residential and not like clusters of huts serving outlying mines. On the other hand, what we do not have is also important. There are no walls or fortifications to keep anyone in or out, only some guard posts high on ridges over the site (Fig. 13). There are no large administrative buildings, warehouses, or animal shelters.7 There is no sign of a church, though the little Ptolemy III Min temple (Fig. 6) still existed. Perhaps such central buildings existed near the wells, but have long been destroyed by flash floods and modern mining.

Fig. 13a

Fig. 13a

Guardpost (on top of ridge).

© C. Meyer

Fig. 13b

Fig. 13b

View from guardpost towards modern settlement, wells, and road to Wâdi Hammâmât.

© C. Meyer

  • 8 See Burstein 1989, pp. 58-68, for Agatharcides’ description of the mines and miners and Oldfather 2 (...)

9Diodorus Siculus of the 1st century B.C., citing Agatharcides of the 2nd century B.C., calls the ancient Egyptian gold miners prisoners of war, criminals, or those unlucky enough to anger the king, and he says that they were worked to death in greatest misery.8 On the other hand, we have at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir no evidence at all for forced labor. There are no walls to keep anyone in or out. The sprawling Main Settlement and outliers have no sign of regimentation. The silos in Outlier 2 (Fig. 14) look more like storage for grain paid out as salary than rations doled out to captives. Our excavations were very limited, but they still yielded finds such as beads, raw emeralds (green beryl), an agate gem stone, a Bes amulet, a bronze weight, half a copper-gold alloy bracelet, and a few tiny coins (Fig. 14).

Fig. 14a

Fig. 14a

Silo in Outlier 2.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 14b

Fig. 14b

a. Bes amulet; b. Agate gemstone; c. Bronze weight; d. Raw emeralds (green beryl); e. Copper-gold alloy bracelet.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 14c

Fig. 14c

Bronze coins.

© C. Meyer

  • 9 For paganism in Byzantine period Egypt, see Frankfurter 1998.
  • 10 See Sidebotham 2011, pp. 264-268, 272-275, for the Christian ecclesiastical complex, the Shrine of (...)

10Oddly enough, we do not know what religion the miners acknowledged. By the 5th century the Byzantine Empire was officially Christian, but in Egypt it seems to have been a village-by-village choice.9 On the one hand the little Min temple still existed (Fig. 6) and someone owned a Bes amulet. On the other hand, there are many fancy plates stamped with Christian crosses and other symbols (Fig. 15), and the wine amphoras are dated with XP dates (Fig. 16), though this pertains more to the place where they were filled than where the wine was consumed. The situation at the port of Berenike, by far the most important site in the Eastern Desert in the Byzantine period, is at least as complicated.10 Religion matters. It determined the miners’ work week and festival cycle, whether Isis or Christ. Cross-culturally speaking, miners are not very pious or given to formal religion, but on the other hand they are engaged in a dangerous profession. The only protection was a miner’s own skill, and divine intervention.

Fig. 15

Fig. 15

Sherds with stamped or painted Christian symbols.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 16

Fig. 16

Late Roman 1 Amphoras with dipinti.

© C. Meyer

  • 11 Ikram 2014, pp. 91-96.
  • 12 Smith 2014, pp. 97-100.
  • 13 For the scarcity of wheat grains, see Van der Veen 2018.
  • 14 Roman period ostraka record many requests for bread from stations on the Wâdi Hammâmât road (cf. Gu (...)

