Latest news from the sites

February 2008

The Centre d’Études Alexandrines (CEAlex) is pleased to present a new development in its web site. This site is of particular importance to us and the fact that it receives 100,000 visitors annually encourages us to pay close attention to it. All the more so since I have heard from certain university professors that they note the address within bibliographies handed out to students at the beginning of the academic year. This recognition is gratifying, but also makes us feel a certain intellectual responsibility and we shall try to live up to this by regularly up-dating the content and exploring new fields of study. Thanks to the skill of Danielle Guiraudios, a reshaping of the site should allow for easier access to the increasing number of rubrics, and Colin Clement will oversee and expand the English language version of the site. We also welcome to the team Valerie Atef, who will soon setting up an Arabic language version.

The CEAlex used to be categorised as a “Unité Mixte de Service” of the CNRS (UMS 1812). However, on 1 June 2007 the CEAlex saw its status up-graded to that of “Unité de Service et de Recherche” (USR 3134). This change will increase our means and allow us to receive researchers, research-lecturers and post-doctoral students. With the continuing support of the CNRS and the effective assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as close collaboration with the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO) and our colleagues in the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA), the CEAlex is a strong team that aims to work towards the permanent safeguarding, development and study of Alexandria’s heritage. In addition, various sponsors, whether companies or individuals, encourage us in this effort and allow us to engage in specific ventures, as you can see in the pages dedicated to the Association of Friends of the CEAlex or in the report on the restoration of Alexandrian mosaics that is supported by the BNP-Paribas Foundation. I cannot forget the regional authorities of Provence, Alpes, Côte d’Azur (PACA), and Midi-Pyrénées, as well as the Senate, all of which help us in specific fields that are illustrated in the new pages of this site.

To house the growing team we have had to increase the size of our research centre. The perfect occasion presented itself when the 6th floor of 50 Soliman Yousri Street came up for rent and we are presently moving in. Now, when you come to visit us there will be an extra floor to our headquarters. Alongside half the 4th we now occupy the 6th to 9th floors.

L'immeuble Bakhoum - Dessin de Marine Estrangin - @ CEAlex

I) On land

In 2008 seven research fields will be undertaken on land:

1) Alexandria’s water supply is a subject that we have been studying for some 15 years. At the beginning of 2008 a monograph on the cisterns will be sent to the printers. This work by Isabelle Hairy, an architect-archaeologist and a CNRS “Ingénieur d’Études” with the CEAlex, will be part of the Études alexandrines series published by the IFAO

Related to this, the excavations of el-Nabih cistern will begin again in spring of 2008 and this third campaign will last some three months under the direction of Samuel Desoutter, an archaeologist with INRAP. Clearing around the structure will allow for the preparation of its restoration and redevelopment in order for the cistern to be reopened to the public. This project is being managed by two architect-archaeologists Chrystelle March and Laurent Borel, who is also a CNRS “Ingénieur de Recherche”. Yvan Vigouroux, a master stonemason, will oversee the restoration of the monument.

2) Monumental Alexandria is a study that will run concurrently with the underwater excavation on the site of the Pharos at the foot of Qaitbay Fort. This operation, managed by Isabelle Hairy, has two main objectives: 1) to ensure the topographic charting of the some 5000 sunken blocks so that they might be integrated into a GIS (already more than 3200 blocks have been registered); 2) to continue the architectural drawing of the vestiges there so that certain monuments, whose constituent elements lie on the seabed, might be graphically reconstructed. This second objective has led to the identification of elements belonging to the doorway of the Pharos. A study led by Yvan Vigouroux will look into the feasibility of removing these blocks from the water, their desalinisation and eventual reassembly of these large architectural elements, certain of which weigh more than 100 tonnes.

3) The saving of Anfoushi necropolis falls within the scope of our close collaboration with the SCA. They have asked us to survey and draw the Hellenistic tombs of Anfoushi necropolis on what was the ancient isle of Pharos. These painted tombs, world renowned for their unique decoration, are threatened by the rising water table that has gradually flooded the ensemble. Kathrin Machinek, an architect-archaeologist, has executed architectural drawings on a 1/10 scale and complementary excavations have begun. The painted scenes have been re-examined by Anne-Marie Guimier-Sorbets, a professor at the University of Paris-X Nanterre with the assistance of the photographer André Pelle, a CNRS “Ingénieur de Recherche”. This work will continue in 2008 as a prelude to restoration work that will follow the report drawn up by Michel Wuttmann, in charge of restoration with the IFAO. The new information from this campaign should lead to a publication.

