MedAfrica investigates the beginning of agriculture in the Nile Delta

After the successful season in Morocco, Giulio flew to the opposite edge of Mediterranean Africa to join the fieldwork of the Imbaba Governorate Prehistoric Survey in the site of Merimde Beni Salama, located in the western Nile Delta, c. 50 km northwest of Cairo.

Merimde is one of the most important Neolithic sites in the whole North Africa and one of the earliest village settlements which arose along the Nile Valley, c. almost 7000 years ago. It was discovered and excavated for the first time during 1920s by the Austrian West Delta expedition, directed by the German archaeologist Hermann Junker. During the 1970s and 1980s the area was investigated again by Josef Eiwanger (German Archaeological Institute) and by Zahi Hawass and Fekri Hassan (Egyptian Antiquities Organization). Since 2013 Joanne Rowland  (The University of Edinburgh) started a new cycle of research, named the Imbaba Governorate Prehistoric Survey, under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society’s Delta Survey. The project is currently investigating the whole hinterland of the site through a multidisciplinary project involving geophysical survey, test excavations, ground survey, and an environmental survey, as well as offering training in prehistory as part of a project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Institutional Links Programme of the British Council (‘Earliest Egypt: Conservation, Valorisation and Capacity Building’).

Merimde was occupied from c.5000 to 4300 bC and it is one of the earliest archaeological sites along the Mediterranean coast to have yielded evidence of domestic plants and animals imported from the Levant. This region, together with Northern Morocco, can be really considered as a real“door of Africa”through which people and resources circulated in the past.   

Giulio is one of the members of the project since 2015 and he is analysing the Neolithic stone tool production of the area. During this season he mainly focused on the techno-functional analysis of the ground tools assemblage and on the rich grinding tool equipment that testifies the ever more important role that farming practices played in the region during the course of the 5th millennium bC. The grinding stones which yielded plant residues that had already been examined in the previous seasons together with Anita Radini, were this time analyzed for use-wear. The items were firstly ultrasonic cleaned; their surfaces were then moulded using a high-definition impression system. These moulds are going to be analyzed under a metallographic microscope in order to get more precise information about the way in which the tools were used and the materials processed with them. Stay tuned to know more about the exciting results!

A very special thank for the success of the work must go to the Director of the project Joanne Rowland, to the Society for Libyan Studies who funded this aspect of the work, to the Institut Française d’Archéologie Orientale, Cairo for use of their laboratory facilities, and to the Department of Conservation and Research of the Ministry of Antiquities. Thanks also go to all the Egyptian colleagues and friends who supported Giulio in all the phases of his work. A particular mention goes to the two inspectors of the Ministry of Antiquities Nehad Abdelmoneim Abdel Rehem and Nabil Abdelmoniem Osman El Daleil who were present at the site during Giulio’s work, to the Director of the Abu Roash Inspectorate, Galal Ma’awad el Meshat, and to Yasseen Abdallah Hassan from Quft.

Would you like to know more about the amazing work in Merimde? Check the following websites out!

http://repository.edition-topoi.org/collection/MRMD/overview

https://www.ees.ac.uk/

 Merimde Beni Salama. View of the site with the Eiwanger circular house (photo: Giulio Lucarini; © Egypt Exploration Society)

Merimde Beni Salama. View of the site with the Eiwanger circular house (photo: Giulio Lucarini; © Egypt Exploration Society)

 Merimde Beni Salama. View of the site (photo: Giulio Lucarini; © Egypt Exploration Society)

Merimde Beni Salama. View of the site (photo: Giulio Lucarini; © Egypt Exploration Society)

 Merimde Beni Salama. Giulio Lucarini cleaning the stone tools in the ultrasonic tank (photo: Joanne Rowland; © Egypt Exploration Society) 

Merimde Beni Salama. Giulio Lucarini cleaning the stone tools in the ultrasonic tank (photo: Joanne Rowland; © Egypt Exploration Society) 

 Merimde Beni Salama. Giulio Lucarini moulds the stone tool surfaces (photo: Joanne Rowland; © Egypt Exploration Society)

Merimde Beni Salama. Giulio Lucarini moulds the stone tool surfaces (photo: Joanne Rowland; © Egypt Exploration Society)

 Merimde Beni Salama, Wadi Gamal. Grinding slab (photo: Giulio Lucarini; © Egypt Exploration Society)

Merimde Beni Salama, Wadi Gamal. Grinding slab (photo: Giulio Lucarini; © Egypt Exploration Society)

 Merimde Beni Salama. Our daily ration of giant tangerines (photo: Giulio Lucarini)

Merimde Beni Salama. Our daily ration of giant tangerines (photo: Giulio Lucarini)

 Merimde Beni Salama, Wadi Gamal. The inspectors from the Abu Rawash Antiquities Office visiting the site (photo credit to come; © Egypt Exploration Society)

Merimde Beni Salama, Wadi Gamal. The inspectors from the Abu Rawash Antiquities Office visiting the site (photo credit to come; © Egypt Exploration Society)