Latest news from the sites

January 2007

One year over and another begins here in Alexandria and projects continue, old ones are finished and new promises beckon. You will discover the latest updates from the sites in this new edition of the CEAlex website constructed by Danielle Guiraudios from information provided by the members of the CEAlex team.

First of all, the digs… Valérie Pichot has undertaken another campaign on the metallurgical workshops of Marea, some 50 km to the south-west of Alexandria on the southern shore of Lake Mariout. It is the first time that such installations from the Hellenistic era have been unearthed in this area. A new campaign is planned for the months of May and June 2007, and the results will be presented in a monograph in the Études alexandrines series. In Alexandria itself, on the Fouad Street site of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Francis Choël and Marie Jacquemin are progressing in their study of the complex stratigraphy and the classification of the rich archaeological material. Specialists are being brought in to study the ceramics, the coins, bone and ivories. At the Anfushi necropolis a programme of architectural drawings of Tomb 2 has been undertaken by Kathrin Machinek and Yasmin Badr. Sections and plans in a 1:20 scale have been drawn and the experience—salvage in an environment threatened by the water table—will be applied to Tomb 5 in the course of the coming year.

Underwater excavations are being concentrated this autumn on the submerged site at the foot of Qaitbay Fort and Isabelle Hairy is advancing in the documentation of elements of the Pharos, the colossal doorway of which was lifted last year. As for El-Nabih cistern, a first excavation campaign was undertaken this past summer under the direction of Samuel Desoutter. He cleared a good part of the external structure allowing for a better understanding of the monument before its eventual restoration by stonemason Yvan Vigouroux and the application of the project to open it to the public by the architects Laurent Borel and Chrystelle March.

The Topography Department of the CEAlex has been busy, as one can understand from the mention above of all the different interventions on site. This department, under the direction of Cécile Shaalan, also works with other foreign missions active in Alexandria as well as maintaining the sole permanent GPS station that is freely available to all in Egypt (link). At the same time, Cecile is working on the historical cartography of Alexandria and her assistant, Ismail el-Banna, is studying the variations in level of Lake Mariout over the long term.

The mosaic restoration programme is advancing well and, as an intermediary stage, a bronze plaque recognising the generous sponsorship of the bank BNP-Paribas was unveiled on 7 December last year during an official ceremony at the National Museum (mosaic of Medusa) and at the Archaeological Museum of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (mosaic of the dog, whose exterior garland will be restored in 2007).

The prospects for the coming year are particularly good: aside from the continuation of ongoing projects, we will begin two new ventures. Firstly, the prospection along the southern shore of Lake Mariout in order to localise ancient workshop sites, and secondly, the excavation of an amphora factory. This latter will be led by our Turkish specialists Kaan Senol and Gonca Senol with the archaeologist Marie-Christine Petitpa. I hope soon to bring you the results of these new projects.

We have been exploring medieval Alexandria for some ten years now and have organised several scientific gatherings dedicated to this subject that have themselves resulted in publications. The papers from the third such meeting are under press and a fourth conference is planned for 2007. Ottoman Alexandria has been studied for the past five years by a team led by Michel Tuchscherer. The rich results of this research can be seen in this web site as we await the manuscripts that are soon to be sent to the printer. A new programme is to be launched at the beginning of the year concentrating on Alexandria of the 19th century, the town recreated by Mohamed Ali, the cosmopolitan city. This project will be coordinated by Ghislaine Alleaume and will notably involve research within the National Archives in Cairo.

The Supreme Council for Antiquities has asked us to collaborate in the management of the archives of the Graeco-Roman Museum of Alexandria that were rediscovered during the recent restoration work on the building. Thanks to the support of AREA (Archives of European Archaeology) presided over by Alain Schnapp (see, a rapid intervention was possible and Eric Gady spent the summer of 2006 going through this ensemble that holds the very memory of this Egyptian institution for more than a century. As a specialist on the Egyptian archaeological service (his doctoral thesis was on this subject), he began an initial classification demonstrating the great value of this documentation. The way is now clear and a methodology established and, still thanks to AREA, other missions to come will be able to benefit academically from this mass of unpublished data.