4) The study of Alexandrian metallurgyinvolves an excavation at Marea of a site that once produced copper, iron and bronze objects. This dig, located on the southern shore of Lake Mariout some 50km from Alexandria, is run by Valerie Pichot, an archaeologist-metallurgist and a CNRS “Ingénieur d’Études” with the CEAlex. The first results have been extremely encouraging and have led to a new chronology for this site. While it was traditionally dated to the Late Roman period, the excavations have opened up stratigraphy that goes back to the 3rd century BC and thus altered our knowledge of metallurgic production in Alexandria and its environs.

5) Amphoras : these great jars designed for the transportation of wine, oil, olives, dried fish etc. are very numerous in Alexandria. With the 160,000 stamped amphora handles held in the Graeco-Roman Museum, and the thousands of handles found during the excavations of the CEAlex, one could say that Alexandria is the capital of the amphora. As part of an initiative launched at the foundation of the CEAlex, these Alexandrian amphoras have been the object of an ongoing study, conferences and publications. Each year a team from the University of Izmir under the leadership of Gonca Senol and Kaan Senol come to the CEAlex to classify and register the mass of amphoras and stamped handles. One can view the progress of their work on the new site

6) The closure of the Graeco-Roman Museum (GRM) for some long term works has meant the removal of all the collections. The SCA has asked us to store for several years a number of different categories of objects in the CEAlex excavation storehouse at Shallalat. These include the cabinets of coins and so our numismatists have been able to continue the studying and registering this large collection. The SCA has also requested our assistance in the restoration of the 98 mosaics of the GRM and a team of some five restorers from the CEAlex has been hard at work for some four months already on a project that will keep us busy throughout 2008. Two other categories of objects will be stored on our premises: stamped amphora handles, which will be available for the continued work of our team from Izmir, and the archives of the GRM. These latter will continue to be examined under the leadership of Eric Gady, and part of this process will involve the digitising of the 8000 glass photographic negatives of the Museum, thanks to the financial support of the European Archaeological Archives Association (AREA). We are honoured that the SCA should search out our collaboration in this way as it illustrates the recognition of our team’s competence. In order to ensure the studies and restoration projects requested, we have had to undertake some development work on the Shallalat building to gain access to certain closed rooms and install the necessary furnishings. Specific funds had to be found for this operation. Already, Yvon Vigouroux has put two rooms back in a functional state, providing us with an extra 150m2. Our team in the Shallalat storehouse includes around twenty individuals, led by the archaeologist Patricia Rifa, all of whom are specialised in the registering and restoration of archaeological material from the digs.

7) Post-excavations studies. We should also mention those former CEAlex excavations that are now finished and the land returned to the owner. As is well known, the study period after is much longer than the actual dig itself, and of the 20-odd interventions that we have led since 1992 several are presently in the phase of study that will soon lead to publications in the series Études alexandrines. Such is the case of the excavation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate by Fouad Street that was directed by Francis Choël. Likewise the Necropolis, and to the two volumes already published we shall soon see the forensic anthropology study, thanks to financing from ANR. A volume on the ceramic finds from the Majestic site is also soon to appear, and the work of those visiting specialist who study paintings, mosaics, amphoras etc. will all lead to an ever-expanding list of publications. Look out for works on bone and ivory carvings, coins and oil lamps.

II)Archival studies

8) The Medieval Alexandria programme, as managed by Christian Décobert, Research Director with the CNRS, was started in 1996. It moves on smoothly with the imminent appearance of the third volume in the series Alexandrie médiévale of the Études alexandrines that covers the theme of communities in Alexandria from late antiquity until the middle ages. The fourth conference, planned for 25 to 28 April 2008 will look at Alexandria and commerce in the medieval Mediterranean.

