Publications of the Tell Timai Archaeological Project

Annual Excavation Reports of the Tell Timai Archaeological Project

Winter 2019
Summer 2019

Publications by our staff

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Tell Timai, (Egypt) 2009-2020, by James E. Bennett,
BAR Publishing, 2023

This monograph covers the excavations conducted at the Ptolemaic-Roman city of Tell Timai by the University of Hawaii from 2009 - 2020. It is divided into four parts. Chapter 1 concerns the excavation and identification of a previously unknown Ptolemaic-Roman temple complex in the north-west of the site, focusing on a monumental stone gateway and mud brick enclosure wall. Chapter 2 documents a large domestic structure on the outside of the enclosure and its associated domestic material culture. Chapter 3 discusses several Late Roman burials interred on the ruins of the temple’s western enclosure wall. And Part 4 analyses the initial excavations of a 2nd century Roman temple in the centre of the city, as well as the extensive pre-temple occupation layers and architecture found beneath, which potentially had later usage as a church.

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Archaeological Correlates of the Rosetta Stone’s Great Revolt in the Nile Delta: Destruction at Tell Timai, by Jay E. Silverstein and Robert J. Littman,
in Journal of Field Archaeology, 48:1, February 2023

A stratum at Tell Timai shows extensive evidence of violent destruction dating to the early 2nd century b.c. Burning, rapid abandonment of objects in a house, destruction of a kiln complex, weaponry, and unburied bodies spread over a wide area in North Tell Timai indicate the city of Thmouis was subject to an episode of warfare. The destruction at Thmouis parallels an account of the destruction of another Nile Delta city, Lycopolis, in the nome of Busiris, during The Great Revolt described on the Rosetta Stone (196 b.c.). Another stela from Memphis also refers to the Ptolemaic campaign in the region. The evidence from Tell Timai provides the first archaeological correlate of destruction during the Great Revolt in the Nile Delta.

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A Nilometer from Graeco-Roman Thmouis: Hydrographical, Historical and Ideo-Political Significance in Hellenistic Egypt, by Jay E. Silverstein, Robert J. Littman, Stacey Anne Bagdi, Elsayed F Eltalhawy, Hamdy Ahmed Mashaly, Emad Hassan Mohamed, and Mohamed Gabr,
in Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 35:1, 2022

In 2010, a construction project for a new water pumping station on the west side of Tell Timai (Egyptian Delta) encountered a limestone structure. This discovery triggered a salvage excavation that exposed a rare example of a well-preserved Delta nilometer. The architectural features of the nilometer reveal some specific and even unique adaptations consonant with the hydrological situation of the Graeco-Roman city of Thmouis. Unlike other examples of nilometers, an aqueduct runs from the north, spilling into the stairwell leading down into the stilling well. A dam stone in the aqueduct appears to have regulated the release of water. The nilometer was also articulated with an adjacent hill by a staircase. Folk tradition memorialised the stair and nilometer location in local fertility and healing rituals performed during Nile flood-related festivals; this tradition preserved the sacred space long after the nilometer and its associated architecture were buried and forgotten. The multifaceted role of the Thmouis nilometer in the cultural and economic life of the city and nome carries wider implications for the political organisation of the nome and the dynamic between syncretic forces and imperial appropriation in Graeco-Roman Egypt. Here we review the shape, function, archaeological context, ideological significance and hydrography of the nilometer and consider the implications of the nilometer for the history of the Mendesian nome and its sacred relationship with the Nile River.

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Eau de Cleopatra: Mendesian Perfume and Tell Timai, by Robert J. Littman, Jay Silverstein, Dora Goldsmith, Sean Coughlin, and Hamedy Mashaly,
in Near Eastern Archaeology, 84:3, September 2021

A combination of Classics, Egyptology, and experimental archaeology were utilized to recreate the (in)famous perfume used by Queen Cleopatra VII. Especially important was the use of classical sources and paleobotany to determine the identity of the Egyptian sacred oils such as camphor and balanos. Excavations at the site of Tell Timai revealed a perfumery that contributed to our ability to recreate the process of perfume manufacture. This ancient “Mendesian” perfume has since been recreated in the lab, exhibited at the Smithsonian, and worn again for the first time in millennia.

