The Fayum Project

Season 2003

The purpose of the Fayum Project is to make a diachronical study of the human use of the desert area north, north-east and east of Lake Qarun. This year initial surveys were made of the two Roman sites, Qaret Rusas and el-Qarah el-Hamra, and of the prehistoric remains in the area. Surface collection and survey were started in two areas that have been studied in the past by Gertrude Caton-Thompson and Elinor Gardner (1924-1928) and by Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schild (1969). We studied and measured the cross section of the Z-Basin at sea level north east of the existing lake Qarun. This area contains dense scatters of lithic cores and debitage along the north rim.


Excavation of two trenches in a storm ridge along the north side of Z-basin resulted in a good geomorphological sequence of lacustrine and wadi deposits. Trench 1 yielded 19 different depositional layers. In Trench 2, where 17 layers were identified, a Qarunian tool was found at a depth of 1.55 m under the present surface. This position is concurrent with the level of a Holocene layer identified in a sandstone butte 1200 m. to the east of the storm ridge trenches.

In an area 900 m. east of these two trenches a surface collection area of two rows of 75 x 5 meters were layed out, running south-north, with a space of 5 m in between. All flint and bone fragments were collected from the surface. This resulted in a clear scatter pattern. South of this area a hearth and bone scatter was planned in detail and the eastern part was excavated.

Both trenches yielded a series of lacustrine deposits with embedded fishbone. No remains of human activity were found in either of these, but the difference in soil between the trenches are extremely important to understand the development of the movement of the lake over time.

Qaret Rusas

Work in the Greco Roman site of Qaret Rusas was preliminary. It was established that due to its extremely low position (-40 m ASL) the site had been flooded several times after its foundation and abandonement. No surface features have survived. Before excavation can start, a geophysical survey should be done over the entire surface area.

el-Qarah el-Hamra

A site that is not mentioned in the literature was discovered by the team at a distance of about 5 km north-west of Qaret Rusas. The site for now has been named el-Qarah el-Hamra (after the name of the peninsula) and is located at the same level (-40 m ASL) as Qaret Rusas. This area requires a similar initial approach as Qaret Rusas. For the 2004 season an extensive geophysical survey will have to provide a record of the antiquities present. While determining the extent of el-Qarah el-Hamra the team noticed that at least half of the site has been disturbed by very recent and ongoing agricultural development.