11While there is no evidence that the miners were forced labor, there is a great deal of evidence that they were rather well provisioned. Pottery occurs in such abundance that the name of the site, Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir, translates as “Well of the Mother of Pottery.” Judging from all the amphoras (Fig. 16), wine was in good supply. Among the range of pottery vessels there are many deep bowls or kraters (Fig. 17) and a variety of small cups or bowls, some presumably used for drinking (Fig. 18). We even found an iron ladle (Fig. 18), so we suggest that at least at times wine was mixed with water in kraters, ladled into drinking cups, and drunk in a more or less civilized fashion. Meat was in good supply as well (Fig. 19). The sheep and goat bones are no surprise, but the amount of cattle bones is. Beef is a luxury in the desert where there is no fodder for cattle.11 Another surprise was what we tentatively call the “cheese factory.” On the lowest excavated surface of Dump 1 we found a wide-mouth jar, presumably for milk, and a taller one with holes punched through the bottom, presumably for draining whey to make cheese (Fig. 20). Cheese is a very good solution to the problem of keeping milk in a very hot desert. On the other hand, the botanical remains were sparse, possibly because of the small sample. The food plants recovered are unremarkable: barley, wheat, bottle gourd, date, dom palm, grape, olive, pulses, and Nile acacia pods, the latter two probably used for animal food.12 Wheat grains in particular were not abundant, though this seems to be in keeping with the general supply in the Eastern Desert.13 The silos in Outlier 2 (Fig. 14) and the dolia in the excavated kitchens (Fig. 21) look like grain storage, but the little clay-sided hearth or oven in the Dump 1 kitchen, filled with dung and fine dung ash, looks very small for baking bread. Perhaps there were community baking ovens to save fuel; certainly fuel for so many hearths in the desert must have been a constant headache for the mine administrators. We should also consider the possibility that at times baked bread was sent into the desert, as in the Roman period.14

Fig. 17a

Fig. 17a

Kraters.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 17b

Fig. 17b

Krater found in situ on lowest level of Building 93 Room C.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 18a

Fig. 18a

Small cups.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 18b

Fig. 18b

Iron ladle.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 18c

Fig. 18c

Iron ladle in situ.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 19

Fig. 19

Distribution of animal bone at Bi'r Umm Fawâkhir.

© S. Ikram

Fig. 20a

Fig. 20a

Wide-mouth milk (?) pot.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 20b

Fig. 20b

Cheese factory” with two vessels in situ on lowest level of Dump 1 beside Building 93.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 20c

Fig. 20c

Tall jar with holes (for draining whey?).

© C. Meyer

Fig. 20d

Fig. 20d

Bottom of tall jar.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 21a

Fig. 21a

Dump 1 kitchen; small clay-sided oven or hearth at upper left, filled with dung; potstand in center; stone-rimmed dolium right of center; disused dolium at floor level near right baulk.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 21b

Fig. 21b

Schematic cross-section of dolium 1.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 21c

Fig. 21c

Top plan of kitchen in Dump 1; fire place on second level (“cheese factory” on third level below, not shown).

© C. Meyer

12We can now say a great deal about the gold mining operations that were the reason for the existence of ancient Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir. The hills around the site are riddled and trenched with ancient mines. It has to be emphasized that this is hard rock mining, hacking quartz out of granite. Panning alluvial gold from a stream is a simple, unskilled operation that a lone miner can carry out. He might or might not become very rich. Hard rock mining on the other hand requires a large, organized, and well-supplied labor force. The miners will probably be paid, possibly well paid, but they will never strike it rich. Hard rock mining is capital intensive, and the profits, if any, go to the investors, to Alexandria or Constantinople or Johannesburg or wherever. The quartz veins at Fawâkhir, particularly those closest to the contact zone with the ultramafic rocks to the west and south, are enriched with many metallic minerals (Fig. 22), some of which carry gold in very small amounts. The important thing about this list of glittering minerals is that they are all sulfides, which makes them much harder to smelt than oxides.

Fig. 22

Fig. 22

a. Quartz veinlets stained with hematite. b. Iron pyrite (Fool's gold).

© C. Meyer

  • 15 The major granodiorite quarries at Mons Claudianus yielded very few metal tools (Peacock 1997, p. 1 (...)
  • 16 Crushing and grinding stones are the second most common artifact at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir after potsher (...)

