Latest news from the sites


Jean-Yves Empereur, Director of CEAlex, august 2014
Akademia site, general view of the site to the west, 2014. Photo V. Pichot, © CEAlex

The Centre d’Études Alexandrines is in fine fettle. At least, that is the word from AÉRES, the official French performance evaluation agency for higher education and research. The review committee, which visited us in June 2014, declared in its report that “the CEALex is a flagship of French research in Egypt” and that “ the activities and scientific output of the CEAlex are excellent”. ( We can congratulate ourselves but still take into account the recommendations for the coming years: transform the CEAlex into an Alexandrian-based European team, something that falls in line with what we have hoped for some time now. Over the years, the Centre has become a basecamp for German, French, Greek and Italian teams, providing support in all manner of areas: lodging, topography, photography, restoration, materials analysis, as well as studies of ceramics, amphorae, coinage and other archaeological material.

We have already established a Franco-German project through the French National Research Agency (ANR) with a team from the University of Cologne, which is excavating Alexandria’s Nile port at Schedia. The project, entitled CeramAlex, aims at an integrated study of all ceramic material discovered in Alexandria and at Schedia, leading to an ceramics atlas and exhaustive chemical analyses using a handheld Niton XRF. This four-year programme came to an end on 31 August and, given the great interest of the results, we have proposed another project, CeramEgypt, extended to take in ceramics discovered throughout all Egypt of the Graeco-Roman era. We must wait until September for the decision of the ANR and its German partner, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Another bilateral programme links us with an Italian team from Turin led by Paulo Gallo, which is excavating Nelson’s Island. This International Scientific Cooperation Project (PICS), funded by the CNRS, looks at “Alexandria before Alexander”, and takes account of all the archaeological traces found within the city that date to before 331 BC. This can include ceramic shards, coins and also Pharaonika: the obelisks, sphinxes and colossal statuary that are scattered around the town. Tracing their history can lead back to antiquity or to the activities of foreign Consuls in the 19th century. This two-year programme has produced exciting results that will soon be published as part of the Études alexandrines series.

The discovery of a Boubasteion in the centre of Alexandria by an Egyptian team has created more need for a reappraisal of the traditional theories regarding the arrival of immigrants from the Greek isles and Asia Minor to settle the new capital. (1) : This sanctuary to an Egyptian divinity was visited by Greeks, who, attempting to ensure the health of their children, left ex-votos in the form of terracotta and limestone statuettes of young boys and girls, as well as cats lactating or playing with a duck. All the inscriptions and all personal names are in Greek. The temple foundation plaques refer to Berenice II, wife of Ptolemy III, on the occasion of the birth of their first child, the future Ptolemy IV, in 244 BC. However, the ex-votos deposited in the favissae, sacred stores for objects belonging to the divinity that could not be removed from the sanctuary, date back at least to the first years of the 3rd century BC, if not the last decades of the 4th, that is the very beginnings of Alexandria. Thus, there was a Greek population worshipping an Egyptian divinity and it had most probably already been settled in the country for some time. Recent and still mostly unpublished discoveries from the immediate environs of Alexandria are enlightening. The above-mentioned mission led by Paulo Gallo on Nelson’s Island has unearthed archaeological strata from the 30th Dynasty (2) ; The team from the University of Paris-Ouest, led by Marie-Françoise Boussac has discovered Archaic Greek material from the 6th century BC or earlier (3), while at Buto, the University of Poitiers mission directed by Pascale Ballet is finding, year after year, Archaic era amphorae imported from Greece (4). The future Alexandria was surrounded by sites occupied by Greeks that had been settled for several centuries, sometimes from before the foundation of Naucratis (5). These discoveries, both in Alexandria and its environs, shed new light on the foundation of the city and it was most likely occupied by populations already present on Egyptian territory.
Yet another example of international cooperation has long been part of our work. As is well known, the collections of Graeco-Roman amphorae and stamped amphorae handles in Alexandria are the largest in the world by far. The almost 200,000 Greek and Latin stamps impressed into amphorae handles, with the names of the manufacturer and/or the magistrate, who gave his name to the year, represent an invaluable source of information regarding the history of ancient trade and economics. For some 15 years we have been working with a team from Ege University, Izmir, directed by Kaan Şenol and Gonca Cankardeş-Şenol, who spend three months of every year with eight students in Alexandria studying this material. The results of this long-term project can be seen on-line : The site presents 8,208 Rhodian amphora stamps and, despite its rather specific character, has received 17,386 visits in one year! A hard-copy version will soon be published. The first two volumes of this corpus, entitled Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps, will be available this autumn from De Boccard publishing house.
The team of Ege University, Izmir, studying the stamped amphora handles of Alexandria, under the leadership of Gonca Cankardeş-Şenol. Photo A. Pelle, © CEAlex

