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Inside the Mind of Ancient People: the tangible and constructed landscape of the western Delta in the Late Period (664-332BC)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MAP (Inside the Mind of Ancient People: the tangible and constructed landscape of the western Delta in the Late Period (664-332BC))

Berichtszeitraum: 2017-09-01 bis 2019-08-31

The main aim of the project was to define the constitution of space in ancient Egypt and recursively to identify the points of contact where the landscape shaped and changed the mind of people. The aim has been accomplished through a comprehensive study of the “regionally specific sacerdotal” officials during the Late Period (664-332 BC) in the western Delta of Egypt (from 2nd to 7th provinces of Lower Egypt). Indeed, these people played a key-role in the representation and “administration” of the conceptual space, as attested in the written documentation related to the sacred geography.
The main objective questions of the project were:
(a) Who were the persons bearing the “regionally specific sacerdotal” titles? (b) How the imagined environment of these people was transformed by their immediate environment? (c) How did human perception and religious beliefs transform the environment? (d) How did the physical environment affect the human imagination?
These questions were addressed through four main objectives:
1. Identification of the persons who dealt with the sacred geography and the materia sacra of the provinces of western Delta of Egypt in the Late Period through the analysis of the written, archaeological documentation and research in archives.
2. The collection of data coming from the texts of sacred geography created by people of objective 1.
3. Identification of differences between textual sources and information recorded on fieldwork in Egypt. The main aim was to understand the physical environment in which persons identified in objective 1 operated and lived.
4. Producing a new historical synthesis and comparative study of the data acquired.
- Part of the research work was devoted to training activities in: a) Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and remote Sensing software (Department of Archaeology); b) geophysical survey techniques and in processing data (Department of Archaeology and fieldwork in Egypt); c) ‘Sociology’ and ‘Human geography’ disciplines (Department of Archaeology); d) Ancient Egyptian Languages (Department of Archaeology); e) Modern Arabic language (Centre for Foreign Language Study-Durham-).
A core part of the project has focussed on the research in museums and collections considered relevant for the project in order to expand the dataset related to “regionally specific sacerdotal” officials for the selected span time. Part of the research, therefore, was carried at the Oriental Museum, Durham, the Manchester Museum, the Garstang Museum of Archaeology, Liverpool, and the Louvre Museum. Contacts were made also with other European museums (Florence, Turin, Bologna) in order to select artifacts of significant importance. Comparative study was extended to research in archives in European and American institutions: the archives of Jean Yoyotte at the EPHE (Paris) and archive of Bernard Bothmer at the Brooklyn Museum (New York).
The second part of the project was focused on landscape archaeology in order to identify the environment where the “regionally specific sacerdotal” officials lived. This part included two complementary strands of research: a) Collation of archaeological and excavation reports and study of available maps related to the Western Delta (Survey of Egypt, Corona and Landsat satellite data); and b) selection and survey of four sites at Kafr el-Dawar province (Western Delta, Egypt): Kom el-Ghasuli, Abdu Pasha, Kom el-Magayir I, II, III, Kom el-Mahar (
The third phase of the project consisted of measuring the differences between the data collected in textual sources and those coming from the physical environment. The main aim was the creation of a dataset of correspondences and/or disjunctions between archaeological information and written records.
The concluding part of the project has involved the dissemination of the research. Beside scientific publications, a broader audience has been reached through public conferences, international workshops ( and lectures.
The overall goals were to supply robust scientific evidence for the creation of new models, which move from Egyptology to outside the discipline, in order to explore social history and to understand how in the past man and the environment interacted with each other.
Gathering the collected documentation related to the “regionally specific sacerdotal” created a very dense and intricate picture, represented by many individuals with their families. In turn, analysis of the data created a social map which has allowed a deeper investigation of their social developments, their roles, and mainly the strong relationship with the religious landscape and territory of the Western Delta. Indeed, the analysis of the documentation shows that two areas had a powerful political role during that time and show a strong relationship with the officials: the Memphite area and the Saite region. The results have also highlighted a complex social setting, constituted by an intricate web of relationships between the religious landscape and politics.
Another research question of the project was to understand why the spread of the specific sacerdotal titles in the Delta of Egypt and of the sacred geography occurred in the Late Period. The results show that this increase was probably due to an administrative reorganisation and political strategy carried out by the pharaoh Psametik I after he restablished political unity in Egypt. During the reorganisation of the court, he used a specific political strategy, based on hiring high ranked priests, reliable people who were located in strategic economic and administrative places of Western Delta. He exalted the priesthood of each deity in their local role in order to gain more control of the territory, using the priests ideologically as a factor of cohesion and control of the population, exploiting the religious traditions as an element of social union in order to keep authority in the country.
The results of the MAP project have raised the public interest to understand how in ancient Egypt the environment was organised and how people, religion and politics were closely connected and could modify settings inside society.
MAP has been a pioneer research project, demonstrating direct scientific impact, as presented in the forthcoming proceeding of the international conference. The final results of the project combined archaeological and philological disciplines with also other fields of study, such as human geography, sociology and landscape archaeology.
The project has enabled the researcher to complete a high profile cutting-edge research project at the Department of Archaeology at Durham, and to acquire more practical skills in multidisciplinary areas, integrated with knowledge of theoretical problems deriving from social and modern disciplines. In addition, the mobility has been beneficial in multiple directions, for the candidate, the institution of provenance, and the host institution, by creating efficient integration between different approaches and methodologies to research topics. In addition, the project has constituted the basis for ongoing and future collaborations (e.g. Delta Survey -Egypt Exploration Society/Durham University-; EPHE, Louvre Museum).
The website presents the MAP project, the team, the host institution, the aims, the methodologies and the fieldwork carried out.
Map of the surveyed area showing the location of the sites
Research in museums and collections
Geophysical investigation of sub-surface features (Bartington Grad601) -Delta Survey-
Geophysical map of the site Tell el Mahar, mapped and surveyed in Autumn 2018