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Egypt Exploration Fund.


Excavations for Papyri in the Fay6m ; the Position of Lake


Though the most important literary Greek papyri from Egypt have come
from sites in the Nile Valley between Memphis and Elephantine;, no
district has yielded so plentiful a supply of documents as the Fayum,
which for twenty years has been sending a steady stream to the great
Museums of Europe. Nearly all the sites in it have been tapped, but
though many are now practically exhausted by the efforts of sebahhm and
antiquity-seekers, there still remains much work to be done, especially in
the discovery of geographical information and the investigation of the
Graeco-Eoman cemeteries. The Ptolemaic cemeteries of the Fayum have
a particular interest because, with the exception of Akhmim and perhaps
one or two other places, it is only in the Fayum that the custom seems to
have prevailed of using papyri to form the cartonnage of mummies.

In the winter of 1895-6 we excavated with Mr. D. Gr. Hogarth in the
north-east of the Fayum at Kom Ushim and Umm el Atl,* which were
identified as Karanis and Bacchias respectively, and produced a fair number
of papyri {Arch. Rep. 1896, pp. 14-19). Last winter we obtained a con-
cession for excavating over a considerable strip of desert in the north-west
of the district, near the western end of the Birket el Kurun. In that
part of the Fayum, as on the north-east side, the margin of cultivation
receded four or five miles in the fourth century of our era, leaving several
towns formerly situated near the ancient edge of the desert some distance
inside it. In the last five years, however, increased prosperity and improved
methods of irrigation have resulted in the reclamation of several large
tracts; and the province not only will soon reach the boundaries which
it had in the Ptolemaic and Pioman periods, but bids fair to go beyond

Having several sites in our concession, we chose to begin at the largest
of them, Kasr el Banat, already known as a source of papyri. Work was
commenced on December 9. For the first week we had to be mainly
dependent on the few trained, workmen whom we had brought with us,
the local inhabitants, who were nearly all Bedawin, showing at first even
more than the usual disinclination for a fixed employment, mixed, no

* This is the correct name, not Kom el Katl.