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Mudbricks, Construction Methods, and Stratigraphic Analysis: A Case Study at Tell Timai (Ancient Thmuis) in the Egyptian Delta, by Marta Lorenzon, Jessica Nitschke, Robert Littman, and Jay Silverstein,
in American Journal of Archaeology, 124:1, 2020

This paper presents a case study for the archaeological investigation of the earthen architecture at Tell Timai. The goal was to develop a methodology that can be implemented in the field by excavators with little geoarchaeological training and limited laboratory access in order to generate useful data for determining building stratigraphy and studying construction processes. Through the close examination and sampling of three buildings of different periods and scales, we tested a new field methodology combining geoarchaeological techniques and mensiochronology. The results provide information useful for stratigraphy and phasing as well as for identifying specific patterns of mudbrick manufacturing, production, and construction during the Graeco-Roman period at Tell Timai.

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The Archaeology of Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period, by James E. Bennett,
Cambridge University Press, 2019

The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1076–664 BCE) has been characterised previously by political and social changes based upon the introduction of Libyan social and cultural influences. In this book, James Bennett analyses the concepts of 'transition' and 'continuity' within the cultural and societal environment of Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period and provides an up-to-date synthesis of current research on the settlement archaeology of the period. This is done through the assessment of settlement patterns and their development, the built environment of the settlements, and their associated material culture. Through this analysis, Bennett identifies several interconnected themes within the culture and society of the Twenty-First to Twenty-Fifth Dynasties. They are closely related to the political and economic powers of different regions, the nucleation of settlements and people, self-sufficiency at a collective and individual level, defence, both physical and spiritual, regionality in terms of settlement development and material culture, and elite emulation through everyday objects.

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Importing Clay for Local Pottery Production in the 4th Century b.c. at Tell el-Timai, Egypt, by Nicholas Hudson, Liesel Gentelli & Joshua Trampier,
in Journal of Field Archaeology, 43:1, 2018

Archaeological evidence of ceramic production most commonly consists of locally procured raw materials. Excavations at Tell el-Timai in Lower Egypt recovered raw fine marl clay from two transport jars in the vicinity of pottery kilns dating to the 4th century B.C. Production wasters of small perfume bottles produced in the same fine marl clay were found inside the kilns. The marl clay inside the jars pointed to an origin outside of Lower Egypt. Samples of the clay and wasters, along with a confirmed locally sourced sample, were subjected to X-Ray Fluourescence (XRF) analysis, revealing significant differences in their chemical compositions. The results of the analysis are compared to published Egyptian data and an Upper Egyptian provenience is suggested because the raw clay is consistent with available comparative XRF data.

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“Is This Like the Nile that Riseth Up?” Ethnic Relations at Thmuis, by Robert J. Littman and Jay E. Silverstein,
in Frontiers of Colonialism, edited by Christine D. Beaule, University Press of Florida, 2017

In this chapter we focus on the period of Greek rule in Egypt and the influence of Hellenism from Alexander’s conquest of Egypt in 332 B.C.E. to the death of Cleopatra VII, the last Ptolemaic pharaoh, in 30 B.C.E. We attempt to discern some of the particulars of the imposition of imperial authority and the transition to a Greek model of administration represented in the documents and archaeology of Thmuis as opposed to the temple complex rule of adjacent Mendes. The most recent archaeological discoveries from the city of Thmuis in the eastern Nile Delta offer a new perspective on the process of Hellenism and the agency of the Egyptian people and priests in the complex milieu of colonialism, assimilation, exploitation, and resistance.

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The Terracotta Figurines from Tell Timai: 2009-2013, by James E. Bennett, Robert J. Littman, and Jay Silverstein,
BAR Publishing, 2016

This study documents the corpus of terracotta figurines that were found during excavations at Tell Timai between 2009 and 2013, assessing the locations where figurines have been found both at Tell Timai, and across Egypt, and discussing their usage within the settlements of Pharaonic and Ptolemaic-Roman Egypt.

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Late Persian and Early Hellenistic Pottery at Tell Timai, by Nicholas Hudson,
in Bulletin de Liaison de Céramique Egyptienne 26, 2016

This article presents three assemblages of pottery from the northern spur of the tell, and from Area R13 closer to the center. The assemblages, which are all from deposits that can be associated with living contexts,provide just over one hundred years of ceramic sequence. The pottery is presented primarily as a typological study, though by doing so, some preliminary observations on the broader context of Tell Timai can be made.

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A multi-analytical approach for the archaeometric identification of a Roman period glass furnace in the central Nile delta,by Liesel Gentelli and AbdelRahman Medhat,
in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol. 11, 2016

A circular structure was excavated in a suspected industrial area of ancient Thmuis (Tell Timai), and due to heavy vitrification and discolouration of the inside walls, was suspected to be a glass furnace. The excavated furnace provides a unique example to further understand the mechanisms of primary and secondary glass manufacture in Roman Egypt. Samples were subjected to a number of archaeometric investigations in order to characterise the furnace, and identify its purpose. Following attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy and scanning electron microscope energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), we conclude that the furnace was used for glass. We propose that it is most likely that the furnace represents a small-scale, secondary glassmaking centre, shaping glass manufactured at Wadi el-Natrun, and recycling glass objects from the local area.