On the southern shore of Lake Mariout, 1 km south of Marea, the third excavation campaign on the Akademia site took place in May and June of 2014. A refuse dump of an amphora manufacturer was unearthed in 2011 on a hill that represents the last evidence of a chain of some 30 workshops discovered in the 1970s (6). With funding from the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, to which we are extremely grateful, this campaign under the leadership of Valerie Pichot was aimed at three main objectives :

  1. Two kilns were partially cleared. They were in a good state of preservation and their exceptional size—a dozen metres in circumference—places them amongst the largest kilns of antiquity
    four Photogrammetry image of a kiln at Akademia. M. Abdel Aziz, © CEAlex

    Another kiln of this size was found a few kilometres to the west but it had remained unique from the moment of its discovery in 1982 (7) : Now we have parallels. The Bedouin, who live in the area, have told us that some ten similar kilns were unearthed when the zone north of the site was being partitioned into construction lots. It would thus seem that these kilns were set up and employed as a series .
  2. The area around the wine press was cleared and the next campaign will demonstrate whether other such installations existed in the immediate vicinity. The size and the number of kilns suggest a large quantity of amphorae and therefore of wine. The only installation found so far would not have been capable of dealing with the volume in question. It is also worth noting the presence of a stone wall some 85-90 cm thick that runs more than 70 m east/west, bordering the two kilns to their north side. We are not sure of its use and it will be the object of further study in 2015
  3. .
  4. Clément Flaux (post-doctoral student with ANR Géomar) extracted geological bores from one of the two saqieh used to lift water onto cultivated land to the west of the site. He is attempting to reconstitute the ancient landscape of the southern Mariotis region.

The underwater excavations started up again for a long season in spring 2014. Mohamed Elsayed, deputy director of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities’ underwater archaeology department led the campaign following a scientific programme developed by Isabelle Hairy, research engineer with the CNRS attached to the Paris centre UMR 8167. The aim was photographic coverage that would lead a photogrammetric survey. Until now some 700 m2 have been covered by the inspector Mohamed Abdel Aziz, that is 1/20 of the site, and this task will continue in autumn. The end result is to obtain an overall 3D image of the ensemble of the monumental site. This geo-referenced image will lead to a view of the whole site, an understanding from all angles and a reconstruction of thematic series of images. One of the side products will assist in the touristic development and maintenance of the site. One can image the creation of simulated underwater explorations

Photogrammetry image of part of the sunken site of the Pharos of Alexandria. Photos Mohamed Elsayed and Ashraf Gomaa, assembly M. Abdel Aziz, © CEAlex.
Etalex31 Among recent CEAlex publications, we might point out Volume 31 of the Études Alexandrines collection, Un édifice inachevé du quartier royal à Alexandrie by Hélène Fragaki. This is a study of a 3rd century BC monument from which 47 blocks have been recovered. These blocks were in different states of preparation, with certain triglyphs completed, others not, some with projecting lifting bosses still in place, some with masons’ marks etc. This was a unique document from Antiquity of a building site with abandoned architectural elements in various states of manufacture. One chapter, co-written with A.-M. Guimier-Sorbets presents a fragment of a painted Hellenistic cornice discovered during our excavations on the site of the former British Consulate in Alexandria. A glowing review has already been published about this important volume on the history of Greek architecture
etalex32 At the end of this month, the next volume in this same collection will appear under the title Alexandrina 4, bringing together 12 articles on material found in our digs and those of the Ministry of Antiquities: works of sculpture, of bronze, of Greek and Roman ceramics and faience. There is also the history of the creation of the Graeco-Roman Museum’s coin collection. The archives of this centennial museum reveal the story of its first years of activity and the sometimes tense relations between the Municipality of Alexandria and the Antiquities Service.