13There are two basic types of mines at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir. The simplest is just a trench or opencast mine cut down from the surface to follow the quartz vein (Fig. 23). We recovered only one working tool, a simple iron wedge or pick (Fig. 23), but archaeologically excavated tools are uncommon at ancient mining and quarrying sites.15 In other places, the mine workings cut deep into the mountainside (Fig. 24), but both kinds of mines are marked as ancient by the scatter of sherds around them, nearby huts constructed the same way as the Main Settlement houses, and features such as dry stone revetment walls (Fig. 24). At Mine 4 the trench slicing up the side of the mountain is very visible; the light colored material on either side of the mine is discarded quartz (Fig. 25). About half way up the trench we found a pounding slab surrounded on three sides by quartz chunks (Fig. 26), so it looks as if a workman squatted here, broke or inspected the quartz mined in shade or darkness, and picked out the pieces worth the considerable effort of further reduction. The discards were simply tossed down the slope. The next stage in ore reduction was to pound the chunks down to the size of a pea or a vetch, according to Diodorus Siculus. The chunk of quartz would be placed on a flattish lower stone and pounded down and ground around with a two-handed pounder or dimple stone (Fig. 27). When the depression or dimple gets too deep to crush the rock small enough, it is simply thrown away for a new one. Discarded dimple stones are so common that they were built into walls or steps up a slope.16 The next stage was to dump the crushed ore into a heavy grinding mill or quern (Fig. 28). The upper, lighter rotary stone was turned by means of a wooden handle stuck in a hole. Diodorus says that the fine grinding was done by women working in pairs, which is possible, but as yet unproven. The next step was washing the finely ground ore, and this was one of the most skilled jobs at the mine, though we do not know which of several possible washing techniques was used. In 1997 Bryan Earl, a retired mining engineer from Cornwall, carried out a replication experiment for the project. He demonstrated that it is necessary to grind the Fawâkhir ore to face powder (Fig. 29) to win any gold at all. He used a Cornish vanning shovel (Fig. 29) to wash the ore and did not get visible gold, just a heavy, dark, sparkly, concentrated residue or “head.” We think this is as far as ore processing went at ancient Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir. We looked for slags but found none, and slags are generally easy to spot. Smelting this kind of ore is extremely fuel intensive, and fuel is always at a premium in the desert. Finally, sending sacks of dark, heavy concentrate to the Valley for final processing would have reduced the risk of theft at the site and while crossing the desert.

Fig. 23a

Fig. 23a

Opencast mine.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 23b

Fig. 23b

Iron pick or wedge.

© C. Meyer

Fig.24a

Fig.24a

Ancient hut in center.

© C. Meyer

Fig.24b

Fig.24b

Deep mine with dry stone masonry revetment wall.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 25

Fig. 25

Mine 4 with light-colored, discarded quartz on either side of mine.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 26

Fig. 26

Crushing stone found beside Mine 4, used for preliminary cracking and sorting of quartz ore.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 27a-b

Fig. 27a-b

A. Upper, hand-held dimpled crushing stone. B. Dimple stones reused as steps beside Building 117.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 27c

Fig. 27c

Lower crushing stones.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 28a

Fig. 28a

Lower part of rotary grinding stone (quern) and three dimpled crushing stones.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 28b

Fig. 28b

Halves of two upper rotary grinding stones, one with hole for handle.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 29a

Fig. 29a

Grinding ore on bucking plate.

© C. Meyer

Fig. 29b

Fig. 29b

Washing powdered ore with Cornish vanning shovel.

© C. Meyer

Graphic 1

Graphic 1

Method of obtaining gold.

  • 17 Two tiny samples were tested at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory and found (...)

14The chart shows all the steps needed to win gold from this kind of ore. Steps 1 and 2, crushing, grinding, and washing the ore we have seen. Steps 3 and 4, roasting the concentrate to drive off the sulfur dioxide and arsenic and then re-crushing the material are not strictly necessary, but make Step 5 easier. For this step the concentrate must be mixed with some form of lead if it does not contain any, as in fact the Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir ores do.17 The concentrated ore and extra lead, if needed, are then heated to red hot temperature, enough to melt and pour off the slag and leave a cake of lead. The lead cake is then placed in a porous vessel (a “cupel”) or on a bed of some porous material such as sand or brick dust. This in turn is heated in air until the lead oxidizes and runs into the porous bed as litharge, leaving little beads of gold, electrum, or silver. If refined gold is desired, as for coinage, then Step 7 may be carried out. The gold or electrum beads are placed in a jar with salt and a flux such as silica and heated for five days until it stops smoking. The silver oxides are taken up by the walls of the container and refined gold is left. If the objective is to recover the silver as well, the container may be crushed and the smelting with lead and cupellation steps may be repeated to win the silver. In short, this kind of gold smelting is very time-consuming, fuel-intensive, poisonous, and technically complex, especially for a low-grade ore such as that from Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir. Only the urgent need of the Byzantine empire for gold could justify such an expense.

