Marea (Egypt), 2016



Basilica Project

Dates of work: 5 November–12 December 2016


Director: Krzysztof Babraj, archaeologist (Archaeological Museum in Kraków; 2014, 2015)
SCA representative: Eslam Tailon
Archaeologists: Anna Drzymuchowska, ceramologist (Archaeological Museum in Kraków); Dominika Majchrzak (Archaeological Museum in Kraków)
Architect: Daria Tarara, chief architect (freelance)


The northern side chapel of the large Christian basilica from Byzantine times, excavated by the team from the Archaeological Museum in Kraków and PCMA UW since 2003, was cleared and investigated. It was a long room, divided into two by stub walls (units 6 and 50) and furnished with a small apse and a latrine abutting the walls o fthe northern pastophorium. The west wall of the chapel, of stone ashlars like the whole basilica, had a rectangular niche cut into it in its southern part and filled, presumably at some later date, with brick masonry. The entrance was from the northern aisle of the basilica. The north wall of the chapel shows a change in the bond in its western part where it replaced a wall belonging to the original phase. These repair works can be associated with structural changes made in the building.

The addition of two latrines (units 14 and 51) and several rooms abutting the basilica on the north was most likely part of the same construction episode. The latrines were connected to the chapel by two entrances blocked during a subsequent phase of use. The latrine in unit 51 was explored in 2016, revealing the regulatory stone seats and Greek and Arabic graffiti on the plaster of the west wall. The partition walls inside the latrine complex were not interfaced with the basilica wall proper. The fill yielded an amphora stopper with the inscription ‘Αγία Μαρία (a bold speculation would see in St Mary the patron of the basilica). Another interesting find was a relief stele depicting a standing figure dressed in a toga; the stone had been reused in the basilica as a pilaster. Last but not least, a seal ring was discovered, 1.5 cm in diameter, with a bezel decorated with a bust of a holy figure carved in relatively deep relief. It may have belonged to a bishop and was used for sealing important documents.

Of particular interest among the pottery finds was a toy vessel in the shape of a fish, richly decorated with scales and fins, and with perforations in the upper fin, most likely used for suspending the object; this is the first find of this kind from Marea. Pottery from the basilica this season was diverse; local forms dominated especially among kitchen- and table wares, although the material also included ARS group B (North Africa) and Aswan wares (ERSA). A large group consisted of amphorae, mainly locally produced LRA 5/6, as well as EA 3 and EA 4, common in the Mareotic region. Imported amphorae included specimens from North Africa. In general, the ceramic material varied both typologically and chronologically, spanning from the 4th to the 8th century AD. STudies and conservation procedures in the SCA store on site included finds from earlier seasons, namely, coins and ostraka.

Text: Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 26/1


K. Babraj: Krzysztof.Babraj(at)


Late Roman house in Marea and its inhabitants: research grant

(National Science Centre of Poland Grant 2011/01/B/HS3/02184)

Dates of work: 13 November–8 December 2016


Director: Dagmara Wielgosz-Rondolino, archaeologist (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw)
SCA representative: Islam Ahmed Abd El Aal (archaeology), Wael Yousri Mohamed (conservation), Amr Ibrahim Ali Noah, Director of the Fawzy el Fakhrany Storage Museum in Marea Papyrologist.epigrapher: Prof. Tomasz Derda (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw): “Ostraca from Marea or how a big basilica was built in the 5th century?” (National Science Centre of Poland Grant 2012/07/B/HS3/03638)
Archaeologists: Dr. Mariusz Gwiazda (independent)
Numismatist: Dr. Piotr Jaworski (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw)
Glass expert: Renata Kucharczyk (PCMA UW)
Ceramologist: Tomasz Górecki (National Museum in Warsaw), Julia Górecka, assistant (independent)
Architect: Andrzej Bruno Kutiak (freelance)
Archeobotanist: Tzvetana Nikolaeva Popova (independent)
Registrar/photographer: Aleksandra Pawlikowska (independent)
SCA archaeology trainees: Enas Ibrahim Abdelsalam Ibrahim, Nermin Wazif Ali Hegazy)


Research in the eastern part of the Marea peninsula was carried out under a research grant of the Institute of Archaeology in cooperation with the PCMA UW and Archaeological Museum in Kraków expedition to Marea. The objective was to complete the excvation of building H1 which lies on the waterfront just about 10 m to the southeast of a large Christian basilica dated to the Byzantine period. It is 22.90 m by 24.20 m in size and has a regular rectangular plan. It is beyond doubt that it functioned as a residential building, although its southern part was most likely an industrial and service area. Over time the edifice underwent various changes that involved dismantling walls and raising new dividing structures and installations within the rooms, accompanied by a steady accumulation of occupational levels. The date of its occupation has been established as from the late 5th–early 6th century to, most likely, the second quarter of the 8th century AD. The season was dedicated to clearing and documenting the full extent of the house and to digging trenches to verify the stratigraphy of the building. Occupational levels were explored in all of the rooms of the complex.

The array of finds encompassed arthenware (local and imported vessels, and building material), glass, coins. The repertoire of pottery vessels includes forms dating from the 1st– 3rd centuries AD to the early 8th century AD. Local transport amphorae are represented by Dressel 2–4 forms, as well as Late Roman Amphorae 5/6. Dominant among the imported containers are vessels from Palestine (Late Roman Amphora 4) and Cilicia or Cyprus (Late Roman Amphora 1). Kitchen wares and tablewares were also amply represented, the latter including plates and bowls imported from Upper Egypt (Egyptian Red Slip Ware) and a significantly smaller group of imports from southern Asia Minor (Late Roman D). Excavations in building H1 also yielded a small number of fragments of vessels with painted decoration, as well as two complete small jugs and partly preserved jugs with ceramic lids. Among glass finds the dominant forms were bottles, bowls and windowpanes. The dating span of the coins was from the second half of the 4th century AD to the first half of the 8th century AD.


Text: Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 26/1


Dagmara Wilegosz-Rondolino: dagmara.wielgosz(at)