Project director

Department of Greece and Rome 

Project curators

Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Institute of Classical Studies, London
  • The British Academy, Reckitt Fund

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Fieldwork at Naukratis, 2013

The second British Museum fieldwork season at Naukratis was conducted in April 2013, following a successful season in October 2012 (read the published report). After results from this first season suggested a larger and better preserved site than previously expected, we broadened our approach and expanded our team to help determine the full extent of the city, its paleo-landscape, harbour, structures and development over time.

SCA inspectors being trained by Ross Thomas

For the second fieldwork season, the team was joined by inspector Entesar El Sayed Ashour, from the local SCA office and her colleague Emad Hamdy Mohamed Abou Esmail.


The objective of the second season was to gather further survey data to complement the previous season’s results and lay the groundwork for further work in future.

Over the two and a half weeks the original team from the British Museum (Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron and field director Ross Thomas) was joined by Penny Wilson (Egyptologist, Durham University) and Ben Pennington (Geologist), along with a team of inspectors from Beheira SCA based in Damanhour, who greatly assisted our work: inspector Entesar El Sayed Ashour, her colleagues Eptisam Nabeel Mahmoud Elbahiye and Emad Hamdy Mohamed Abou Esmail, as well as Tarik Sayed Ahmed Abdellah and Hany Farouk Shalash, who had worked with us already the previous season. With their help as well as that of the guards at the site in Kom Geif, and with the permission of the farmers of the villages around Naukratis, far more was achieved this season than we had believed possible.

The team gathered a wealth of data that provides us with a much better idea of the extent of the ancient site, the location of the Canopic branch of the river Nile and the archaeology of one of Naukratis' key above-surface structures, the ‘South Mound’.

Magnetometry survey

barley grain
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    Geophysical prospection was carried out with a magnetometer in fields (here demonstrated by inspector Eptisam Nabeel Mahmoud Elbahiye) and in the now largely dried-up lake.

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    Below the surface crust the lake could still be rather boggy in places.

  • 3

    While surveying the area, we sometimes faced obstructions that took some persuasion to move.

Our programme of magnetometry, begun last season, continued with 15 hectares of the site now covered. This includes both central and more outlying areas and is enabling us to get a better understanding of the likely extent of the ancient site. We now know that the settlement area (not including the cemetery) must have covered at least 52 hectares, providing space for a population of over 12,000 people. 

The magnetometry results also revealed a large number of features within the area of the Egyptian sanctuary (the ‘Great Temenos’) and in the area of the dried-up lake as well as a number of structures to the north and east of the site. The data is currently being processed further with the assistance of Kris Strutt of Southampton University, which should provide us with a clearer picture and further details on the shape and meaning of these structures.

Drilling, excavating and spotting objects

barley grain
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    Analysis of sedimentary sequences gives valuable information on the paleo-landscape but also on the sequences of archaeological layers.

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    Penny Wilson led excavations to the south of the ‘South Mound’, believed by Petrie to contain parts of the enclosure wall of an Egyptian temple (‘Great Temenos’).

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    Excavations revealed a complex sequence of mud brick structures over earlier archaeology, possibly a temenos wall or the foundation of a large building such as a tower house.

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    Pottery and other objects collected from the survey, excavations and auger cores, help to date features, areas and deposits. A number of sherds were recorded and photographed, then stored for future study.

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    The head of a local terracotta figurine depicting Harpocrates with well-preserved painted decoration, shown here with stamped handles from Greek transport amphorae.

An important new element of the fieldwork this year was a programme of drill-coring conducted by Ben Pennington. A preliminary interpretation of the data suggests the presence of a river channel located to the west of the site, flowing south to north and laterally migrating from east to west: in all likelihood the Canopic branch of the Nile.

Agricultural and other activity continues to reveal pottery fragments on the surface that are useful for dating certain areas of the site. In the northern area, both east and west of the villages of Rashwan and Abu Mishfa, Ptolemaic, Roman and Late Roman pottery was observed. Many of the pieces were small and eroded and probably do not represent ancient occupation activity in these areas.

By the South Mound Late Period, Ptolemaic and Roman pottery was found, as well as Hellenistic stamped amphora handles and the head of a terracotta figurine of Harpocrates with well-preserved painted decoration. A number of small sherds were contained in the auger drill cores, which will help date the geological and archaeological sequences represented in these cores.  

As in the previous season, the results obtained this second season are very promising, and highlight the need and potential for further research in the field at this important site.