Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt

Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Alan Johnston, François Leclère, Aurélia Masson and Ross Thomas

With Daniel von Recklinghausen, Jeffrey Spencer, Valerie Smallwood, Virginia Webb and Susan Woodford

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Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
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Stone and terracotta figures – an introduction


Ross Iain Thomas

The figures from Naukratis are a large and informative group that can be used to better understand the population of Naukratis over its long history. They comprise both locally made figurines and imports from the Eastern Mediterranean, notably East Greece and Cyprus, but also Greece and the Levant. Recent studies have concentrated on 7th to 6th century BC Cypriot limestone and alabaster sculpture, while Cypriot terracotta figures, local Egyptian and Greek figurines were largely ignored.

This chapter provides a brief introduction to the material and a summary of the patterns present within this diverse assemblage. Comprising nearly 1,800 terracotta figures, figure vessels, models and coffin-fittings as well as over 400 stone figures, they cover all periods of the site’s history across the Saite, Achaemenid, Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

Figures (and moulds) were found in workshops, houses, burials and sanctuary deposits. The assemblage provides useful insights into the production, use, meaning and deposition of figures that represent a variety of human activities at Naukratis. This yields valuable information about the site’s inhabitants and their identity. Whilst the figures from the Greek sanctuaries were predominantly East Greek and Cypriot – attesting the strong trade links between these regions and Naukratis – one remarkable observation is that the assemblage in the town is predominantly Egyptian in nature, suggesting that Egyptian religious practices were widespread in Naukratis from the time of its foundation onwards.

Protome of a woman in East Greek style of local Naukratite Nile silt fabric. Found in the Hellenion, ‘precinct 14, under the wall of second temple’. Dated 480–350 BC. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, AN1896-1908-G.85. Photograph © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. Photographer Ross Thomas