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Naukratis-2014

Rather than start off our day with the usual doom and gloom, how about something cool? Like the rediscovery of an Egyptian city that was known about but not thought to be important until more excavations were done. And now they find out it’s a big trading center.

Geophysical and other surveys paint a vivid picture of the city. “It is clear from this new evidence that much of [Naukratis] was populated with tall tower houses that commonly had three to six storeys. These are similar in construction to those found to this day in Yemen. We should imagine a mud-brick Manhattan, populated with tall houses and large sanctuaries, befitting a large cosmopolitan city.”

Thomas added that the excavations show Naukratis as having been more densely inhabited than had been thought, supporting a population conservatively estimated at around 16,000.

He said the finds also cast new light on the lives of women in the city: “There are more Greek inscriptions of the sixth century from Naukratis than in any Greek sanctuary. They tell us a lot about the traders: there are some women represented; usually it’s just male traders. There are characters that also appear in other Greek cities, so we can start to track where people are coming from.”

Naukratis was a place where cultures mixed and goods from the ancient world were traded. Egyptian grain, papyrus and perfumes were exchanged for Greek, Cypriot and Phoenician silver, wine and oil. Cooking pots in both Egyptian and Greek styles have been found alongside bread platters, dishes and a wide variety of amphoras and figurines from the fifth and fourth centuries BC, ritually deposited during Egyptian festivals related to the inundation of the Nile, such as the “festival of drunkenness”. Terracotta figurines include depictions of Hathor, goddess of the sky, women and love, and of a worshipper carrying a phallus and a wine jar.

I am an ancient scholar in no sense and I have essentially zero knowledge of this stuff. But I do love the idea of recovering lost knowledge so every new discovery and every scrap of paper with some sort of writing on it from these ancient civilizations adds to our knowledge. Just neat.

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