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A Hellenistic Household Ceramic Assemblage from Tell el-Timai (Thmuis), Egypt: A Contextual View, by Nicholas Hudson,
in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research , 2016

Large deposits of domestic pottery from primary contexts in Ptolemaic Lower Egypt are uncommon and seldom presented in their entirety. is article presents four primary deposits from the destruction level of a late third/early second-century structure at Tell el-Timai in the Nile Delta (ancient muis). e architectural setting for the deposits is presented, followed by presentations of each deposit in its entirety, organized by functional classi…cations. Analyses of the deposits are then used to suggest behavioral possibilities, with particular attention to bread baking and drinking activities. is is followed by a discussion of the nature of the total assemblage within the context of Egyptian pottery studies and an explication of how the assemblage can be understood as part of the broader region of the Levant during the Hellenistic period.

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The Story of Ancient Timai, by Isabel Zermani,
Published by Nahdet Misr, 2015

The people of the present are the guardians of the past. This book is an 88 page illustrated history of ancient Timai written in both English and Arabic. Two thousand copies were distributed to the village schools surrounding the ancient site.

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Troupe of Six Terracotta Acrobat Figurines found in a Votive Pit at Thmuis, by James Bennett,
in Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, 96:2, 2014

Excavations by the University of Hawaii at the Greco-Roman City of Thmuis in 2011 unearthed a group of fragmentary acrobat terracotta figurines in a votive pit located up on the central portion of the tell in grid square R-13 in the heart of the ancient city. Examination of the terracottas and the material from within the pit showed that these figurines dated to the Late Hellenistic Period or the Early Roman Period. They were subsequently ritually deposited in a pit within an abandoned structure around the second half of the 1st Century A.D. The acrobats are modelled in classical Greek style and form part of the genre of figurines and scenes representing Africans that were popular in Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period. These terracotta figurines are the first example of this terracotta mould series to be found in Egypt depicting this pose.

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With and Without Straw: How Israelite Slaves Made Bricks, by Robert Littman, Marta Lorenzon, and Jay Silverstein,
in Biblical Archaeology Review, 2014

For several years now, we have been studying the process of mudbrick making in our excavation at Tell Timai. Our site is in the village of Timai El Amdid in the Nile Delta, which still has many mudbrick structures, some of them collapsing. We hired a traditional mudbrick maker from the village to help us. He is a member of a dying profession. With his help during the summer of 2013, amidst the turmoil of what was then being called the Arab Spring, we were making mudbricks using ancient methods.

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Food Consumption During the First Century BCE at Thmuis, by Sean Winter, Colleen Westmor and Courtney Bobik,
in Current Research in Egyptology XV Proceedings, 2014

This paper describes salvage work in Unit O7-15 conducted during the 2011 field season and the subsequent analysis of recovered assemblages during 2012. A collection of seven in situ circular ceramic ovens, and a midden of bone and shell remains, allowed for the examination of the diet of the people of ancient Thmuis, and the Nile Delta.. Ceramic and numismatic evidence dates these features to the first century BCE, with perhaps some crossover into the first century CE.

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Late 4th. Century Pottery from Tell Timai (Thmuis), by Nicholas Hudson,
in Bulletin de Liaison de Céramique Egyptienne 24, 2014

During the 2010 excavations at Tell Timai, a series of kilns produced evidence of early-to-mid Hellenistic phase pottery. Approximately 40 kilograms of pottery, much of it well-preserved, likely represents activities at the site from the very end of the Persian period and hints at this next historical period of Egypt.

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Preliminary Report on the Pottery at Tell Timai (Thmuis), by Nicholas Hudson,
in Bulletin de Liaison de Céramique Egyptienne 24, 2014

Approximately 4,500 kilograms of pottery were recovered and processed at Tell Timai in the eastern Delta during the 2010 and 2011 University of Hawaii excavations directed by Robert Littman and Jay Silverstein. While most of this pottery came from mixed contexts, five discrete deposits were documented from three different locations on the tell that provide valuable typological and contextual information about the Ptolemaic and Early Romanphases at the site. This report is the first and preliminary analysis of those deposits, representing as they do the best archaeological contexts encountered so far at the site that yielded pottery that was more or less internally consistent within each deposit.