ABUSIR (Taposiris Magna)
A city on Lake Maryut, near Alexandria, with access to the sea. Vital to ship traffic is a lighthouse there that originated in the Imperial period. The name of the town probably derives from the sanctuary of Osiris found in the same spot, to which belongs a temple originating in the Ptolemaic period. Today all that is left standing of this temple is the peribolos wall built with finely dressed ashlar blocks. The temple itself was almost certainly pulled down shortly after its desecration.
Presumably, in the first half of the fifth century, the site within the area enclosed by the peribolos wall was used for a Roman military camp, mentioned by Zacharias Rhetor (Historia ecclesiastica 4.1). The well-planned single-story quarters for the soldiers lay adjacent to the wall, as was the rule in the time after Valentinian I (A.D. 364-378). In the southeast and southwest corners, respectively, remains of stairs have been preserved that secured access to the boundary wall. On the east side of the courtyard close behind the pylon stand the ruins of a small single-aisled camp church. Its discovery gave some grounds for erroneously regarding the above-mentioned structures in the temple as a monastery (Ward Perkins, 1943-1944, pp. 48-49). JUSTINIAN (528-565) richly endowed the town with buildings. Especially mentioned are the residences of the magistrates and baths. Further, the city figured prominently in the conquest of the country by the Persians in 619.
In the 1980s archaeological excavations were begun by an American mission in the course of which harbor buildings on Lake Maryut and a palacelike villa were revealed. Remains of a large early Christian church complex were found outside the wall to the west of the city. It is a large basilica with an adjoined chapel to which two large courts were attached. Both courts are surrounded with single- and double-lined rooms.
Plan of the early Christian church complex found to the west of Abusir.
Courtesy of Peter Grossmann.
Plan of the area enclosed by the peribolos wall, Abusir.
Courtesy Peter Grossmann.
- Adriani, A. “Travaux des fouilles et de restaurations dans la region d’Abousir (Mareotis).” Annales du Musee Greco-Romain 3 (1940-1950):129-39.
- Amelineau, E. La Geographie de L’Egypte a l’epoque copte, p. 122. Paris, 1893.
- Dorman, P. “Diary of a Dig.” Science Digest 79 (Sept. 1976):38-45. Gauthier, H. Dictionnaire des noms geographiques, Vol. 4. Cairo, 1925-1931.
- Grossmann, P. Elephantine II. Mainz, 1980.
- . “Die Kirche extra muros von Taposiris Magna.” Mitteilungen des deutschen archaologischen Instituts–Abteilung Kairo 38 (1982):152-54.
- John of Nikiou. The Chronicle of John, bishop of Nikiou, trans. from H. Zotenberg’s Ethiopic text by R. H. Charles. London, 1916. German trans. in Christentum am Roten Meer, by F. Altheim and R. Stiehl. Berlin, 1971.
- Ward Perkins, J. B. “The Monastery of Taposiris Magna.” Bulletin de la Societe archeologique d’Alexandrie 36 (1943-1944): 48-53.