9 )Ottoman Alexandria has been a field of study for the past five years under the management of Michel Tuchcherer, professor at the University of Provence. Three conferences held in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, at the IFAO and at the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme d’Aix-en-Provence (MMSH) have brought together scholars from around the Mediterranean to look at sources on the Ottoman history of Alexandria. This research has produced some unexpected results. While it had long been written that Alexandria’s history slowed to a halt with Turkish conquest in 1517, the researchers are now swamped by the mass of documents, much of it as a result of enquiries into the archival sources in Cairo. The next get-together will be held in Alexandria on 17 and 18 April and the theme will be water in Ottoman Alexandria. The papers from these conference will be published in a new series entitled Alexandrie ottomane as part of the Études alexandrines. One volume is already at the publishers and it contains two studies of great interest: one with the editio princeps of the original renewal of privileges accorded to the French and Catalans at Alexandria by the Sultan Suliman the Magnificent (1528) and the other on previously unpublished reports of Venetian consuls to the Most Serene Republic.

10) In 2007 a new programme of study, Khedevial Alexandria, was launched under the direction of Ghislaine Alleaume, director of the Institut de Recherche sur la Méditerranée Arabe Médiévale et Moderne (IREMAM) of the MMSH. Searches through the Arabic language archives of Cairo dating to the reign of Mohamed Ali are underway and several MA theses studying Alexandria’s communities in the 19th century have begun.

These historical and archival programmes are financed from CEAlex funds. Certain, such as Ottoman Alexandria, are part of a convention between the CEAlex and IFAO, IREMAM and the Centre d’Études Économiques et Juridiques (CEDEJ) in Cairo.


III) The laboratories and resources of the CEAlex in 2008

11) The restoration laboratory of the CEAlex merits a special mention. We have already noted the project of restoring the mosaics of the Graeco-Roman Museum in collaboration with the SCA, but the six full-time members of the team led by Hanna Tawfick are also treating the mosaics found during the CEAlex excavations (thanks to financial support from the BNP-Paribas Foundation) with a view to the opening of a museum dedicated solely to mosaics. The CEAlex is also equipped with a laboratory that can deal with ceramics, metal and organic objects, painting and stucco, and material lifted from the sea. With the requisite equipment donated by the CNRS our restorers are capable of covering all the areas necessary to ensure the treatment and restoration of the archaeological material from our digs. The team is often in demand from other foreign archaeological missions working in and around Alexandria.

12) The library. The CEAlex possess a modest library of some 9000 volumes specialising in the archaeology and long history of Alexandria and its region. The library is open to the public and one can find on a daily basis professors and students from Alexandria University consulting recent publications that are often not available elsewhere. The catalogue is now on-line through the CEAlex website.

13) Photo library. The photographic collection of the CEAlex is composed of approximately 110,000 digital images and 94,000 traditional photos. This latter category, dating from before the year 2000, consists of irreplaceable shots of excavations and objects in Alexandria’s museums. Thanks to the assistance of the CNRS, we are now equipped with the correct tools to digitise the entirety of this collection. A good part of the CEAlex photo library will soon be available through the website in PowerPoint format thus providing free of charge an extremely useful pedagogic facility.

14) The Map Collection. Over the years the CEAlex has gathered a collection of more than 2000 maps and plans of Alexandria and the surrounding region. With continual additions, this is most probably the biggest such collection in the world. This unique ensemble is the subject of a doctoral study by Cécile Shaalan, topographer and CNRS “Ingénieur d’Études” with the CEAlex. A number of these maps and plans is already accessible through the website and, with recently acquired high definition equipment, a campaign of scanning has been launched so that a larger choice of maps will be available to the public.

15) Publications. A great effort has been made to publish the results of our excavations as well as the historical research on the more recent eras. Three volumes of the CEAlex series Études alexandrines appeared in 2007 and four will appear in 2008 with three others sent to the printers in the months to come. This young collection—less than 10 years old—is printed by the IFAO and will soon count some 20 volumes. These have been well received, if one can judge from the reviews published in various international periodicals. We should mention that the volume dedicated to numismatics L’exception égyptienne (the 11th in our collection) was sold out within less than a year. You can find details of the CEAlex bibliography in this website.

16) Digital publishing continues with a new DVD adapted by Danielle Guiraudios on Vivant Denon that appeared in 2007 as part of our series Grandes expéditions scientifiques du 19ème siècle. We are hoping to publish more in the coming months, including Frédéric Cailliaud’s expedition to Meroe and Siwa as well as Jean-Raymond Pacho’s exploration of Cyrenaica.

