Archaeologists have found in Marea, at the archaeological site of Hawara, Egypt, traces of a large planned city, founded in the second half of the sixth century. “These planned urban centers are extremely rare in late antiquity [3.500 a.C. a 476 d.C.]”, say the scientists in the study published on July 12 in the scientific journal Antiquity.
Marae was founded during the time of Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC on the shores of Lake Mareotis, 45 km west of Alexandria, and inhabited during the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic (early) periods until the 8th century. Since the late 1970s, Egyptian, American, French and Polish archaeologists have been excavating this site.
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“These investigations focused mainly on discovering Byzantine buildings, redoing their floor plans and understanding how they worked. This approach, however, failed to capture the broader urban and historical context of the city’s functioning,” write researchers from the University of Warsaw, Poland, in the recently published article.
Polish archaeologists have found a detailed plan of “modular” ground-floor buildings from the 6th to 8th centuries, built on the ruins of a Roman wine-producing farm, occupying a total area of 13 hectares (130,000 m²).
According to the survey, the planned urban center could have hosted shops and homes lined up next to one another and a 6th-century structure used by pilgrims traveling to the Christian shrine at Abu Mena, also in Egypt.
The first construction boom in Marea occurred in the Greek period (305 BC to 30 BC) and later, when the Romans came to dominate Egypt, from 30 BC to the year 641, when the Muslims conquered the region, reveal the scientists.
In the Muslim period, as the study shows, the number of urban settlements caused the interruption of the construction of new cities. So the discovery of a planned urban structure was a surprise to archaeologists at the University of Warsaw.
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