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Jean-Yves Empereur
Director of CEAlex
  December 2009

The year 2009 was particularly fruitful for the Centre d’Etudes Alexandrines with the successful outcome of certain studies that had been running for several seasons. Moreover, our team has been reinforced by the arrival of Delphine Dixneuf, a ceramologist, who joined us this past autumn to fill a post accorded us by the CNRS.

Exhibition concerning water at the Laténium Museum of Neuchâtel

The inter-disciplinary theme of water at Alexandria has forged links between the different members of the CEAlex team over the past 5 years and this research has resulted in the inauguration of an exhibition entitled “Du Nil à Alexandrie” in the Laténium Museum of Neuchâtel on 22 October 2009. Isabelle Hairy, architect-archaeologist with the CEAlex, led the academic committee and oversaw the publication of the catalogue that brought together 717 pages of contributions from some 20 team members and other colleagues.
This volume presents our research on the collecting, storing and distribution of water at Alexandria throughout the 2300 years of its history.
The chapters are built around the canal, the cisterns, the machinery for drawing water, and they present previously unpublished results of urban salvage excavations undertaken by the CEAlex.
For more information, see and "exp'eau"
View of the exhibition at the Latenium
Photo Burçak Madran @ CEAlex

The excavations
Although the preparation of this exhibition prevented us from runnung any underwater excavations this year, the land digs continued on two sites.
at Marea, on the southern shore of Lake Mariout, thanks to the support of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and we will soon be able to read the spring campaign report prepared by Valerie Pichot, archaeologist-archaeometallurgist with the CEAlex. A second campaign was begun mid-November.
El-Nabih cistern was also the object of two excavation campaigns in 2009. The aim was to complete our understanding of the construction of the reservoir itself and its chronology. Archaeological material in context has allowed for a definitive chronological placing to the medieval period and the study of the ceramics will lead to a more precise dating. An architectural survey with 3D scanner is also being completed and thus we are reaching the end of this stage. If we manage to find the necessary finance, we will then move on to the phase of restoration and development of this spectacular monument so that it might be opened to the public. I should recall that the exhibition that is presently at Neuchâtel is ultimately designed to be installed in a visitors’ centre planned for the archaeological complex of this cistern.

The restoration laboratories
Thanks to the support of the CNRS, the restoration laboratories of the CEAlex have seen a considerable development. There is a team of nine under the supervision of Hana Tewfick, including four persons for mosaics, three for coins and metal and one for ceramics. The mosaics are receiving special care and thanks to the support of the BNP-Paribas Foundation we have been able to finish the restoration of the surrounds of the Dog mosaic (exhibited in the museum of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina), the pavement around the Medusa, and the pebble mosaic from the former British consulate. Now we shall begin work on the great Nilotic mosaic (approx 25 m2) that was exhibited in the Graeco-Roman Museum. The aim is to hold an exhibition in the coming years before these masterpieces of Alexandrian craftsmanship are presented in a specially designed museum in the centre of town.

Research themes
The CEAlex is participating in four projects of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and is leading one dedicated to the Francophone press of Egypt (PFE) that now has its own website with a team of journalists, historians, librarians etc. Within the CEAlex, Gael Pollin manages a group of eight persons preparing and uploading resources onto the sites of the PFE and CEAlex. One can also find there old and rare books as well as maps of the town.

We are also participating in the ANR Imasud project, supervised by Marilyne Crivelle, Professor at the University of Provence, entitled “Imaginary South, Imagination of the South: Legacy, memory, representation in the Mediterranean”. <link> .
Alexandria, as a town of memory, has an active role in this research: the archives of the Graeco-Roman Museum, the private papers of the great Alexandrian families, changes in the urban fabric that are connected to commemoration etc. A first book will shortly be sent to the printer. A conference was organised in Alexandria on 10 and 11 October concerning the memory of images and notably television archives within the framework of the project Medmed of the Union for the Mediterranean. <link>

