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17 February 2008
Excavation work on a Neolithic settlement in Egypt

At the site, known as Z-Basin, on the north shore of Lake Qaroun, an archaeological and geological team from University College of Los Angeles (UCLA) and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG) stumbled upon what is believed to be the most complete Neolithic settlement ever found in Faiyum (Egypt). This discovery was made when the team was surveying the site to study fluctuations in the lake level which caused artefacts to be either covered with metres of sediment or dramatically displaced by erosion.
     This site was previously excavated in 1925 by Gertund Caton-Thompson, who found several Neolithic remains. This time the magnetic survey revealed that the settlement was much larger than expected and that the area excavated by Thompson was only a fraction of the site.
     According to mission director Willeke Wendrich, the Faiyum Neolithic had so far been considered as one period but this view may have to change. "Our first result of study gives us reason to believe that they might be dated to different periods within the Neolithic," he says. Careful excavation and analysis of the area will be carried out in the upcoming archaeological season in an attempt to enormously augment the knowledge of such an interesting site.
     Early studies, Wendrich says, show clearly that the site was covered by the waters of Lake Qaroun at an unknown time for an unknown period, as not only the surface is completely levelled but potsherds and limestone flakes are covered with a thick layer of calcium carbonate, which is usually indicative of a stand of 30-40cm deep water. The mission's work extended to Karanis at the northern edge of the Faiyum depression where remains of a Graeco-Roman city can be seen. The team implemented the first phase of a feasibility study for a site management project in Karanis, going on to photograph all the standing walls and covering approximately 40 per cent of the site.
     An assessment made at the site focussed on determining its exact boundaries by comparing satellite photographs with the results of a magnetic survey in the southwest and northeast of the town, as well as the cemetery at the north side of the Cairo-Faiyum road. The main purpose of the magnetic survey was to better understand the archaeological and zoo-archaeological remains at Karanis in a well- excavated context, as well as understanding the life and economic activities of the people who lived at Karanis inhabitants at times.

Source: Al-Ahram (13 Febryary 2008)

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