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Monday, June 25, 2018

Egypt Exploration Society | Egypt’s Shifting Capital

Egypt's Shifting Capital

The Egypt Exploration Society has a long history of landscape study and settlement excavation in Egypt and this study day celebrates Egypt's unique history through the story of its shifting centres of urban life. Experts will focus on the urban development of Egypt from the Late Predynastic Period through to Medieval Islamic Cairo, considering Hierakonpolis, Nagada, Amarna, and Memphis along the way.

Download a booking form here, or book using the online system below. 


09:30 Doors open for registration

10:00-11:00 Predynastic 'central places': Naqada and Nekhen at the dawn of the early Egyptian state, Dr Grazia A. Di Pietro, University of Naples 'L'Orientale'

11:00-11:30 Refreshment break

11:30-12:30 Amarna (Akhetaten), Prof Barry Kemp, Amarna Project

12:30-13:30 Lunch (please make your own arrangements)

13:30-14:30 The Memphis survey after thirty years – where now?, Dr David Jeffreys, UCL/EES

14:30-15:00 Refreshment break

15:00-16:00 Ancient Egypt in Islamic Cairo, Prof Doris Behrens-Abouseif, SOAS

16:00-16:30 Refreshment break

16:30-18:00 AGM

18:00-19:00 Reception

*Subject to adjustments


Predynastic 'central places': Naqada and Nekhen at the dawn of the early Egyptian state

Dr Grazia A. Di Pietro, University of Naples 'L'Orientale'

In this talk the main results deriving from field investigations conducted at the settlements of Naqada and Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) in the Seventies-Eighties will be re-assessed in light of more recent research on pertinent unpublished archival materials and records. They will also be situated into the wider discussions about the emergence and nature of urbanism in ancient Egypt. Overall, the character and development of these two sites, considered to have been at the centre of two distinct polities involved into the complex dynamics that laid the foundation of the early Egyptian state, will be outlined.

Amarna (Akhetaten)

Prof Barry Kemp, Amarna Project

Akhetaten (modern Amarna/Tell el-Amarna) was created as a place dedicated to the Aten on previously unclaimed ground. We see it as a capital city. The building of a major palace where the king would spend at least part of the year and a temple which consumed large quantities of food made it a major centre of administration but whether it wholly replaced Memphis in these respects is not clear. The parts which accommodated the wishes of Akhenaten and members of his family were spread out over the desert plain in a fairly loose approximation of planning. The presence of the king, his court and his administration also required a supporting population, in part to contribute labour and skills. It could have reached 20,000 persons. It lived in a self-organized settlement accommodating rich and poor within merging, village-like neighbourhoods. Its appearance implies the absence of the kind of bird's-eye perspective that we are accustomed to, and which gives rise to the notion of urban planning. The whole city represents a ground-level only experience.


The Memphis survey after thirty years – where now?

Dr David Jeffreys, UCL/EES

The Society's Survey of Memphis project has, over the past thirty years, established an environmental and contextual model for the establishment and development of Egypt's real capital, in turn Memphis, Babylon and Cairo (as opposed to Thebes) over the past five thousand years. Here we explain the conceptual and practical approaches to the fieldwork programme and anticipate the likelihood and potential of further fieldwork in the future.

Ancient Egypt in Islamic Cairo

Prof Doris Behrens-Abouseif, SOAS

My paper looks at the multiple approaches to Ancient Egypt in the Islamic period. For a long time vestiges of Ancient Egypt continued to be in the range of vision of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities. While Cairo expanded utilitarian spoliation practices were taking their toll on the vestiges of Antiquity. However, an abundant historical and mythological literature on the marvels of Ancient Egypt continued to be transmitted to the eve of modern time. Occult traditions versus religious orthodoxy divided opinions among intellectuals and historians on how to deal with the monuments of the past.

Event details


Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1EH

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