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Soknopaiou Nesos - Report 2008

Directors’ Report on 2008 Season

The Archaeological Mission of the Centro di Studi Papirologici of Lecce University, directed by Mario Capasso and Paola Davoli, carried out its Sixth Season of Excavation at Dime (El-Fayyum), the ancient Soknopaiou Nesos, from 26 October to 7 December, 2008.

Also taking part in the Mission were Stefania Alfarano (excavation assistant), Alessia Armillis (student), Angela Cervi (recorder), Clementina Caputo (draughtswoman), Mauro Cremaschi (geo-archaeologist, Università di Milano), Delphine Dixneuf (ceramologist, IFAO), Moataz Abu el-Nil (Directors’ assistant), Mohammed Ahmed (restorer), Antonella Longo (papyrologist), Giuseppe Alvar Minaya (supervisor), Simone Occhi (topographer), Elvira Pisanello (papyrologist), Chiara Pizzi (geo-archaeologist, Università di Milano), Borna Scognamiglio (student), Martin Stadler (demotist, Würzburg Universität), Salvatore Taurino (student), Stefania Trizza (excavation assistant). The Supreme Council of Antiquities was represented by Samhan Mohammed Abd el Salam and Mohammed Regay. The Mission extends its thanks to dr Zahi Hawass, President of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, to Magdy El Ghandour, General Director of the Foreign Missions, to Abd el Rahman el Aidi, Director of Middle Egypt, and to Ahmed Abd el-Aal Mohammed, Director of the Inspectorate of Antiquities of the Fayyum, for their support over the course of the Mission. It also expresses its gratitude to Luca Trombi, who – as every year – furnished the Mission with generous and essential financial support, and to the supporters of the “Associazione Culturale Soknopaiou Nesos Project”. Particular thanks also go to the Archaeological Department of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Cairo, directed by dr R. Pirelli, which handled contacts with the Supreme Council of Antiquities.



Archaeological Report

The Sixth Season of Excavation was carried out within the large temple precinct, in the area situated at the centre of the temenos. The excavation of the temple dedicated to the crocodile god Soknopaios (ST20) 1, built during the Ptolemaic period with yellow limestone blocks and architraves in grey limestone, was continued 2. Three corridors surrounding the naos, three lateral rooms west and two lateral rooms east of the naos itself were brought to light. Three subterranean crypts with the respective staircase situated in narrow intramural rooms were also investigated.


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Leading off from room L, which was brought to light in the 2007 Season, are east and west corridors, both originally closed by two one-leaf doors. The west corridor (U) is 1.08 m wide and 10.23 m long. Its floor consists of paving stones in yellow limestone which are only partially preserved. From the corridor, one entered three lateral rooms or chapels 3. Room T (3.81 x 2.3 m) is particularly damaged, probably because of the presence of a crypt situated under the pavement in the south-east corner, which drew clandestine excavators’ attention.

The pavement was almost completely removed; a part of it, consisting of paving stones in yellow limestone, remains along the west side. The narrow room R gave access to the crypt (X) (0.85 x 0,68 m) through a staircase that gave access only to room X, which was closed by blocks, two of which were movable; one of them was recovered last year.

On the contrary, the pavement of in room Z (3.83 x 2.3 m), consisting of paving stones in yellow limestone, is preserved; it was damaged by a central breaking due to the falling down of the door’s architrave.

The pavement of the last room (Y) (3.84 x 1.85 m) is completely lacking; evidently it was removed in order to enter a crypt (AA, 0.70 x 0,78 m), which was similar to room X and situated under the pavement in the south-west corner. The narrow room J (3.11 x 0.60 m), situated between rooms Z and Y, gave access to it. Also in this case a staircase led exclusively to the hiding-place, which was closed by blocks, one of which was movable. Trap-doors probably gave access to the rooms-staircase R and J.

The north corridor (W) is narrower than the other two (0.82 x 8.15 m) and it was encumbered with lintels; its original pavement is not preserved. A door situated in the north-east corner of room L, closed by one leaf, gave access to the corridor V (1.06 x 10.22 m). On this side two chapels were brought to light (BB and K). The former (3.84 x 1.64 m) is particularly damaged, probably because of the presence of a crypt situated under the pavement in the south-west corner (DD, 0.82 x 0.76 m), which drew clandestine excavators’ attention; a narrow staircase situated in an intramural room (CC) gave access to it. Just half the pavement of room K (3.83 x 1.76), consisting of paving stones in yellow limestone, is preserved.

Anthropic layers with late-Roman and Byzantine pottery were discovered at the bottom of the explored rooms and corridors. A Coptic ostrakon belongs to the same period 4. Among the findings several architectonic elements in Egyptian and Classic style belonging to the temple and to different naoi should be mentioned; two Demotic ostraka; 8 fragments of Demotic papyri; 7 fragments of Greek papyri 5, one of which containing an oracular question of Roman age; a fragment of a Greek inscription; fragments of furniture decorated with glass inlays; statue fragments, many of which joining with those recovered during the previous seasons.


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Topographical Survey

In addition, the Mission carried on the topographical documentation of the site. The cleaning and the photogrammetry of the dromos, the monumental road leading from the southern end of the town to the temple of Soknopaios, were completed. Thus, a mosaic of photographs was put together and it enabled us to execute a drawing of the entire pavement with extremely detailed precision. In the northern stretch of the dromos a pavement in yellow limestone – later covered by a resurfacing using paving stones of grey limestone – was discovered. The cleaning of the dromos allowed us to establish that the road was built at least 2.5 m higher than the common roadway. The crossing of the dromos was permitted by two subways barrel vaulted 6, situated north of the platform, which was discovered last year, and by staircases situated south of the platform itself. The presence of staircases and subways is not documented in other dromoi.



Survey of the territory Report

M. Cremaschi, S. Occhi and C. Pizzi carried on the survey of the area surrounding Soknopaiou Nesos. It was possible to document precisely the extent of the cemeteries and of the grey limestone quarry and to locate several houses and scattered graves 7.


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Restoration of the objects

During the Season Mohammed Ahmed has been working on the restoration of some objects and monuments discovered in 2006-2008, among which is the iron sword with an ebony pommel discovered in 2006 8, the broken sphinx found in 2007 along the dromos, some coins and other bronze objects.


The next Season is planned for October and November 2009.