Pisa University Archaeological Mission at Medinet Madi - Fayum


The Roman castrum of Narmuthis

(October-November 2006 - November 2007)

 


October-November 2006: The Castrum Narmoutheos recognised


The Mission of the University of Pisa has effected in the period October-November 2006 the usual annual activity in the Fayum.
The first part has been devoted to the continuation of the work of consolidation and restoration to the rock-cut Tomb of the Prince Uaget to Khelua under the superintendence of the architect head of the SCA to the Fayum Mr.Abd el Alym Mynisier, that has collaborated with competence and share.
The 12 pillars of the hypostyle Have been completed in height; the state of maintenance of the sculptures of the pillars has been monitored; the door of principal access has been closed with a door in iron; a secondary door has been blocked; the inferior part of the 6 fragmentary statues in external façade has been in a large extent restored and protected, eliminating the incrustations of salt that had altered her. Such work has been conducted directly by the personnel of the department of the restoration of the Inspectorate of the Fayum. The closing of the ceiling and the definitive completion of the restoration will be object of the next mission in 2007.
The second part of the season, as foreseen, has been conducted in Medinet Madi, in the area chosen by the Mission and approved by the SCA according to the undersigned contract.
During the operations of excavation have been brought to the light the principal structures of the Roman military camp, whose construction goes up at the end of the III century AD under the kingdom of Diocletian. About the existence of such camp we were informed till now only by manuscript sources (Notitia Dignitatum) and from some Greek papyrus. The Castrum of Narmuthis-Medinet Madi was the second Roman military camp of the Fayum, over that well known of Kasr Qarun, but till now it had not been located and discovered.
It is a quadrangular structure with walls of great thickness, strengthened with 4 angular towers and a circular central tower; endowed with two entries, the principal on the north side, the secondary one on the south side.
Has been shown great part of the perimeter and about halves the lodgings of the soldiers, destined to entertain the Cohors IV Numidarum located in Narmuthis under the command of a Roman tribunus.
The recovery of objects is limited to few bronze coins of the IV century AD, to modest and fragmentary rests of ceramics of daily use and to a fragment of relief on limestone with rest of colours, that represents the goddess Isis-Renenut in its usual form of feminine body and the inferior part of the body of cobra, but having a large squamous snake in relief on the chest.
The material written, all in Greek, is constituted by an ostrakon that it brings names of person and from some fragments of wine’s containers that they preserve the name of the owner, certainly a soldier.

The state of maintenance of the fortress has imposed us a big work of restoration and consolidation of the structures of mud bricks, mainly the enormous foundations, that it will continue together with the work of excavation in the next mission 2007.
In the second halves the month of November, according with our application to the SCA, a work of consolidation and restoration has been initiated in one of the houses of the second court of the temple of Medinet Madi. Such work has been conducted in accord with the Department of architecture and restoration of the Inspectorate of the Fayum and bottom an inspector's control sent by the SCA.
The mission was accompanied to Khelua and Medinet Madi by the inspector of the SCA Mazhar Ezt El Rweesy and by the inspector of the SCA Rezk Diab Ghadiry Hassan.

Members of the Mission: 
Edda Bresciani-Director, Rosario Pintaudi-Messina University,
Antonio Giammarusti architect, Flora Silvano, Angiolo Menchetti.


Preliminary report, april 2007

The archaeological Mission of the Pisa University has effected a mission during the month of April 2007, at Medinet Madi in Fayum, in continuation with that of October-November 2006, when happened the important discovery of the location and exploration of a Roman fortress, the Dioclezianus’s castrum Narmoutheos, localized in the archaeological concession of the Pisa University thanks to the use of a satellite map with the archaeological controls.
Till this discovery, the two sources for the existence of a castrum at Narmouthis in late roman epoch were the paragraph XXVIII, 46 of the Notitia Dignitatum (known historical source compiled at the end of the IV century), and a Greek papyrus of Theadelphia (P.Thead.4) that preserved the name of the commander of the castrum, Flavius Salvitius, in 328 A.D.
After this, in November 2001, the Pisa archaeological mission during the exploration of a house to south of the temple C, found, written on a Greek contract of guarantee dated to 326 A.D., the name of the same commander, now with the title of tribunus.
The only castrum of the Fayum till now recognized on archaeological site, excavated and published (at the end of the years '40) was that of Kasr Qarun, the ancient Dionysias, with two temples and the great fortress; the castrum Dionysiados- so named it in the Notitia Dignitatum- is well known thanks to the splendid Greek archives of Flavius Abinneus, commander of the Ala Quinta Praelectorum, troops of cavalry quartered in the castrum of Kasr Qarun.
As announced in the Report 2006, the castrum Narmoutheos, that entertained the Cohors Quarta Numidarum, has a quadrangular structure (50 x 50 ms.) with walls of mud bricks, thick 3,80 ms., strengthened with 4 angular towers and a circular central tower on the west side, placed side by side with another thick rectangular tower; it is endowed with two entries, the principal on the North side, built with prevalence of mud bricks and stone, the second one on the South side, toward the city, built in fired red bricks tied by mortar. On the East side, the wall and the bastions are practically to rock level, but are been traced in the plan.
Inside the fortress the exploration has been continued in April 2007 in the lodgings of the soldiers; the rooms in the zone South-West gave ceramic material of fragmentary kegs of ellipsoidal form ( have been counted the necks of some hundred kegs) presumably destined to contain the daily ration of wine (measured capacity l.0,75, a tenth of the capacity of the roman amphorae for wine in Fayum); on the most greater part of the fragments have been found written Greek names, often accompanied by the patronymic, surely the indication of ownership.
The exploration of the inside lodgings of the fortress is continued, in the West-North area, where the modern destruction has been less deep than of the oriental South half of the camp, allowing a survey of environments with preserved walls around the meter; it seems to be able to recognize a private lodging, maybe for the use of the chief of the castrum; this principal room preserves part of the original plaster and we found many fragments of the decoration with geometric motives. This sector of the castrum didn't directly access the zone of the cistern; but we found a singular installation still in situ, a plumbing of tuboli in tile along the walls of a elbow corridor, but we not have been able to recognize from where was destined to take and to bring where the water; perhaps a projected plan but not finished.
A long wall, currently tall less than a meter but that, calculating the height of the level on base the adjacent vault of the cistern, had to present himself with a height of around m. 1,70; using the comparison with Kasr Qarun, we can propose that on the raised base or bema; on the axle of the door North, existed the “chapel of the insignias”, flanked by two rooms.

