Latest news from the sites

December 2002

First of all, news from the sites recently finished, >general index<
The salvage excavation of the Caesareum (former Garage Lux) was closed as previously planned on 31 August. We were able to reach bedrock and then return the site to the developers, who will eventually transform the site into a vast shopping mall. We are now waiting for a group of shop owners who occupy the last quarter of this large area to be relocated. This section, the old "French Market", which we have regarded with some envy for the past ten years, has only a few months left...
CThis dig has furnished us with a variety of information about the topography of Alexandria. We uncovered medieval cisterns, a Christian cemetery connected to the church of the Caesareum, remains of the Imperial temple itself including a superb statue of an emperor (Marcus Aurelius or Septimius Severus) wearing a breastplate, a chamber with a coffered ceiling covered with stucco and decorated with still coloured nelumbos, as well as sections of columns of impressive diameter.
and then those which continue...

The other three sites under excavation are progressing well :

The excavation, to the west of the town in the Kom el Nadoura district, of a cistern from the Ottoman era is allowing us for the first time to clear out the superstructure of one of these immense reservoirs, part of which runs under the neighbouring street. We will hopefully gain a better understanding of how the water was drawn up, notably by means of a saqieh (water wheel).

The Fouad Street site, on land owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, has already revealed occupation from the Ottoman period including requarrying of the lower strata. Now we are reaching in part layers from the 2nd century BC with archaeological material of high quality.

The restoration work being carried out on Qaitbay Fort has allowed for some exploratory trenches within this Mamlouk castle. Some structures from the Hellenistic era are appearing as well as towers and walls from the time of Sultan Qaitbay that had been covered by remodellings from the Mohamed Ali period.

And finally, closing the Lux site freed us up to open, on 25 September, a new dig.

At the invitation of Professor Fakharany of Alexandria University, we have begin an excavation in the modern Latin Cemeteries next to the Alabaster Tomb. Within this cemetery (Terra Santa no. 2) which has been turned into a plant nursery and belongs to the Governorate and the Faculty of Agriculture, we are following the indications provided by a team of German geophysicist. Their plan shows certain anomolies in the subsoil that point to the existence of cavities in the bedrock some 6 to 10 metres down. We have opened three trenches in order to locate the possible access to these underground chambers. cliquer pour agrandir
sondages dans le cimetière latin
décembre 2002
Cliché : © CEA - tous droits réservés

As for the underwater excavations, they continued in both spring and autumn of 2002 :

On the monumental site lying under some 6 to 8 metres of sea off Qaitbay Fort we continue the cartography using an Aquameter, an underwater acoustic measuring tool that we obtained last year.
The discovery of fragments of colossal statues is helping us to complete the grand group of three royal couples. Piece by piece the puzzle fits together. Likewise we are beginning to understand the arrangement of the architectural blocks. During the past year a monumental door of Aswan granite, standing 11.65 metres beneath the lintel, has been graphically reconstituted from the elements found on the seabed: two jambs, a curved lintel in the Egyptian style as well as the slabs with a hinge system for a double door. We are dealing with the doorway to an extremely large monument, most probably the Pharos itself. The proximity of the doorway to the colossal statuary poses and interesting problem for the reconstitution of the ancient layout of the site.

Meanwhile, the documentation of the shipwrecks progresses with the drawing of the amphoras of QB2, and the location of a new shipwreck, thanks to a team of Greek geophysicists from Patras, appears promising. It is settled in the mud and holds a cargo of Late Roman 1 amphoras. For the moment, only the top layer of fused amphoras is visible. We will have to define a strategy for this new site, and, of course, adequate financing.

Our publications have continued to appear at a regular rate :
There have been two new additions to the series Etudes alexandrines (volumes 7 and 8), published by the IFAO. These are entitled Necropolis 2 and Alexandrie médiévale 2. The next volumes will concern the underwater excavations and the numismatics conference which was held in the CEA last spring.
We are also working on exhibition projets
One will cover Alexandria's cisterns and the hydraulic system of the city during its long history. This should be mounted in Marseille's Musée d'Histoire in autumn 2004. In the same year, the Cathédrale d'Images at Baux-de-Provence will house a visual spectacle presenting our on-site work. Images of the modern town and of our land digs (most notably in the necropolis and the cisterns) as well as our underwater explorations will be projected onto walls more than 20 metres high.

And lastly,
we are in the middle of advanced negotiations with a sponsor regarding the restoration of the El Nabih cistern. We hope to be able to convince the sponsor in the coming weeks!

The support of the Ministries of Research, National Education and Foreign Affairs is as strong as ever. However, 2002 was a patricularly difficult year for finding sponsors, probably because of the various elections that took place in France. It was only in autumn that we were able to restart discussions with large industrial groups in the hope of some solid support for the coming year. Such a situation only serves to underline our appreciation of 200-odd faithful members of the Friends of the CEA. Their moral and financial support is a constant encouragement in our ongoing efforts to save what is left of the Capital of the Ptolemies, and for that we thank them warmly.

Jean-Yves Empereur
Director of CEA
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