Conferences : The conference Balnéorient took place between the 1 and 5 December 2006. Organised by Marie-Françoise Boussac and the Maison de l’Orient, it was a huge success. To know more about the “International Group for Research into Baths and Bathing in the Eastern Mediterranean (Origins & Evolution)” one can visit the web site
In 2007 three meetings are planned within the framework of the Ramses II programme: a conference on Ottoman Alexandria at Aix-en-Provence next March, another on Alexandria and Mediterranean commerce in the Medieval Era in May, and the third in collaboration with the University of Izmir, in June, will concentrate on amphoras of Alexandria and the exchanges of the Ancient Era. In addition a summer school looking at the trade in cereals will be organised at the end of May once again within the framework of Ramses II. Any interested doctoral and post-doctoral students can consult the web site

Scientific publications are also progressing. In the series Études alexandrines we are expecting the appearance next month of a volume on the Tanagra statuettes of the Graeco-Roman Museum, in spring another on the bone and ivory carvings discovered during the excavations of the CEAlex. Six other volumes in the collection are being prepared at the IFAO press: Pharos 1, Alexandrina 3, The Sarapeion of Alexandria by M. Sabottka, Alexandrie médiévale 3, Les images d’Alexandrie (1st-8th centuries AD) by Eleni Fragaki, Alexandria ad Europam. Others are expected to follow, notably the sequel to the original publication of the Necropolis excavations.

The Educational Outreach Service of CEAlex has celebrated its third year of existence. Established by Mylène Blanc and Guilhem Crousillat, Regional Cooperation Volunteers (RCV), this new shoot of the CEAlex has already proved itself having received more than 4000 pupils from Alexandrian schools during the year 2005 and introducing them to the particular value of the their town’s heritage. In 2006 the activities maintained a vibrant rhythm and, after the return of Mylène and Guilhem to France, the team, now composed of Catherine Sabry and Marwa Abdel Gawad, has just been reinforced by a new RCV, Anaïs Perrin. Here and there we can discover, especially through the web site of the CEAlex, the new ideas of this enthusiastic team that involve not just visits to the monuments and museums of Alexandria but also projects on the theme of water, on the cisterns and the journey of a young Alexandrian who, in ancient times, boards a ship to hop from port to port across the Mediterranean on his way to Arles.

The creation of documentary films fills an important place in our desire to share the knowledge of the CEAlex team members. Thanks to the talents of Raymond Collet and André Pelle the collection of 13 minute DVDs already contains half a dozen titles. To our great satisfaction these DVDs have been well received as is shown by the special mention by the jury of the documentary film festival of Bidasoa in the Spanish Basque country and their selection for several international competitions. It was not the initial intention of our efforts but such laurels are encouraging. These short movies are designed to be educational though that does not, of course, mean that cannot appreciate their aesthetic values as well. We have decided to put one of them on-line and downloadable (1). Directed by Mylène Blanc and Guilhem Crousillat, it is about the Educational Outreach Service. Let us know what you think. If you enjoy this one, we will make others available. Download the film (format Divx).

The DVD-Rom of the Description de l’Égypte seems to have been popular with a good number of our friends. This initial success has encouraged us, under the strict control of Danielle Guiraudios as ever, to continue the series of Great Scientific Expeditions of the 19th century. With the generous support of the Regional Council Midi-Pyrénées, a new DVD-Rom dedicated to the discovery of Egypt by Champollion has recently appeared. We have gathered together four works: Les Monuments de l’Égypte et de la Nubie (1835-1845 edition), Les Notices descriptives (1844-1879 edition), the Lettres d’Égypte et de Nubie (1833 edition) as well as É. Prisse d’Avennes’ Monuments égyptiens (1844 edition). Apart from the Notices descriptives, which is a manuscript, the works are full text searchable and the plates are of a very high resolution. The principle remains the same, with a very modest price tag that in no way reflects the amount of work involved, we hope to make these works, which are so often inaccessible, available to as wide a public as possible. (Order on-line through the ACEA.) We hope that the next volume in the collection, the Voyage dans la Basse et Haute Egypte by Vivant Denon will be out in spring

I would like to thank the institutions that have supported us: firstly, the CNRS and IFAO, but also the Senate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Education and Research, the Regional Councils of PACA and Midi-Pyrénées, the various French businesses here in Alexandria, notably the bank BNP-Paribas for 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
Director, CEAlex
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