Marea Island

Team leader : Valérie Pichot

The Maréa island site is located on the southern shore of Lake Mariout, some 40 km south-west of Alexandria and 350 m north-east of the site of Marea-Philoxenite.


From 2003 to 2012, the CEAlex conducted excavations on the site for two to four months per year, but was forced to stop because of the very sharp rise in the level of the lake from 2008-2009. The changing distribution of water in the basins of Lake Mariout resulted in part of the island being lost and a rise in the water table, preventing any viable archaeological work on the site.

Nonetheless, the excavations revealed a major settlement dating back to the 2nd century BC, with the presence of a residential area consisting of tower-houses that are still unique in the Mareotid. These tower-houses were taller than they were wide, the foundations and first courses were of stone, while the upper walls were made of mud brick; they could have stood around 10 m high. Two of these houses were completely cleared, two others were examined through trenches, and three others have been identified further north by geomagnetic prospecting. This district changed and underwent redevelopment in the second half of the 2nd century BC.

The Early Empire was marked by a very clear change in the way the island was occupied, due in part to a rise in the level of the lake, which seems to have begun at the beginning of the Early Roman Period. Activities in the area seemed to intensify and major developments were carried out on the island. The residential area was completely transformed. All the buildings close to the shore, on the lower part of the island, were abandoned and these areas were never reoccupied. In the “upper” parts, depending on the location, Hellenistic buildings were redeveloped and extended, or destroyed, filled in and new buildings erected on earlier levels. At the northern end of the island, there was a large lakeside villa that managed an agricultural area on the mainland. The causeway linking the island to the mainland to the south, transforming it into a peninsula, also dates from this period.

Occupation of the site came to a halt at the end of the Early Imperial Period, due to a second, more significant rise in the level of the lake, which seems to have occurred in the course of the 3rd century. After a period of abandonment, the island was occupied on a seasonal basis during Late Roman times by quarry workers, lime burners and blacksmiths who salvaged the available materials and whose activities were partly linked to the development of the nearby pilgrimage station of Marea-Philoxenite.


V. Pichot, « Marea Peninsula. Occupation and workshop activities on the shores of Lake Mariout in the work of the Centre d’Études Alexandrines (CEAlex, CNRS USR 3134 », in L. Blue et E. Khalil (éd.), Lake Mareotis. Reconstructing the past, Proceedings of the International Conference on the Archaeology of the Mareotic Region held at Alexandria University, Egypt 5th-6th April 2008, University of Southampton Series in Archaeology 2, BAR S2113, Oxford, 2010, p. 57-66.

V. Pichot, « Deux maisons-tours dans la chôra d’Alexandrie », in S. Marchi (éd.), Les maisons-tours en Egypte durant la Basse époque, les périodes ptolémaïque et romaine, Nehet 2, 2014, Paris, p. 135-155.

V. Pichot, M.-Fr. Boussac, « Le porte-cassolette de Maréa/Philoxénité », in J.-Y. Empereur (éd.), Alexandrina 4, Études Alexandrines 32, Centre d’Études Alexandrines, Alexandrie, 2014, p. 165-186.

V. Pichot, J.-M. Vallet, N. Bouillon. O. Guillon, M. Pomey, « Matières colorantes de l’Alexandrie hellénistique : de la fouille au laboratoire », in M.-T. Dinh-Audouin, D. Olivier, P. Rigny (éd.), Chimie et Alexandrie dans l’Antiquité, Colloque de la Maison de la Chimie, 12-13 février 2019, Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie, Paris, 2020, p. 125-144.

V. Pichot, Aux portes d’Alexandrie. Le développement de la Maréotide hellénistique et romaine, Études Alexandrines, Centre d’Études Alexandrines, Alexandrie, à paraître.