Established in the late 7th century BC, the port of Naukratis (Greek for ‘mistress of ships’) was the earliest base for Greek traders and for a period the only Mediterranean port of Egypt. It remained an important international trading hub for over 1200 years. Even though the significance of Naukratis derived entirely from its role as a harbour town, the maritime aspects of the site had never been subjected to systematic research until the recent British Museum fieldwork.
Five fieldwork seasons to date (2012-2016), three of them generously supported by the Honor Frost Foundation, have yielded important first results. They succeeded in identifying the location of the Canopic branch of the Nile with successive Late Period to Byzantine limestone quays, waterfront terraces and harbour facilities, traced the river’s westward progradation, and demonstrated its navigability for seagoing Greek, Cypriot and Phoenician ships (Thomas & Villing 2013; 2014; Pennington & Thomas 2016). Excavations in 2015 and 2016 had revealed superbly preserved waterlogged river deposits of the 6th, 5th and early 4th centuries BC containing ballast stones, wooden artefacts (including fragments of Mediterranean ship planks), figurines and imported pottery with well-preserved organic residues, such as pine pitch. Excavations in 2016 revealed a sequence of the 6th century BC bank, reinforced with nearly complete Greek amphorae in the 5th century BC and then backfilled to create a working surface. Access to the 5th century bank installation from the river was then blocked by river deposits as the river silted up and moved westwards over the 4th century BC.
This grant will enable the excavation of additional areas of the Late Period to Ptolemaic river front, which is accessible just 30cm below ground level along a 330m stretch of the mercantile port area. Work in 2016 has demonstrated that harbour installations and ship elements and tackle are present in that area. Immediate continuation of our successful fieldwork programme is essential given the on-going threat to the site by encroaching development and farming, which has only been slowed by our annual presence and close collaboration with the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA). We greatly appreciate the Foundation’s continued support with our investigations of this unique Eastern Mediterranean emporion.
The British Museum Naukratis Project’s fifth fieldwork season at Kom Ge’if, Egypt (Beheira MSA site no.100253) April–May 2016 Ross Thomas, Alexandra Villing, Astrid Lindenlauf, Ben Pennington, Edwin DeVries, Jeffrey Spencer, Wendy Reade, Louise Bertini, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Ashley Pooley, Camille Acosta, Eleanor Maw, Nicole Colosimo, Ahmad Rezk El Sayed Al Arabi, Waleed Abo Zeid Soliman Nosir, […]
The British Museum Naukratis Project’s fourth fieldwork season at Kom Ge’if, Egypt (Beheira MSA site no.100253) April – May 2015 Ross Thomas and Alexandra Villing, with Ben Pennington, Astrid Lindenlauf, Edwin de Vries, Aurélia Masson, Emad Hamdy Abo Ismael, Hany Farouk Shalash, Abd Alhalim Abd Elhameed Mohammed, Essam Saed Aly and Amal Hamdy Sadek Read […]
Geophysical and geological work conducted in 2013-2014 with funding from the Honor Frost Foundation (read Naukratis fieldwork report for 2014) confirmed, for the first time, the location, width and depth of the Canopic branch of the Nile river at ancient Naukratis. Suitable for seagoing vessels, this major river branch underpinned Naukratis’ role as one of Egypt’s […]