Egypt
Dush

© Dush archaeological mission

Éveha International took part in the Dush Ayn-Manawir project, directed by Béatrix Midant-Reynes (IFAO).

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


Direction

M. Wuttmann (†)

B. Midant-Reynes

Location and historical summary

Situated in the western Egyptian desert, on the same latitude as Kom Ombo, the site of Dush comprises several study areas. The central zone is located in the southernmost part of the Kharga Oasis, in the New Valley Governorate (al-Wadi al-Gedid). The earliest occupation dates from the Palaeolithic, though known remains from this period are very scarce, consisting of a few heated stone hearths found during field survey.

From the Epipalaeolithic onwards, varying numbers of sites have been identified throughout the late Prehistoric periods. These are often very well preserved, which allows them to be studied in detail.

Generally speaking, the climate became increasingly arid during these periods, which led to a concentration of populations around water sources, and thus a decrease in site diversity.

In the early historical periods, during the Old Kingdom, human occupation continues, and becomes increasingly concentrated. To date we have predominantly examined caravan stop sites.

The subsequent periods (Middle and New Kingdoms) are less well documented, and it appears that the region was to some extent abandoned, probably due to difficulties in finding enough water to sustain a permanent settlement. Further north, near the town of Kharga, human occupation seems to have been more permanent during these two periods.

It was not until the Twenty-seventh Dynasty (the first period of Persian rule in Egypt), in the 4th century BC that people began once again to settle permanently and in considerable numbers in this part of the Kharga Oasis. This was made possible by a new technique for obtaining water, namely qanats, or more specifically foggaras. These were sloping channels cut into – in this particular case – a permeable rock, containing water from the last rainy period (the equivalent of our glaciations). These tunnels allow the extraction of water by gravity, and large areas of (lower) land could therefore be irrigated.

This technique enabled the region to develop rather prosperously throughout Antiquity, up to the 4th-5th centuries AD, as evidenced by the numerous large fortified granaries found across the region.

Later, the gradual drying up of the perched water tables resulted in another population decrease. Only in the 19th century did a new influx of people occur, with the advent of mechanical pump systems. Human settlement here continues to the present day.

Brief research history

The presence of a large Roman stone temple, preserved in elevation, meant that the site was known as of the 19th century. However, scientific exploration did not take place until the late 20th century. When Egypt reopened the oases and the desert to foreigners in 1976, Serge Sauneron, then director of IFAO, decided to focus on the site of Dush, among others.

Investigations were concentrated on the tell associated with the temple, which was constructed within a fort or fortified granary.

After exploring the temple and the many inscriptions therein, the project’s focus soon shifted to the archaeology of the town, with small sondages being dug in the fort and more extensive excavations taking place in the town itself (carried out by Michel Reddé). Alongside this, new research directed by Françoise Dunand began on the town’s necropolises, which are situated at the foot of the tell.

Geomorphological studies conducted by Bernard Bousquet in the early 1990s demonstrated the importance of the qanats to the human settlements. Bousquet showed the particular importance of the site of Ayn Manawir, a few kilometres west of the main tell. This saw the beginning of a period during which many discoveries were made by the project team, under the direction of M. Wuttmann. The role played by Persian rule in the region’s development was also demonstrated during this time.

The latest phase of the project began in the early 2000s, still headed by Michel Wuttmann. At this time, the entirety of the region was being explored, so as to develop a comprehensive archaeological map. This phase is still ongoing.

New studies are also being launched to examine the Historical and Prehistoric periods, so as to give the project a new momentum.

How Eveha International Participates

Study of the qanats
GIS creation and management
Preparation for publication

PARTNERS

Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO)

Egyptian Ministry of State of Antiquities