New editions of the francophone press of Egypt will be uploaded onto the internet as we progress with the scanning. Likewise for Alexandrian cartography, which is already partially on line, and for rare and precious reference works on Alexandrian history. The CEAlex digital programme has five full-time workers under the direction of Gaël Pollin, who is part of a Voluntary Service organisation from the PACA regional authority in France.


IV) Education

17) The Educational Outreach Service of the CEAlex is run by three people, one of whom is a Voluntary Service member from the PACA regional authority. Each year since its creation, four years ago, it has introduced some 4000 Alexandrian school children to the heritage of their town and it will soon see its means increased by an agreement signed with the French lycée of Alexandria (80% of whose pupils are Egyptian). A 13-minute film on the Service’s activities can be downloaded as well as one of their recent productions, a web cartoon which was greeted with much enthusiasm. At the moment we are busy introducing school kids to the art of the mosaic and we will be expanding on this in a future up-date.

The educational outreach service, Marwa Abdel Gawad, Catherine Sabry and Anaïs Perrin
Photo : Raymond Collet, © CEAlex

18) Receiving researchers and lecturers; In 2007 the CEAlex welcomed more than 300 individuals on mission, providing board, lodging and permission to work from the SCA. Some of these came to Alexandria for specific studies (numismatics, mosaics, ceramics etc.), others for conferences and some were part of excavation teams independent of the CEAlex (1 German team, 2 British, 2 French). In addition we collaborate with a Greek mission and an Italian mission on campaigns that can last longer than two months. This cooperation within our work has led to the idea of creating a common International Research Group (IRG).

19) PhDs and Post-doctorate: The CEAlex has been receiving PhD students for several years. These can be grant-holders from IFAO, students from the University of Lyon II working with us on theses covering Alexandrian subjects, as well as students from non-French universities. There is always a very special welcome for these students, with an introduction to the city and its history, and an easy access to the facilities of the CEAlex and to our contacts within the city. We will continue this effort throughout 2008 and endeavour to expand by welcoming post-doctoral researchers.

20) Training SCA inspectors and curators. The CEAlex has always considered it important to respond to the training request of SCA personnel. We have been financially supporting French language training, since this is the language of the SCA archives and the inventory of the MGR and of Antiquities Service excavations up until recently. This training, provided by the French Cultural Centre in Alexandria, is more and more in demand and we are struggling to keep up with the requests from inspectors and curators. We are also introducing museological studies by bringing over a curator from a French museum, who, each year, presents some 25 hours of classes. In 2007, the French Senate was of great assistance in this project and we are very grateful. Thanks to the regional authority PACA, we are planning to expand this operation in collaboration with the Heritage Department of the francophone University Senghor.

* *

With an eye on the future, the CEAlex is now integrated into several networks. Two requests from ANR have been accepted; one on funerary archaeology with CNRS teams from Aix and Nanterre and with INRAP. The other deals with places of memory and involves Aix–Thélème/CNRS and Casablanca. We have been considered eligible to join the network Tempus, in collaboration with the universities of Alexandria and Southampton as well as with the Centre Camille Jullian/CNRS of Aix-en-Provence, in the training of researchers in underwater archaeology. We are also partners in the RAMSES 2, European Network of Excellence on the Mediterranean and a member of its scientific and administrative council. We are piloting one of the three quadrennial programme themes of this network at the head of some ten university and research teams. We are active participants in the quadrennial programmes of the IFAO. Thanks to our new recruit, Nicolas Boichot, we have been able to respond to other project proposals, such as that of TGE Adonis—SHS of the CNRS, and two from ANR and other European programmes. In 2008 we will attempt to create European and international teams in archaeometallurgy and in studies of the city and its surrounds in cooperation with other missions working in Alexandria.

As you can understand, the CEAlex intends to play a motivating role in the mobilisation of teams dedicated to saving and presenting the exceptional heritage of Alexandria, side by side and in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Antiquities, and we have need of all the good will that can help us achieve this goal. The interest that you show and the support that you extend to us are of great encouragement in this mission.

Jean-Yves Empereur
Director of CEAlex
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