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Jean-Yves Empereur
Director of CEAlex
May 2013
1a - The materials analysis laboratory, 8th floor of the CEAlex

The Centre d’Études Alexandrines is involved in two projects receiving financial support from the French National Research Agency (ANR). Firstly, Ceramalex, is a Franco-German project to study ceramic material found in and around Alexandria. With our colleagues from the University of Cologne, we are working to establish a typo-chronology and have also adopted an archaeometric approach thanks to the joint acquisition of a Niton XRF analyser that can determine the chemical composition of clay. The second project, inaugurated last January, is entitled Geomar and is dedicated to the creation of an archaeological map of the region to the south of Lake Mariout. This project brings together the Ecolab laboratory (CNRS and University of Toulouse 3), the CEREGE and the CEAlex, in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of State for Archaeology. The registering of archaeological sites, the establishing of a Geographic Information System (GIS) and on-site prospecting are the main activities in the attempt to reconstruct the ancient landscape of this particular terrain, caught between water and desert, with a lake and Nilotic canals above ground and cisterns and drainage channels carved out of the rock below ground. In addition, organic analyses of pollens, macro-vegetal remains etc. will also contribute to our understanding of the nature of the region in question.


These two programmes have led the CEAlex to equip a materials analysis laboratory that has been set up between the archaeological storehouse of Shallalat and in the premises of the CEAlex.
On 7 March 2013, the new facility was inaugurated as the Michel Wuttmann Laboratory. This remarkable scholar gave some 30 years of service to the IFAO and was a close and loyal collaborator with the CEAlex. His passing on 10 February 2013 came as a great shock to the members of our team and his memory will be preserved in our new laboratory (Fig. 1b).
Under the supervision of Valerie Pichot, archaeologist and archaeo-metallurgist, this lab will now include a chemical engineer and a petrographer. The combination of Niton XRF chemical analyses and petrographic examination will allow us to tackle efficiently the identification of ceramic clays. These procedures will be extended to other materials unearthed during our excavations (metals, stones etc.)

1b - The Michell Wuttman Laboratory was inaugurated on 7 March 2013
labo, 8e
1c - The Michell Wuttman Laboratory was inaugurated on 7 March 2013

A third project rests within the CNRS PICS framework. A Franco-Italian project entitled Alexandria before Alexander, the aim is to examine the archaeological traces of any occupation before the arrival of the great Macedonian in Egypt. The excavations of the Italian mission led by Paulo Gallo on Nelson’s Island have unearthed vestiges of an occupation that pre-dates 331 BC. In Alexandria proper, potshards dating to before the Greek conquest can be counted on the fingers of one hand, but architectural and statuary elements going back to the Pharaonic era are legion. Some of this aegyptiaka has been published by Paolo Gallo in the series Études Alexandrines,while other pieces have been discovered during the underwater excavations of the Pharos site. Egyptologists inform us that the hieroglyphic inscriptions that most of these obelisks, architectural blocks, sphinxes and other sculptures bear indicate their origin in the Delta, sometimes from Sais, but the greater part from Heliopolis. Therefore, their presence in Alexandria does not change the history of the city, but suggests that Alexandria was adorned with an Egyptian décor that would anchor the new town in the country’s past. On the other hand, in the surroundings of the town to the east, as well as around Lake Mariout to the west, there existed a more ancient occupation of both Egyptians and Greeks. It is this that the new project will try to figure out and explain how the new city was populated by immigrants from the Aegean world and also peoples already settled in the vicinity. This proximity – attested for the inhabitants of Canopus who were obliged to move to the new capital – explains the rapid expansion of the town and the almost immediate installation of Egyptian cults such as of Isis and of Bubastis.

* A PICS is a scientific project jointly set up and presented by two research teams, one affiliated to the CNRS, the other non-French.

Digitising the francophone press of Egypt (PFE) continues. Around 35,000 pages are now available on the web site, and Marie-Delphine Martellière and her team of full-time operators up-load new newspapers and periodicals non-stop. Our collections are increasing in two different ways. Thanks to one of our collaborators, Mahmoud Fathy, we have just acquired a load of more than 4000 Egyptian newspapers in French, Italian, Greek and English. The waste paper traders of Alexandria know us, and whenever they come across newspapers they get in touch. Nowadays, it is not the collections that are lacking, but the space to store them! We are currently negotiating a new agreement with Alexandria Municipal Library to have access to its exceptional collection of old newspapers. The Association des Amis du Souvenir de Ferdinand de Lesseps et du Canal de Suez has awarded us a grant for the scanning of press from the canal zone cities, and we are presently up-loading examples of the Bosphore égyptien from our collections.
We are looking forward to a new gather of participants in the PFE project this autumn in Alexandria that should lead to the publication of a volume bringing together the work of these past few years, before we enlarge our project to encompass the Greek and Italian language press of Egypt as part of a European programme. And lastly, I should point out that the theme of a press in a language other than that of the host country is attracting growing interest. A new study group from the University of Saint-Quentin has set up Transfopress, and the website can be consulted here.
For more details on our own project see the PFE website.

The exhibition “Du Nil à Alexandrie” continues its travels, this time to Belgium where it was inaugurated on 19 April at the Museum of Mariemont. It will run until 29 September of this year. It was conceived by Isabelle Hairy, an architect-archaeologist from our team, with Burçak Madran, museologist, in collaboration with Marie-Cécile Bruwier, director of the Mariemont Museum and Arnaud Quertinmont, egyptologist (Fig. 2). One of the main interests of this restaging is to present ancient objects related to the theme of water that belong to Belgian collections, both public and private, and sometimes unpublished. These are presented in a beautiful catalogue (190 pages, 21 €, ISBN 978-2-930469-50-8) that complements the work published by our team under the supervision of Isabelle Hairy Du Nil à Alexandrie, 2nd edition, 2011, distributed by de Boccard. The ensemble gives a very different picture from the previous exhibitions at Neuchâtel and Le Mans, and the new show has been very well attended. See the website of the museum of Mariemont.

2 - Entrance to the exhibition Du Nil à Alexandrie, inaugurated on 19 April 2013 in the Museum of Mariemont, Belgium

At the same time, we are working on a new exhibition on the theme of daily life in Alexandria of Greek, Roman and Byzantine times. This will include the ancient dining rooms unearthed during our salvage digs in the city over that last 20 years, with the mosaics that covered the floors. Thanks to the sponsorship of the BNP-Paribas Foundation, these mosaics are presently undergoing treatment within our restoration lab under the supervision of Hana Tewfick. This new exhibition will be mounted in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva sometime in 2015.

Unlike the rest of Egypt where excavations take place in winter, our work is just about to start. The beginning of June will see a new campaign on the underwater site of the Pharos, and second 3-month season on the winegrowing villa of Akademia to the south of Lake Mariout. We will keep you up to date with news of this research in our next posting.

I will finish with a mention of our publications. Now printed in Belgium with Peeters of Leuven, our works are distributed by de Boccard. Two volumes on coinage have been published, as well as a volume on death and the child in antiquity. Six others are presently in press and will appear in the coming months. Some ten books should be available before the end of the year.

Etudes Alexandrines : 25, 26 et 27
3 - The 3 latest volumes published by the CEAlex (collection études Alexandrines, 25, 26 et 27)

I would like to thanks all those institutions that support our work: the CNRS and especially the French National Institute for Human Sciences to which we belong; the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the National Research Agency; and in general to all those who support us in our efforts to safeguard and promote the heritage of Alexandria, notably the members of the Friends of the CEAlex, and its two regional branches Sarthe-Alexandrie and Alexandrie-Île-de-France.

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