A Hitherto Unrecorded Late Roman Settlement Found At A Prehistoric Archaeological Site In Elkab, Egypt


A joint group of Egyptian and American archaeologists has uncovered a flint quarrying site – containing valuable finds from different archaeological periods – in Elkab desert, on the west bank of the Nile River near Aswan. The discovery was made by the researchers while studying the Bir Umm Tineidba area in the Edfu city of Egypt, as part of the Elkab Desert Archaeological Survey Project.

The archaeological mission, which was carried out in collaboration with Yale University, led to the discovery of a treasure trove of archaeological material, including rock slabs with epigraphic inscriptions, rock art dating back to the Predynastic and Protodynastic periods as well as multiple ancient burial mounds. While some of the burial tumuli found at the site go as far back as the Protodynastic period, a few others belong to a hitherto-unknown Late Roman-era settlement.

According to John Coleman Darnielen, who led the Yale University team, the three rock art sections uncovered at the site in Egypt showcase important scenes pertaining to the Naqada II and Naqada III Dynasties. The Naqada culture is considered to be the most important Predynastic culture based in Upper Egypt. While Naqada II (also known as Gerzeh) spanned from circa 3500 BC to 3200 BC, Naqada III – the last phase of the ancient Egyptian culture – extended between 3200 and 3000 BC.

As per Darnielen, the newly-discovered paintings serve as a important evidence of the continuous synergy of artistic styles between the people of the Eastern Desert and that of the Nile Valley. Additionally, the images offer valuable information about the way Predynastic Egyptians communicated with one another, prior to the invention of the hieroglyphic script. He added –

The most impressive image may be dated to ca. 3300 BCE, depicting animals, including a bull, a giraffe, an addax, a barbary sheep and donkeys.


Among the findings uncovered as part of the mission were several burial tumuli that, researchers believe, housed the remains of a clan of desert dwellers with physical ties to the Nile Valley as well as the Red Sea. Analysis of one of the mounds at the Wadi Umm Tineidba site revealed that it was the burial place of a woman aged between 25 to 35 years.

A member of the local desert elite, the deceased was buried with at least one vessel that had been crafted in the standard Nilotic style. According to the archaeologists, other burial offerings included a strand of Red Sea shells and carnelian beads, which in turn point to her desert and Red Sea connections. With further analysis, the team hopes to learn more about these unknown desert people of Egypt.

Another important discovery made during the mission is a Late Roman-era settlement with several dozen of its stone structures still intact. Situated south of the tumuli and rock art sites, the ancient settlement was until now unrecorded in history. Based on the ceramic evidence recovered from the area, the site dates somewhere between circa 600 BC and 400 BC.

Together with similar archaeological sites found in the Eastern Desert, the newly-unearthed settlement will help shed more light on the archaeological map of the region, Darnielen averred. He elaborated further –

The newly discovered rock art at Bir Umm Tineidba reveal a desert population coming under increasing influence from the Nile Valley during the time of Dynasty 0.

Speaking about the significance of the findings, Darnielen stated that the rock art and the burial tumuli essentially represent the gradual coalescence of several “marginal” groups from the region into the early pharaonic culture.

Source/Image Credits: The Archaeology News Network