Latest news

February 2019

Museum Scientist, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation fellow, Dr. Lucia Pereira-Pardo explains how the Museum employs the latest laser technology to conserve heritage objects. The wall painting currently undergoing conservation is part of the Wadi Sarga research project at the British Museum. The Museum is very grateful for the generous donation of the ER:Yag laser by Ed and Anne Teppo.

September 2018

King's College London student Tallulah Smart has just completed an MA thesis on commemorative practices at the Monastery of Apa Thomas at Wadi Sarga under the supervision of Dominic Rathbone. The study uses Campbell Thompson's digitised excavation documentation, foremost his notebooks, in order to survey the evidence for the monastery's cemetery, grave stelae and commemorative dipinti. Since many of the stelae were discovered in rooms of the monastery, and not in the cemetery, they may have been reused as building material or displayed for commemorative purposes.

July 2017

In February 2017, the famous wall-painting from the so-called Daniel villa located 2 kms north of Wadi Sarga was removed from display for conservation treatment. The wall-painting depicts 1) the Biblical proto-martyrs, the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, 2) framed by the internationally famous physician martyrs, Cosmas and Damian, and their three brothers, and 3) the otherwise unattested local '60 martyrs of Samalut'. It was removed immediately from display when routine condition checking revealed that modern plaster make-up was flaking from the surface as a result of vibrations caused by a new access route from the gallery. Before it is re-displayed in another location, conservation treatment aims to clean the surface of the wall-painting, removing a modern coating that has darkened with age, and to provide a new, lighter backing.

The in-progress conservation image (c. 1914-1916) and ultra-violet image (2017) show the extensive restoration the painting underwent after it arrived at the museum in 1914.


March 2017

Textiles from Wadi Sarga are now part of a BM Research project entitled 'Scientific approaches to textiles from First Millennium AD Egypt'. The project's first workshop, held 2-3 March 2017, included an overview of excavated textiles from the site presented by Frances Pritchard, and new work on dye analysis conducted by BM Scientist Joanne Dyer and Mellon Fellow Diego Tamburini.

November 2015

Frances Pritchard presented her study of Wadi Sarga textiles at the 9th Textiles from the Nile Valley conference, 27–29 November 2015, in a talk entitled, 'Textiles from Wadi Sarga, a 7th-century monastic site in Middle Egypt excavated in 1913/1914'. The textiles will be published in the conference proceedings.

February 2015EA 1788

Conservation treatment is underway for Wadi Sarga objects to be displayed in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Bode-Museum exhibition, ONE GOD - Abraham's Legacy on the Nile (1 April to 13 Sept 2015).

January 2015

Former AES Fellow, Jennifer Cromwell has been awarded a Danish Academy grant to study published and unpublished documents from Wadi Sarga as part of a project entitled ‘Monasteries as institutional powers in Late Antique and early Islamic Egypt: Evidence from neglected Coptic sources’—congratulations, Jenny!

December 2014

In 2014, one hundred years after the completion of the R. Campbell Thompson’s excavation of Wadi Sarga on behalf of the Byzantine Research Fund, the Wadi Sarga at the British Museum Research Project, has met several milestones with the digitization and publication of the excavation documentation and objects.

AES intern Tessa Baber, a graduate student at Cardiff University, digitized documentation R. Campbell Thompson’s field notebooks, his unfinished manuscript prepared for publication, correspondence and the original register of objects that came to the British Museum. The digitization of the notebooks, in particular, presented a significant challenge. Written 100 years, their pages are today are extremely brittle, powdery, or both. Working closely with British Museum Paper Conservation staff, Tessa scanned each of the pages, creating easy-to-use pdfs. Since conditions in the field in 1913/1914 meant that Thompson started and stopped work at various locations at the site, often turning the notebooks up-side-down to start fresh from page 1, they are tricky to use today. Tessa’s meticulous ordering of the pages now allows researchers study the notebooks without further damaging them.

The digitization of the excavation archive has been slow, but systematic. Archivist Patricia Usick catalogued the archive in 2008. Watercolours were digitized in 2009; photographic prints and negatives in 2011; architectural plans and 1:1 tracings of wall-paintings in 2012. The completion of Tessa’s project, with the assistance of Ruiha Smalley, marks the completion of the digitization of the excavation documentation.

December 2014

Jane Faiers preliminary assessment of the pottery from the 1913/1914 excavation at Wadi Sarga is now available:

Faiers, J. 2014. Wadi Sarga revisited: A preliminary study of the pottery excavated in 1913/14. In Egypt in the First Millennium AD: Perspectives from new fieldwork, E. R. O’Connell (ed.),  177–89. British Museum Publications on Egypt and Sudan 2. Leuven: Peeters.

July 2014

An illustrated overview of the history of excavation and the sources for study of the 1913/1914 excavation of Wadi Sarga is now published. The study includes a new geo-referenced map and architectural plans for the site.

O'Connell, E. R. 2014. R. Campbell Thompson’s 1913/14 excavation of Wadi Sarga and other sites. BMSAES 21: 121–92.

April-July 2013

Jennifer Cromwell photographed over 1400 ostraca and vessel notations as part of a three month fellowship in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, a new programme aimed at documenting the collection in the service of original research.

Documentation will contribute to Jenny’s on-going work on monasteries as economic institutions in Late Antiquity.

October 2012

British Museum Stone Conservation intern Francesca Guiducci completed cleaning and conservation treatment of the water-jug stand from Wadi Sarga (EA 1788) under the supervision of BM Stone Conservator Michelle Hercules. The stand is now display-ready.