This project focuses on the possibility that extensive trade and movements of goods imported both from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Oases of the Western Desert took place along a relatively unexplored and unsuspected NW-SE route between the Mediterranean coast of northwest Egypt and Middle Egypt, via the Western Desert and the Faiyum region during the Late Bronze Age – New Kingdom (1580–1065 BC). This would have effectively created an ‘alternative Nile valley’ trade connection, comprising a sea/land/river route to the west of the Nile Delta and northern Nile Valley. In order to explore this situation, the project will (1) analyse imported artifacts along the new route, focusing particularly on the maritime fortress site of Zawiyet Umm el-Rakham at the northwestern end of the route, and the roughly contemporary commercial port and royal city of Gurob, in the Faiyum region, at the southeastern end of the route, (2) undertake geo-archaeological study of the landscape with a specific focus on the eastern portion of the Faiyum region and (3) study areas of the desert via a detailed analysis of aerial photographs and satellite images. The principal goals of the current project are to obtain a complete and comprehensive study of the imported pottery corpus unearthed in the eastern Faiyum region and in the site of Zawiyet Umm el-Rakham; to study the Egyptian pottery found in the same archaeological contexts of the imported one; to carry out chemical analyses on the imported materials to achieve information on the areas of productions; to define precisely what were the trade connections in the northeastern Western Desert and to obtain important new data related to the role of the eastern Faiyum as a regional and interregional trade hub during the New Kingdom.
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