  • 18 Meyer 2014 (Building 93 Room C, Dump 1, and Building 171 Room A; pp. 15-17, 19-24, 27-29; plates 24 (...)
  • 19 The plague of 542 started near Pelusium (Vasiliev 1952, p. 162).

15How long were the mines at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir worked? We do not know exactly, but the recent excavations found evidence in at least two trenches (Fig. 21 for one example) for three episodes of occupation,18 so it seems that the site was occupied and then abandoned or nearly so several times over the course of roughly 150 to 170 years. When was the site finally abandoned? Again, we do not know exactly, but it was probably around the end of the 6th century. By this time the Byzantine empire was pressed by enemies on many fronts, so the manpower and resources to support a remote mine were even more urgently needed elsewhere. Also, after 150 to 170 years of intensive if intermittent exploitation, the ores at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir were probably mined out with the ancient mining techniques available at that time. The relatively easy gold was gone. Finally, about this time the first of a series of plagues19 hit Egypt. Even if they did not penetrate to the desert, they would have further drained the resources of the empire. So, after the last miners left we have virtually no record of anything at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir until the geologists started their explorations in the late 19th century, followed by the miners in the first half of the 20th century, and finally by the archaeologists.

16I would like to thank the organizers of the very timely conference on the Eastern Desert of Egypt, Dr. Steven E. Sidebotham and Dr. Jean-Pierre Brun. Thanks for many levels of support over the years are due to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago House in Luxor, the National Geographic Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, private donors, ARCE Cairo, the Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority (EGSMA), and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (now the Ministry of State for Antiquities) and its inspectors. Nor should the hardworking field teams go unnamed: Henry Cowherd, Dr. Lisa Heidorn, Mohamed Badr el-Din Omar, Leslie Boose, Dr. Steven Cole, Bryan Earl, Rabia Hamdan, Dr. Salima Ikram, Richard Jaeschke, Clare Leader, Dr. Alexandra O’Brien, Dr. Clemens Reichel, Thomas Roby, ra’is Seif Shared Mahmud, Dr. Wendy Smith, and Dr. Terry Wilfong.

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Oldfather C.H. (tran.) 2000. Diodorus of Sicily, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (reprint of 1935 edition).

Peacock D.P.S. 1997. “The Quarries”. In Survey and Excavation at Mons Claudianus. D.P.S. Peacock and V.A. Maxfield (ed.), Vol. I, Fouilles de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 37, Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, pp. 175-255.

Sidebotham S.E. 2011. Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Smith W. 2014. The Floral Remains. In Bir Umm Fawakhir Vol. 3: Excavations 1999-2001. C. Meyer (ed.), Oriental Institute Publications 141, Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp. 97-110.

Van der Veen M., Bouchaud C., Cappers R. et Newton C. 2018. “Roman Life in the Eastern Desert of Egypt: Food, Imperial Power and Geopolitic. In The Eastern Desert of Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period: Archaeological Reports. J.-P. Brun, T. Faucher, B. Redon and S. Sidebotham (ed.). On line: https://books.openedition.org/cdf/5252.

Vasiliev A.A. 1961. History of the Byzantine Empire, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Notes de fin

1 The results of all six seasons are published in Meyer 1995; Meyer, Heidorn, Kaegi and Wilfong 2000; Meyer, Heidorn, O’Brien and Reichel 2011; Meyer 2014.

