The Neolithic in the Nile Delta

  • Joanne Rowland (Creator)
  • Geoffrey Tassie (Creator)
  • Sebastian Falk (Creator)



The prime component of the TOPOI II A-2-4 project was to re-evaluate archaeological records and finds resulting from earlier investigations within the context of recent and ongoing research across the region. The writing on these objects by the previous excavators has helped to reconnect many objects, not only to their grid square and depth, but even the structure, hearth or grave. Locating published and unpublished documentation and photos was also a major task, and this material is also helping us to better understand the site of Merimde Beni Salama, and allowing the re-contextualisation of the finds with their documentation. In this way museum collections are helping to inform the present archaeological field research and (re)construct the ancient past. During the course of this project several museums were visited to reassess the material collected during the 1920s to 30s.

This searchable web-based database is the result of the visits to the various museums by Joanne Rowland, Geoffrey Tassie, and Sebastian Falk. The recording policy (drawing, photographing and data entering) employed during this project varied according to the size of the collection. Photographs were taken of each object entered in the database, and drawings were made of the majority of the ceramic sherds and vessels in the database, whereas selective drawings were made of each of the various type of lithics in the database.

For certain collections, such as the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung Berlin, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the whole collection was examined and recorded. However, other collections, particularly the largest ones such as the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Cairo (ongoing), Sammlung des Ägyptologischen Institutes der Universität Heidelberg, and the Studiensammlung des Instituts für Ur- und Frühgeschichte der Universität Wien, selective sampling was employed due to the impracticalities involved in recording the whole collection. The objects recorded from the larger collections are a representative sample of the types of objects in each institution.

Several of the above mentioned institutions have searchable on-line databases of their collections, although they do not always have a complete photographic record in these on-line resources. Many of the other museums are developing searchable on-line databases. Some of the more prominent websites are listed below.


In Egypt the earliest evidence of mixed farming practices are at present found in Merimde Beni Salama on the Western Delta edge ca. 7,000 cal BP (5,000 cal BC) and the Faiyum 6,650 cal BP (4,650 cal BC), some 3,000 years after the beginning of agricultural practices in the Levantine Middle PPNB. The research project (A-2-4) The Neolithic in the Nile Delta focuses on the Neolithic site of Merimde Beni Salama and the region along the Western Delta edge from the modern town of El-Qata in the south to Khatatbah in the north. This area was first surveyed in 1927/8 by Hermann Junker and his team as part of the Austrian West Delta Expedition, which led to the finding of the first Neolithic site in the Nile Delta (Merimde Beni Salama), and its subsequent excavations. Since the most recent investigations in the region (in the late 1970s to early 1980s), significant new findings have come to light, notably the discovery of a Neolithic to Late Predynastic sequence (6th millennium to late 4th millennium BC) at the site of Sais (western Delta) and new discoveries along the northern shore of Lake Qarun in the Faiyum. Many more Early and Mid-Holocene sites in the Western Desert, Eastern Desert and Sinai have also been discovered in the last few decades. Research on the material from these sites allows us to think about the dispersal of technology in a new way, and more available data help us investigate the directionality of influence as we consider the production of lithics, ceramics and other examples of material culture.

Data Citation

The Neolithic in the Nile Delta, 2017, Topoi A-2-4, Edition Topoi
Date made available2017
PublisherEdition Topoi
Temporal coverage1930 - 2017

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