The ancient trading port of Naukratis, located in the Nile Delta, was the earliest Greek settlement in Egypt. Founded in the 7th century BC and flourishing for some 1300 years, it was a major point of early direct contact between Greeks and Egyptians and remained a key node in the networks of exchange that linked Egypt with the Mediterranean world for over a millennium. Yet despite its importance, the site, first excavated in the 19th century by Flinders Petrie and David Hogarth, was long poorly researched and understood.
Since 2002, Naukratis has been the subject of research at the British Museum. In 2011, a major international Research Project was launched under the direction of Dr Alexandra Villing that combines the historical and scientific restudy of the early excavations with a new programme of state-of-the-art fieldwork. The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the work affords new insights into how Greeks, Egyptians and others lived, traded and interacted in this city and sheds new light on the lasting impact of these cultural exchanges.
The main output of the project is the Online Catalogue of the over 18,000 finds from the early excavations at Naukratis which, though physically distributed over more than 70 museums worldwide, are now digitally reunited. The searchable catalogue is a 'living' database that is continually updated to reflect the latest research. It is accompanied by an extensive set of analytical chapters that will continue to grow as research progresses.
Since 2012 the project has been engaged in new fieldwork to investigate the substantial untouched archaeological remains at the site as well as its wider setting in the Nile Delta landscape. Excavations and archaeometric and geomorphological surveys are providing vital new data that allow us to critically reevaluate and revise the traditional and highly incomplete picture of the site. In addition to mapping large parts of the town and tracing the Canopic branch of the Nile and its relation to the site, work is now concentrating on investigating key archaeological structures such as the early Greek sanctuaries of the Dioskouroi and the Hellenion as well as previously unexplored areas such as the banks of the river Nile.
The Institute of Classical Studies is delighted to be a collaborating institution in this ambitious international project that involves numerous institutions and scholars on five continents. In addition to providing invaluable library resources and supporting specific aspects of the Project’s work, the Institute is directly involved in research via Dr Alan Johnston, a long-standing Associate Fellow and student of Naukratis material since the 1960s, who is an active member of the team working in the British Museum, responsible for the study, collation and publication of large parts of the important body of Greek pottery and inscriptions from the site.