2 Krokodilô (Wâdi Mweh) was reused in the 5th and 6th centuries (Brun 2003a, p. 204), and it is hard to believe that Phoenicon (modern Laqeita) with its abundant wells was ignored.

3 Modern assays range from 4+ to 27.9 grams per ton of ore at the Wâdi el-Sid versus 1.73 to 9.1 grams per ton at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir (Meyer, Earl, Omar and Smither 2005, pp. 30-31). It is virtually impossible to know what the ancient yields may have been.

4 The name “Persou” known from Roman period ostraka seems to have referred to a station in the Wâdi Hammâmât, or at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir, or both at different times (Brun 2003b, pp. 98-99). Whether the name was still used in the Byzantine period is unknown.

5 See for example the study of Dolly’s Creek, Australia (Lawrence 1998, pp. 46-48).

6 Prostitutes are well attested in the Roman period. The Coptos Tariff of A.D. 90 lists a very high fee for taking prostitutes into the desert (Bernand 1984, pp. 200-201), and prostitutes are documented at Krokodilô, Persou, and Maximianon (Cuvigny 2003, pp. 383-389).

7 The puzzling Complex 26 in Outlier 6 (Fig. 3) is securely enclosed by a deep bay and thick walls, but it is anything but centrally located.

8 See Burstein 1989, pp. 58-68, for Agatharcides’ description of the mines and miners and Oldfather 2000, pp. 114-123, for Diodorus Siculus’.

9 For paganism in Byzantine period Egypt, see Frankfurter 1998.

10 See Sidebotham 2011, pp. 264-268, 272-275, for the Christian ecclesiastical complex, the Shrine of the Palmyrenes, the Northern Shrine (perhaps the locus of a mystery cult), and an Isis temple; the continued use of the great so-called Serapis Temple is uncertain.

11 Ikram 2014, pp. 91-96.

12 Smith 2014, pp. 97-100.

13 For the scarcity of wheat grains, see Van der Veen 2018.

14 Roman period ostraka record many requests for bread from stations on the Wâdi Hammâmât road (cf. Guéraud 1942, pp. 153-156; Bülow-Jacobsen 2003, pp. 420, 423; Cuvigny 2003, pp. 275, 409, 417).

15 The major granodiorite quarries at Mons Claudianus yielded very few metal tools (Peacock 1997, p. 190, Fig. 6.9).

16 Crushing and grinding stones are the second most common artifact at Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir after potsherds. For a fuller discussion of the kinds of crushing and grinding stones at the site, see Meyer 2011, p. 153, plates 94-100.

17 Two tiny samples were tested at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory and found to contain as much lead as gold (Meyer, Earl, Omar and Smither 2005, pp. 31-35).

