Monday, September 6, 2021

Discovery of 6th-century Christian Town in Egypt

 From Al Monitor:

A team of Polish researchers has discovered evidence of a well-planned Christian settlement dating to the sixth century in the ancient Egyptian port city of Marea. The discovery was made along Lake Mariout about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Alexandria just a few miles south of the Mediterranean Sea near the present-day village of Hawwariya.

Archaeologists said the settlement also has a building that was used by Christians on pilgrimage to Abu Mena and the tomb of St. Mena, a Coptic martyr associated with healing who died in the late third or early fourth century when Christians were still being persecuted. The Abu Mena World Heritage site is about 17 kilometers, or some 10 miles, south of the Christian settlement, and has a modern monastery. Pilgrims back in the day would have arrived at Alexandria and sailed across the lake to Marea before heading to Abu Mena.

The Christian settlement studied covers an area of about 13 hectares, or 33 acres. Polish archaeologist Mariusz Gwiazda was quoted by the website Ancient Origins as saying the discovery has “revolutionized our understanding” of the ancient city of Marea, which was founded following the 332 B.C. conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great.

The Christian settlement appears to have been a well-planned "dense urban area without defensive walls" that was not built until the second half of the sixth century, according to an article published in the August issue of the journal Antiquity. The community's modular building system of one-story structures with duplicate floorplans "and fixed sizes" measuring 14 meters by 10 meters (46 feet by 33 feet) was not typical of that period. The adjoining rectangular modules reached a length of 260 meters (850 feet) and housed residences and shops.

The planned town also had a basilica, two bath areas and five public latrines with sewage channels that drained into the lake. Antiquity also said that words written on pottery indicated the "presence of a nosokomeion, or hospital, a building that became common in the Byzantine period." Research showed the community had a "complex system of straight streets with adjoining buildings serving various functions and an artificial waterfront linked to an extensive port infrastructure." (Read more.)


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