The once great city of Tinnis without doubt played a key role in the economic development of early Islamic Egypt. At the height of its prosperity the town housed a population of considerable size and variable wealth, with merchants and traders coming and going from its harbours to points east and west around the Mediterranean and further afield.
An image of the city, full of great public buildings, the site of major and important political upheavals, crowded and teeming with life, has come down to us largely because of the generous devotion of wordspace to Tinnis in the accounts of medieval Arab writers. Most academic publications that have so far attempted to elucidate the situation and condition of Tinnis are based on these undoubtedly useful sources.
The archaeological site of Tell Tinnis is located on a low island some 7km south-west of Port Said, on the southern side of the ferry channel between Port Said and the town of Matariya, in Lake Manzala, at the northeast fringe of the Nile Delta. Initial, relatively short, visits to the site were made during 1999 and 2001. This preliminary work comprised site walking, limited ceramic sampling and recording of exposed sections in the main area of the Egyptian excavations. Between 3-22 April 2004, a larger archaeological survey was undertaken, during which the topography of the mounds and all visible remains were mapped using DGPS; a significant area in the centre of the site, as well as a smaller strip across the northeast walls was survey using magnetometry; and architectural and ceramic studies were carried out.
In spring 2009, further geophysical survey was carried out on the southern and eastern edges of the site, in cooperation with Kristian Strutt and John Cooper. The magnetometry survey was extended, and GPR was successfully trialed (despite the damp and saline conditions). The plan of a large courtyard building, perhaps a khan, was revealed just inside the walls in the east; the alignments of surrounding buildings, and some possible routes around them, were also visible. In the southern sector, magnetometry was conducted over the junction of the south canal and the great city walls, and the canal was seen to continue, with structures along the banks, outside the limits of the walled town.