We can also announce the birth of a new collection, Antiquités alexandrines, which will present monographs on Alexandrian subjects such as mosaics, marquetry etc. The first volume, out this autumn, is entitled Renaître avec Osiris et Perséphone. The authors A.-M. Guimier-Sorbets, A. Pelle and Mervat Seif el-Din describe, interpret and set in context the faded paintings in the catacombs of Kom el-Shoqafa thanks to the photography of André Pelle who has managed to make the invisible reappear. A short documentary film by Raymond Collet Photographier l'invisible, available on YouTube will give you an idea of the subject.
penelopi delta Digitising the Francophone press of Egypt continues to be a priority for the CEAlex. A meeting was held on 11 and 12 March at the École Française d’Athènes with the aim of extending the project to take in foreign language press throughout the Mediterranean basin, such as the francophone press of Greece and in the Ottoman Empire, the Greek and Italian language press of Egypt etc. On 13 March, a day was dedicated to the launch of Penelope Delta’s first ever work, which was written in French and now published by the CEAlex. You can follow the activities of these three days via the site of École française d'Athènes.The participants decided to join forces and to present this autumn a dossier to raise EU funding for this vast project that brings together representatives form four European countries, in collaboration with Egyptian academics. The CEAlex, in the person of Marie-Delphine Martellière and her team of eight, has uploaded more than 40,000 pages to the web and it would appear that the site is popular, in that we can count more than 6,000 visitors in one year.

While talking of the web, the CEAlex main site,, had 197,088 visitors between 23 July 2013 and 22 July 2014. Individual page counters show that the Educational Outreach Service received 6,392 visits in one year. Despite this success, we are not forgetting the advice form the AERES committee and with our webmaster, Danielle Guiraudios, we are engaged in reformatting the site so that participants can up-date content more quickly and we are adding an image database.

A new three-month campaign on the underwater Pharos site will begin on 7 September with the object of completing the photogrammetry coverage of Alexandria’s Pharos. In November, in cooperation with our colleagues from the Ministry of Antiquities and as part of the ANR Géomar programme, a new exploration to the south of Lake Mariout will aim to extend the archaeological map and GIS of this region. At the end of October, we will hold an international conference on the archaeology of funeral rites within the framework established by the École française d’Athènes and the École française de Rome to examine this aspect of archaeology.
As you can see, autumn and winter 2014/2015 will be busy!

And lastly, I would like to thank all those who support us in our efforts to safeguard and promote the heritage of Alexandria, especially the members of the Friends of the CEAlex, and its two regional branches Sarthe-Alexandrie and Alexandrie-Île-de-France.

Notes :

  1. P.M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, Oxford, 1972, vl. 1, p. 38 : « in fact, almost nothing can be conjectured as to the original citizen population ». retour
  2. P. Gallo, « Une colonie de la première période ptolémaïque près de Canope », in P. Ballet (éd.) , Grecs et Romains en Égypte, Ifao, Cairo, 2012, p. 47-64. retour
  3. M.-F. Boussac, “Taposiris Magna et Plinthine, deux villes grecques en Maréotide”, Progress report  2012-2013, Supplement of BIFAO, 113, 2013, p. 217-226, particularly p. 219 and 224 with fig. 107; S. Dhennin, B. Redon, “Plinthine on Lake Mareotis”, Egyptian Archaeology 43, 2013, p. 36-38, especially p. 38 with illustrations. retour
  4. Report by P. Ballet, G. Marouard, “Bouto, porte de l’Égypte”, Progress report 2012-2013, Supplement of BIFAO, 113, 2013, p. 171-173 with fig. 85. retour
  5. The last excavation campaign at Plinthine revealed material from the 8th century BC. retour
  6. See the 2014 campaign report at retour
  7. Feisal el-Ashmawi, "Pottery Kiln and Wine-Factory from Burg el Arab", in J.-Y. Empereur (ed.), Commerce et Artisanat dans l'Alexandrie hellénistique et romaine, Actes du Colloque d'Athènes. retour

Previous notes
june 2001
december 2001
may 2002
december 2002
february 2004
december 2005
july 2006
january 2007
february 2008 december 2008 december 2009 march 2011
august 2011 january 2012 september 2012 may 2013