Since 2006 we have also been associated with teams from Aix-en-Provence and Nanterre in the ANR project entitled “L’enfant et la mort dans l’Antiquité: des pratiques funéraires à l’identité sociale” (The child and death in antiquity: funerary practices and social identity) that has brought together anthropologists, archaeologists and historians. <link>.
After a first meeting in Athens, a conference was organised in the CEAlex between 12 and 14 November with some 30 participants. The programme can be seen here

A fourth research theme, under the heading “PALEOMED” supervised by Christophe Morhange, Professor at the University of Provence, concerns geo-archaeology and the movement of palaeo-environments of the Mediterranean’s ancient ports. The CEAlex involvement centres on the geomorphology of Alexandria and its environs with a doctoral student examining the subsidence of the town as well as the nature and levels of Lake Mariout, essential elements for the comprehension of our excavations and the evolution of Alexandria’s urban landscape and its hinterland across the millennia.

A fifth research venture has just been launched under the guidance of Patrick Reuter, IT specialist at INRIA and lecturer at Bordeax 2 University. The project SeARCH studies the handling of 3D images (recorded through a 3D scanner with which the CEAlex was equipped in 2008 by the CNRS) for application in archaeology, especially in the reconstitution of colossal statues discovered during the underwater excavations of the Pharos site. For more information regarding this exciting project, see: <link>

Lastly, we are active participants in the European Network of Excellence/Ramses. The executive council met in Alexandria on 6 and 7 October 2009 and set in place the programme for the coming months. The CEAlex will co-direct, along with the Centre Jacques Berwua in Rabat and the IFPO, the theme “Commerce and Virtue” throughout the ages, and for this will bring together in Alexandria historians and sociologists in the near future.

The library
The CEAlex library now has three reading rooms welcoming researchers and university teachers, who can prepare for their visit by consulting the on-line catalogue of some 10,000 titles via the CEAlex website. <link>

A third reading room.  
Photo JYE © CEAlex

Catalogue of the exhibition on water, edited by Isabelle Hairy, architect-archaeologist with the CEAlex, entitled “Du Nil à Alexandrie. Histoires d’eaux”. This and our other general public titles can be purchased at this address:

Several other publications have also appeared, notably in the series “Études alexandrines”:
Alexandrie médiévale 3 (edited by J.-Y. Empereur & Chr. Décobert)
Alexandrie : une communauté linguistique ? ou la question du grec alexandrin, by Jean-Luc Fournet
We are now awaiting the imminent arrival of Alexandrina 3 and three other volumes that are at the printer.
These works can be ordered on line through the IFAO site .

Les films
Short documentary films are a significant part of our outreach towards the general public. There are new 13’ films on the water of the town, glass working and papyrus boats. The complete catalogue can be seen online.

Web sites
Web sites provide us with another means of communication and explanation of our research and results. Thanks to the talent of Danielle Guiraudios, our webmaster, we now have several sites, one for the CEAlex, another for the Francophone press of Egypt, as mentioned above, and a third dedicated to the study of amphoras. These sites are regularly expanded and up-dated, and, going by the number of hits they receive, they seem to be fulfilling their role of spreading knowledge of Alexandria across all aspects of its history.

The Educational Outreach Service
The Educational Outreach Service of the CEAlex continues to present its various projects that have been refined over the five years of its existence. The Teaching Trunks looking at water and the cisterns continue their visits to Alexandrian schools, as does the web cartoon about maritime commerce in the ancient Mediterranean, and the mosaic workshops developed in 2008. Our two youth workers Marwa Abdelgawad and Vincent Duménil (the latter a member of the PACA region volunteer programme) have cooperated with the education section of the Laténium Museum at Neuchâtel in connection with the current exhibition on Alexandria’s hydraulic system.
The latest project to be developed will look at refuse and recycling, issues that are crucial to Alexandria, whether for the 500,000 inhabitants of the ancient city or for the five or more millions of today.

(1) The catalogue can be ordered on line at:
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