An ancient Greco-Roman settlement in Egypt survived longer than traditionally assumed, archaeologists have proposed in a study.

The study, published in the journal Antiquity, reports that the settlement may have been occupied right up until the 7th century. Previous hypotheses have suggested that the site was abandoned in the middle of the 5th century.

The settlement, known as Karanis, was an agricultural town located in the Faiyum Oasis that is thought to have been founded in the 3rd century B.C. when Egypt was ruled by the ancient Greek Ptolemaic dynasty. This kingdom lasted until 30 B.C. when the region was conquered by the Romans.

Karanis, which may have had a population of several thousand at its peak, was already well-known to 19th-century archaeologists thanks to the huge number of papyri that were retrieved from the site.

Remains from the Roman town of Karanis
Seeds retrieved from the Karanis site (left) and the remains of a house (right). Karanis was an agricultural town located in the Faiyum Oasis, Egypt. KMA Karanis Archives photographs/Motta et al., Antiquity 2024

Large-scale excavations in the 20th century exposed residential areas, production facilities, granaries, temples and a bath complex.