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  5. Excavation and Restoration Project at the Archaeological Site of Oxyrhynchus (El-Bahnasa), Egypt

Excavation and Restoration Project at the Archaeological Site of Oxyrhynchus (El-Bahnasa), Egypt

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Tumba saíta
  • Timeframe: 1992-present
  • Lead institution: Universidad de Barcelona-IPOA (Instituto de Próximo Oriente Antiguo)
  • Lead researcher: Dr. Ignasi-Xavier Adiego Lajara, Dra. Maite Mascort Roca, Dr. Josep Padró Parcerisa y Dra. Esther Pons Mellado
  • MAN researcher: Dra. Esther Pons Mellado
  • Director de la excavación hasta 2019: Dr. Josep Padró Parcerisa
  • Directoras de la excavación desde 2020: Dra. Maite Mascort Roca y Dra. Esther Pons Mellado
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The Archaeological Site of Oxyrhynchus (El-Bahnasa), Per-Medyed in Ancient Egyptian, is located 190 km south of Cairo. During the Late Period it was the capital of the 19th nome of Upper Egypt and a city of considerable importance, given its strategic geographic situation and river port on the Bahr Yusuf canal, a branch of the Nile.

This is one of the largest archaeological sites in Egypt, and is currently divided into three vast sectors.

The northwest necropolis, which spans the centuries from the Saite period to the Christian-Byzantine era.

The Saite period tombs, built with large stone blocks and vaulted ceilings, have yielded numerous funerary artefacts: stone sarcophagi, canopic jars, shabtis, amulets, pottery vessels, bronze sculptures, etc., as well as inscriptions and paintings on the walls.

In the Roman tombs, which present similar characteristics but are made of smaller blocks, archaeologists have found sarcophagi, wall paintings and reliefs, and numerous mummies, many with cartonnage alluding to Egyptian deities.

In 2012 season we found, in the area of the Roman tombs, a votive deposit of almost 7,000 oxyrhynchus fishes with different size and half of them were mummified and wrapped with clothes This deposited is dated between the Post-Saite Period and before the Roman Period.

The Osireion, a stone sanctuary/underground necropolis from the Ptolemaic period dedicated to the god Osiris. Inside this structure, archaeologists found a large recumbent sculpture of Osiris made of stone and numerous objects related to his cult: small boxes, bread loaves, offering tables, sculptures of Osiris, etc. In recent years, important work has been done to restore both the stone tombs and the mural paintings.

Finally, also we have an stone monumental building from the Christiane-Byzantine Period with a large avenue with huge slabs, many column bases, fustes, Corinthian capitals and a subterranean crypt with texts and painting decoration with images, and vegetables and geometrical motives, as well as another smaller stone religious building of the same period.

The excavation of both buildings are not finished.

The latest dig campaign at the archaeological site of Oxyrhynchus was conducted from 14 February to 14 March 2020 and sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport, Universitat de Barcelona-IPOA (Institut del Pròxim Orient Antic), Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Fundación Palarq and Societat Catalana d’Egiptologia.

Excavation work was focused on the Upper Necropolis during this campaign, which fortunately was quite a productive one in terms of archaeological finds, giving us a better understanding of architectural structures and different funerary rituals used from the Saite to the Christian-Byzantine period.

A total of eight tombs were found: six from the Saite period (two of them sealed) and two from Roman times. All are made of stone blocks and have one or more burial chambers, with ceilings that are vaulted or, in the case of Saite tombs, flat or formed by sloping slabs. Various mummified corpses were found inside, some with polychrome cartonnage and seals made of silt-clay tucked into the bandages, and remnants of grave goods such as shabtis and round and tube beads from funerary bead-nets.

We also defined the perimeter of a large religious structure from the Christian-Byzantine period, where numerous fragments decorated with plant/floral and zoomorphic motifs were found. We were able to thoroughly catalogue these fragments, as well as a papyrus and a stela, both with Greek epigraphs.

Additionally, the team carried out anthropological studies; restored and consolidated the mural paintings in the crypt of the religious building and objects made of different materials; conducted topographic, photogrammetric and 3D surveys; and took aerial photographs with a kite.

Burial chamber in Tomb 1 Pulse para ampliar Burial chamber in Tomb 1. Photograph by José Luis Banús
detail of a lamb Pulse para ampliar Byzantine fortress – detail of a lamb
Stone sarcophagi in Tomb 14 Pulse para ampliar Stone sarcophagi in Tomb 14
Mummies inside Tomb 19 Pulse para ampliar Mummies inside Tomb 19
Image of an oxyrhynchus fish Pulse para ampliar Image of an oxyrhynchus fish found in Tomb 18
Yacimiento de Oxirrinco Pulse para ampliar Yacimiento de Oxirrinco
Pez de Oxirrinco. Detalle Pulse para ampliar Pez de Oxirrinco. Detalle
Edificio Cristiano-Bizantino Pulse para ampliar Edificio Cristiano-Bizantino de carácter religioso-funerario
Tumbas saítas, una de ellas sellada Pulse para ampliar Tumbas saítas, una de ellas sellada
Vista aérea, sector, 36, con tumbas saítas y romanas Pulse para ampliar Vista aérea, sector, 36, con tumbas saítas y romanas
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