18 Meyer 2014 (Building 93 Room C, Dump 1, and Building 171 Room A; pp. 15-17, 19-24, 27-29; plates 24, 28, 30).

19 The plague of 542 started near Pelusium (Vasiliev 1952, p. 162).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende Bi'r Umm Fawâkhir Main Settlement.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Fig. 2
Légende Overview of central section of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir (red dots mark Buildings 93, 177, and 181 clockwise from center left).
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 836k
Titre Fig. 3
Légende Main Settlement and Vicinity.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 224k
Titre Fig. 4
Légende Eastern Desert, Byzantine period sites marked in red.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Titre Fig. 5
Légende Geology of Bi'r Umm Fawâkhir vicinity.
Crédits © M. Badr el-Din Omar
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 844k
Titre Fig. 6
Légende Column segment from Min temple of Ptolemy III Evergetes.
Crédits © C. Meyer, T.G. Wilfong
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 500k
Titre Fig. 7a
Légende Outlier 2 at center left; Quarry 1 at foot of rock outcrop behind; Roman road in wâdi bed from lower right to upper left.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Titre Fig. 7b
Légende Blocks with quarrying slots in Quarry 1.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 316k
Titre Fig. 7c
Légende Partly quarried block built into Building 126 in Main Settlement.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Fig. 8
Légende Overview of Bi’r Umm Fawâkhir. Outlier 2, Quarry 1, and Roman road on left; Main Settlement in wâdi on right; well houses at lower left; washed out area in foreground.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,0M
Titre Fig. 9
Légende Outlier 2 house.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 812k
Titre Fig. 10
Légende Building 50, agglomerated house with 20 rooms.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 860k
Titre Fig. 11
Légende Orange= single houses; blue= agglomerated houses; gray= “plazas”; green= one-room outbuildings.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 260k
Titre Fig. 12
Légende Building 93. A= Dump 1 kitchen area, B= Dump 2 kitchen area.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Fig. 13a
Légende Guardpost (on top of ridge).
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 772k
Titre Fig. 13b
Légende View from guardpost towards modern settlement, wells, and road to Wâdi Hammâmât.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 716k
Titre Fig. 14a
Légende Silo in Outlier 2.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 308k
Titre Fig. 14b
Légende a. Bes amulet; b. Agate gemstone; c. Bronze weight; d. Raw emeralds (green beryl); e. Copper-gold alloy bracelet.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 344k
Titre Fig. 14c
Légende Bronze coins.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Fig. 15
Légende Sherds with stamped or painted Christian symbols.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Titre Fig. 16
Légende Late Roman 1 Amphoras with dipinti.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Fig. 17a
Légende Kraters.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Fig. 17b
Légende Krater found in situ on lowest level of Building 93 Room C.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 424k
Titre Fig. 18a
Légende Small cups.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Fig. 18b
Légende Iron ladle.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Fig. 18c
Légende Iron ladle in situ.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Titre Fig. 19
Légende Distribution of animal bone at Bi'r Umm Fawâkhir.
Crédits © S. Ikram
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 460k
Titre Fig. 20a
Légende Wide-mouth milk (?) pot.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Titre Fig. 20b
Légende “Cheese factory” with two vessels in situ on lowest level of Dump 1 beside Building 93.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 396k
Titre Fig. 20c
Légende Tall jar with holes (for draining whey?).
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Fig. 20d
Légende Bottom of tall jar.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 192k
Titre Fig. 21a
Légende Dump 1 kitchen; small clay-sided oven or hearth at upper left, filled with dung; potstand in center; stone-rimmed dolium right of center; disused dolium at floor level near right baulk.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 332k
Titre Fig. 21b
Légende Schematic cross-section of dolium 1.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-33.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Fig. 21c
Légende Top plan of kitchen in Dump 1; fire place on second level (“cheese factory” on third level below, not shown).
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-34.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Titre Fig. 22
Légende a. Quartz veinlets stained with hematite. b. Iron pyrite (Fool's gold).
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-35.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titre Fig. 23a
Légende Opencast mine.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-36.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 340k
Titre Fig. 23b
Légende Iron pick or wedge.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-37.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Titre Fig.24a
Légende Ancient hut in center.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-38.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 848k
Titre Fig.24b
Légende Deep mine with dry stone masonry revetment wall.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-39.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 820k
Titre Fig. 25
Légende Mine 4 with light-colored, discarded quartz on either side of mine.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-40.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 572k
Titre Fig. 26
Légende Crushing stone found beside Mine 4, used for preliminary cracking and sorting of quartz ore.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-41.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 928k
Titre Fig. 27a-b
Légende A. Upper, hand-held dimpled crushing stone. B. Dimple stones reused as steps beside Building 117.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-42.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 480k
Titre Fig. 27c
Légende Lower crushing stones.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-43.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 616k
Titre Fig. 28a
Légende Lower part of rotary grinding stone (quern) and three dimpled crushing stones.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-44.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titre Fig. 28b
Légende Halves of two upper rotary grinding stones, one with hole for handle.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-45.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Titre Fig. 29a
Légende Grinding ore on bucking plate.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-46.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Titre Fig. 29b
Légende Washing powdered ore with Cornish vanning shovel.
Crédits © C. Meyer
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-47.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Titre Graphic 1
Légende Method of obtaining gold.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/5246/img-48.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 137k

Auteur

Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

© Collège de France, 2018

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