Latest news from the sites

July 2006

Six months have passed since our last letter giving the latest from the sites and there have certainly been some developments. All will be revealed through our site thanks to Danielle Guiraudios who up-dates continuously with the information supplied by the members of the CEAlex team.

Within the context of the improved presentation of Alexandria’s exceptional cultural heritage, you can now take a virtual visit of the Qaitbay Open Air Museum that has been established by Isabelle Hairy in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Antiquities. You will see our new ventures with the project to erect the doorway of the Pharos and the monuments that surrounded it. You will witness the progress being made in the restoration of mosaics, thanks to the support of the BNP-Paribas Foundation. You will discover the developments in the programme of conservation and presentation of the magnificent El-Nabih cistern complete with visitor’s centre, all under the careful eyes of architects Laurent Borel and Chrystelle March as well as stonemason Yvan Vigouroux.

As regards the excavations, Isabelle Hairy brings us up to date with the underwater explorations of the Pharos site while Valerie Pichot presents the latest discoveries from Marea to the south of Lake Mariout.

Ottoman Alexandria has been under study for some four years now by a team directed by Michel Tuchscherer and Ghislaine Alleaume. Here, we will find a first and remarkable report of their research that will gradually bring to life this little known period in the history of the city. A selection by the topographer Cecile Shaalan from among the 2000-odd maps of Alexandria held in the CEAlex is also presented here, as part of her global study of the history of cartographic representations of Alexandria across the centuries.

The Educational Outreach service of CEAlex has been reinforced by the arrival of Marwa Abdel Gawad. Thanks to the support French Regional Council for Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), Mylène Blanc and Guilhem Crousillat, Regional Cooperation Volunteers, have conceived, along with Catherine Sabry, activities that will introduce and sensitise young Alexandrians to their heritage. On can see the results of their endeavours notably with ‘La vraie fausse fouille du lycée Champollion’ – The Real False Excavation of Champollion School – a delightful tale about the cisterns that captivated the young participants. A 13-minute film follows the various activities of this new department within the CEAlex (available in French and Arabic).

This film is part of our small collection of short documentaries, of which there are now seven. They concentrate on the varied fields of archaeology from the work of a stonemason to the modeller of Alexandria’s cisterns to the fate of ancient coins unearthed during our digs. You can find the titles and a brief description of each in the section dedicated to the products of the ACEA (1).

Our involvement in scientific conferences continues and next September we will welcome “Les lieux de mémoire” organised by the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme of Aix-en-Provence as part of the European Ramses II programme. Then, in December, it will be the turn of “Balnéorient” organised by the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée of Lyon. The year 2007 will see the fourth gathering dedicated to Medieval Alexandria in May, and a conference in collaboration with the University of Izmir on the documentation of amphoras from the Eastern Mediterranean will be held in June.

Scientific publications also continue to appear, with two new volumes in the Études Alexandrines series having seen the light of day since our last up-date. One concerns Ptolemaic numismatics, while the other covers Hellenistic and Roman pilgrimage flasks. Other publications are at the proofing stage and should appear soon. There is one about the Tanagra statuettes of the Graeco-Roman Museum, and another studying the sculpted bone and ivory work found in the CEAlex excavations. A further four publications have been delivered to the IFAO press and should be available in the months to come.

Thanks to Danielle Guiraudios, we have had the pleasure of publishing a DVD-Rom of the Description de l’Égypte. There are 10,000 pages of all searchable and 1,000 high definition plates that allow one to zoom in to reveal details scarcely noticeable with the naked eye. This DVD-Rom is now on sale and we have established a somewhat modest price such that everyone can fully benefit from it (order it on line through the ACEA). The gracious support of the French Regional Council Midi-Pyrénées has allowed us to plan for the release in September next of a second volume in this collection of 19th century scientific expeditions. This time it will be the Monuments d’Égypte et de Nubie by Champollion plus the Monuments égyptiens of Prisse d’Avennes. A third DVD-Rom, Le Voyage dans la Basse et Haute Égypte by Vivant Denon will follow some time in autumn.

I would like to thank most warmly the institutions that have supported us: firstly, the CNRS and the IFAO, but also the Senate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Education and Research, the Regional Councils of PACA and Midi-Pyrénées, the large French companies present in Alexandria, such as the BNP-Paribas Foundation that has helped in the restoration of mosaics. Finally, thanks to the care and attention of Fanny Alliaud, our Association of the Friends of the Centre d’Études Alexandrines is growing and we can see an increasing number of members who are supporting us in our efforts alongside our Egyptian colleagues to save and better present the exceptional heritage of Alexandria. To all of you, a very big thank you!

Jean-Yves Empereur
(1) Under construction
Director, CEAlex
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