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MAREA: Archaeological Sites

Mediterranean > Egypt > Cities > Marea

The ancient sites of Mareotis were for many years given scarcely any attention, even though they were far better preserved and more accessible than those of Alexandria itself. In the early 20th century, when work at Abu Mina started, much was still in place. The renewed growth of Alexandria and its region led to removal of ancient stone blocks, and as recently as the 1960s, the area could for the most part be described as barely explored, with the significant exception of Abu Mina. W. Müller-Wiener’s survey work in the 1960s distinguished two types of settlements: (1) those near the lake, with dense complexes of buildings with heavy superstructures of a “normal” type, whether regularly or irregularly laid out, with the last visible phase almost always of the 5th-7th cent.; and (2) a type of ring-settlement, formed like rough enclosures of various sizes and shapes, lying farther from the lake, mostly lying on higher and stonier, but still cultivable, ground, locally called karm (vineyard, garden) in Arabic.

Considerable work of exploration has been done in the last few decades, leading to a better understanding of the ancient topography and knowledge of many sites, particularly of ancient wine production. Excavation, by contrast, has been very limited. A pottery kiln and wine factory in close proximity at Burg el-Arab were excavated, as well as sites surrounding Abu Mina. Apart from Abu Mina, work has mainly concentrated on Taposiris Magna and on the city zone on the south side of the western extension of the lake, referred to by the excavators and many others as Marea, but argued by some to be the ancient Philoxenite. Plinthine remains unexcavated, despite its obvious interest.

Philoxenite/Marea. The complex of sites near Hawwariya along the south side of the lake’s western extension has various been identified as the ancient city of Marea and as the service center for pilgrimage known from ancient sources as Philoxenite. It consists of several elements:

  1. The port area on the lake, looking across toward Taposiris Magna in a northwestern direction. This site has been partly excavated by the University of Alexandria. It includes several piers projecting into the lake; a street with shops along it, facing the piers; a double-apsed building with bath facilities; and a large building containing a mill.
  2. A wine factory, located south of the port.
  3. A large double peristyle complex located south of the port. This building contains a large room with apse and seems to have been used as a hostel for pilgrims in at least its later phases.

Bagnall, Roger, "Marea." Electronic Encyclopædia of the Ancient World. EEAW, Inc., 2002. (Accessed ).