The most important discovery of this mission is certainly that of a complex hydraulic system and till now without parallel, certainly worthy example of the hydraulic engineering of the Romans.
It is a square cistern (side: m. 3,35) inside the castrum, immediately after the entrance South, cut in the rock, and entirely covered by a vault in fired bricks. The vault has been found not whole, probably broken down by the fall of a great capital Corinthian for pillar (found collapsed inside the cistern).
The capital presumably originates from the colonnade that departed from the door North (on the
 model of Kasr Qarun) or maybe from the architectural structure of the chapel, as also two bases and columns found under the level between sand and collapses of wall in the room KMM South 3.
The destruction and the spoil of the castrum was performed, can be hypothesized, in the epoch of the to bloom of churches in Medinet Madi, and has been completed by the devastations of the sebbakhins.
The findings of objects in April 2007 consist in ceramics, some Greek Ostraka, few bronze coins very oxidize, and in a bronze bracelet, of Christian epoch adorned with a monogram of Christ.
Also during the mission of April 2007 has been devoted great care, time and money for the protection and the maintenance particularly of the hydraulic installations. 

The mission, formed by E.Bresciani, R. Pintaudi- Messina University, Angiolo Menchetti, the architect Antonio Giammarusti, was accompanied by the Inspector of the SCA Mohammed Badr el Din Hassan, who has been of great help and good collaboration.

Prof. Edda Bresciani Director of the Mission
Medinet Madi October 2006-April 2007

Preliminary Report November 2007

The archaeological Mission of the Pisa University - with Prof. Rosary Pintaudi, Messina University
has effected a mission during the month of November 2007, in the archaeological concession of the Pisa University at Medinet Madi in Fayum, in continuation with that of April 2007.
Inside the fortress has been continued the exploration in the lodgings of the soldiers, in the South half of the camp and the West-North area. The long wall, is confirmed as the raised base or bema; on the axle of the door North, existed the “Chapel” for the imperial cult, flanked by two rooms; the colonnade that departed from the door North (on the model of Kasr Qarun) arrived near the long wall, and the raised zone of bema was reached by 4-5 steps.
Outside of the castrum, in the north zone, has been discovered a “forno”, maybe industrial maybe for alimentary aims.

In April 2007 had been discovered inside the castrum a complex hydraulic system 
and till now without parallel, certainly worthy example of the hydraulic engineering of the Romans, a square cistern (side: m. 3,35) inside the castrum cut in the rock, and entirely covered by a vault in fired bricks.
But it was necessary continue the control of the system of the adduction and derivation channels; during November 2007 expedition this has been obtained with trenches till the actual fields, under which the old channel continues.The old agricultural channel, oriented South-North, gave water to the castrum’s cistern with a system of two tubs related by channel; an other water point present eleven steps to reach the cut- rock channel.
The place of two old saqyia is to recognize in the South section of the channel. This section of research (to be continue during next seasons) has been studied – for publication- in the exploration November 2007 by Emenuele Brienza.
It is clear that the explorations of this year show how it is necessary the control of the still existing areas around the archaeological sites, to avoid that the new cultivations could destroy the rests of ancient civilisation. We could call this interventions of our archaeological missions with the definition of “urgency excavations”.Also during the mission of November 2007 has been devoted great care, time and money for the protection and the maintenance of the big walls of the castrum and of the inner installations and the channel line with the important water points.

The Pisa University mission, formed by E.Bresciani, R. Pintaudi, Flora Silvano, Angiolo Menchetti, Antonio Giammarusti architect and the archaeologist and topographer Emanuele Brienza- Rome University, was accompanied by the Inspector of the SCA Mohammed Hamed Mohammed Ahmed, who has been of great help and good collaboration.
Next season of work: March-April 2008.

Prof. Edda Bresciani Director of the Mission
Medinet Madi 26 November 2007

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