Previous Excavation & Survey Projects

Appendix A: Archaeological Work in the Faiyum

The Faiyum area has been visited since the early 1800s (and even before) by travellers including French herbalist Paul Lucas (1714), Richard Pococke (1743), Dr P.D. Martin (1801) Linant de Bellefonds (1818-1828), and Paul Lenoir (1872). It has been inspected by both archaeologists and geologists and continues to receive attention from both. Related areas (E.G. Merimda, el-Omari, Maadi) were also the subject of early studies and are shown in the Bibliography. See the Bibliography for full details, but the main investigations of the Faiyum include:

Dates

 

Project

Excavators

Discoveries

Comment

1934

(Surveys 1924,’25 ’26,’27, ‘28)

Combined British School of Archaeology in Egypt and the Royal Anthropological Institute Survey

Caton

Thompson

and Gardner (and Huyazzin)

Numerous Neolithic and Epipalaeolithic sites, northern Faiyum. Small samples of an industry with late Levalloisian traits

The Epipalaeolithic was  wrongly interpreted as a late Neolithic industry.

1966-1968

Institute of Palethnology (University of Rome) Survey

Puglisi et al

Ten surface concentrations dating to Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic

Focused on the north-east of modern Birket Qarun.  Found an Epipalaeolithic industry which is not 100% consistent with the Qarunian

1968-1969

Combined Prehistoric Expedition

Wendorf, Schild, Said et al

A number of Epipalaeolithic, Neolithic and Early Dynastic concentrations in the northern Faiyum

Discovered and identified changes in the lake and tied this into settlement activities, obtaining C14 dates.

1980s

Faiyum Survey Project

Wenke et al

Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic

Two sites (FS2 and FS1) in particular are of value and importance

1986

Polish Mission

Ginter and Kozlowski

Epipalaeolithc and Neolithic

Classification of some of their Epipalaeolithic finds as Moerian

 

Geological Work in the Faiyum

Investigations of the Faiyum, and fluctuations of Lake Qarun (after Hassan 1980)

Period

Date of Publication

Investigator

Geomorphology

Archaeology

 

Classical Period

450 BC

Herodotus

Reported a 13,000 km sq lake, 13 times the present size

Believed at the time to have been excavated by King Moeris as a reservoir backfilling into the Nile

?

Strabo,

Diadorus,

Pliny

Confirmed the existence of the lake

Under the Ptolemies, the level of the lake dropped due to land reclamation projects

Classical Consensus

British Imperial Period

1886

Shewinfirth

Recognised several ancient shorelines

 

1892

Brown

Postulated a lake at 19-25m asl from earliest times through the dynastic period

 

1905 – 1918

Beadnell, Petrie,

Wilcocks

All confirmed Brown’s views. Beadnell (1905) identified deposits from the Pleistocene lake at 22m

 

First Modern Consensus

1934

(Surveys 1924,’25 ’26,’27, ‘28)

Caton

Thompson

and Gardner

Postulated:

  • A Pleistocene lake 40m asl in the Middle Palaeolithic
  • Subsequent level falls and severs the Nile connection
  • Nile re-enters at the beginning of the Neolithic resettlement
  • Continued shrinkage which produced low levels in the Dynastic

Identified Neolithic settlement (“Faiyum A”)

The Qarunian “Faiyum B” was identified as a post Faiyum A Neolithic Settlement

1929

Sandford and Arkell

Agreed with Caton Thompson and Gardner on many points and postulated that

  • Postulated a late Palaeolithic level of 34m asl
  • Identified beaches falling from Mousterian, consistent with falling lake
  • Lake drains into Nile then rises to 18m asl in the Neolithic

Identified a number of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic industries

1939

Ball

Evaluated existing evidence and produced a synthesis of the known information

 

1940

Caton-Thompson and Huzayyin

Reaffirmed Caton-Thompson and Gardner’s 1934 results.  Postulated that Lake Qarun was a fresh water lake on the basis of mollusc species

Reaffirmed Neolithic.

Pre World War II Consensus

1972-1976

Wendorf, Schild and Said Combined Prehistoric Expedition

Postulated:

  • A Pleistocene lake
  • A subsequent lake predating the Neolithic
  • Several distinct lake stages of pre-Neolithic lake
    • Palaeo-Moeris
    • Premoeris
    • Protomoeris
  • Lake levels rose in the Neolithic
  • Lake level 23m asl in Old Kingdom

Concluded:

  • Neolithic occupation took place during rising lake levels
  • Caton-Thompson and Gardeners falling lake hypothesis based on false assumptions and resulted in incorrect conclusions about the Qarunian
  • Qarunian was an Epipalaeolithic industry

1986

Hassan

Confirms Wendorf and Schild and:

  • Identifies two Holocene lakes, Palaeo, Pre and Protomoeris
  • Palaeo, Pre falls to below 12m asl, then rises to 19-24m asl marking the beginning of the Protomoeris

Proposed chronology for Epipalaeolithic, Neolithic and Predynastic correlated with lake levels

  • Confirms high lake levels in the Old Kingdom

Hassan’s 1986 Chronology Establishes Current Status

Information about Dynastic lake levels in the Faiyum was postulated by Shafei (1940, 1960) and Butzer (1976).