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The University of Southampton
ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Research project: Ansina survey project

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The great Hadrianic foundation of Antinoöpolis in Middle Egypt was one of the major urban centres of Roman Egypt. With the increasing popularity of Christianity, and the associated extraordinary flourishing of the monastic lifestyle in Egypt, the character of the city’s hinterland changed dramatically.

Ansina from the south
View of the mud-brick architecture

In late Roman times (from about the fifth century) an entire suburban settlement known today as Ansina, or Upper Ansina, grew up a short distance to the south, with enclosure walls butting on to the great city walls of Antinoöpolis. This monastic ‘town' continued in use until around the eighth century.

The site comprises a significant area of standing mud-brick architecture, with walls standing to some 8 metres in height (up to three storeys). The western, riverside, half of the site was bady denuded by fertiliser-miners during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the better-preserved eastern half, the town in subdivided into sectors by means of internal enclosure walls, and characterised by multiple churches, chapels and oratories; free-standing towers with internal staircases; and complexes with central corridor giving onto domed chambers, which may have served the purpose of living quarters, or ‘cells'.

With the aid of a grant from the Gibbs fellowship fund of Newnham College, Cambridge, in 2005 the standing remains at Ansina were surveyed using a combination of total station and DGPS; exposed sections were recorded and sampled; and architectural, ceramic and archaeobotanical studies were undertaken.

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