Research themes


Scientific Projects (five-year-plans 2002-2026)


Theme 1: Alexandria in the making: topography and urbanism

Salvage excavations conducted by the CEAlex within Alexandria throughout the decade 1992-2002 successfully shed light on the occupation of the city and its individual districts over the long term and provided a mass of data that merits analysis and publication.

In the land of the living, we cover domestic contexts of the Hellenistic Period (Cricket Ground site), the Roman Period (Diana Theatre site) and the Medieval Period (Fouad site), as well as Hellenistic commercial (Fouad site)and manufacturing contexts (Diana Theatre site), We are also studying a public utility of the Middle Ages  ((El-Nabih cistern).

Continuing underwater campaigns on the site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria are aimed at achieving complete photogrammetry coverage (1.6 hectares) in three to four years’ time: currently 70% is covered. Thereafter, with the three forthcoming volumes published, architectural studies of the sunken blocks and their digital copies are set to continue.

As for the land of the dead, preparation of the previously unpublished sectors of the Bridge necropolis (Necropolis) was begun in 2020 and publication will be accompanied by an online GIS including archaeological and anthropological details of the burials. The provision of PhD funding, obtained in 2021, for the subject of archaeo-anthropology will allow for continued development of this form of research on the Christian cemetery of the Lux site, which has been dated to the 6th-7th century and betrays evidence of crisis mortality.

The study of the medieval cisterns of Ibn Battuta and Gharaba are part of a new approach to the relatively unknown western sector of the town that aims to trace the last section of the canal which connected the Nile to Alexandria over the long term, as well as the site of the ancient enclosed harbour (Kibotos). The study of Alexandria’s fortifications of the Medieval and Ottoman eras, especially Fort Qaitbay, will be completed.

Research into the modern cartography of Alexandria will lead to the publication of two volumes looking at both the production of maps and those who produced them. Inspired by the CairMod GIS developed by InVisu, Persée, the IFAO and the ENSG, and in continuity with the CollexPersée EGYNUM programme, we are also intending to produce an AlexMod GIS, combining maps of Alex from the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, postcards of the town (roughly one thousand uploaded to Gallica in 2021 with detailed metadata), and gazetier the monuments and places represented. This development is part of Working Group 3 (Geovisualisation) of the Huma-Num DISTAM project, led by the CEAlex.

After studying Alexandria at the time of the British bombardment and subsequent profound changes to the urban centre in 1882, and Alexandria during the First World War, the impact of the Second World War on the urban fabric, the multiple foreign communities and the very place of the town during the conflict will be examined in collaboration with the IFAO and Rhône-Alpes Historical Research Laboratory (LARHRA).


Theme 2: Exploring the Alexandrian countryside and reconstructing land use changes

An initial stage in this research was reached with the creation of the archaeological, paleoenvironmental and heritage map of the Mareotid. The development of a diachronic geomatic framework for the region and a current assessment necessary for the direction of archaeological intervention have been achieved, along with documentation that is as complete as possible for almost 200 sites, and the forthcoming publication of an initial archaeological and historical examination of the overall region. We must now complete publication of the sites of Akademia, the Marea” peninsula and Kom of the Quarry, and the ceramological and archaeometry studies of the amphorae ateliers. At the same time, we must continue intensive prospection of this region as it experiences great urban and industrial changes.

Two lines of research are to be developed. The first is an archaeobotanical approach to the region, working hand-in-hand with the archaeozoological approach, already well developed for the town, in terms of sampling methods and the specialists involved. The second aims at a better understanding of the agricultural structures that were very specific to the region – the karm – (Arabic for vineyard), which can be recognised by embanked fields measuring up to 3 km long by 1 km wide with farms and water systems. More than 600 have been recorded through cartographical analysis. A typochronology needs to be drawn up in order to be able to reconstruct land use from the beginning of the Hellenistic Period until the beginning of the Medieval era. 

The continued dig at Kôm Bahig, as part of the excavation school for Ministry of Antiquities’ inspectors and students of Alexandria University, will unquestionably throw greater light on the Pharaonic-era sanctuary that once stood on this site and which was frequented until the end of the Hellenistic Period. Thereafter it was most probably abandoned and then pillaged for building material for a new urban development slightly to the north on the shores of Lake Mariout. 


Theme 3: Alexandria near Egypt and on the shores of the Mediterranean: manufacture and trade of products and foodstuffs

As part of the continued endeavour to draw up a typochronology of the ceramics used at Alexandria, four studies are to be undertaken and/or published: cinerary containers of the Hellenist and Roman Periods, production and consumption of common ware pottery in the Western Delta during the Roman Period; ceramic consumption in Ottoman Alexandria; and Ottoman pipes.

Previous research into the use of glass in Alexandria from the city’s foundation until the Ottoman period based upon material found in the CEAlex excavations, and publications of the glass collections of the Graeco-Roman Museum and of the Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University, will be relaunched.

In the field of numismatics, work is scheduled to complete the study and publication of coins excavated by the CEAlex since 2000, and the integration of the entire corpus of coins from all CEAlex digs into the already-existing open-access platforms (Ptolemaic Coins Online and RPC Online), In addition we hope to publish the Graeco-Roman coin collection of Alexandria University Faculty of Arts Museum, and continue studies of the silver coins held in Alexandria’s Graeco-Roman Museum.

The wealth and diversity of materials found in the Late Roman jewellery workshops of the Diana Theatre site require a wide-ranging study bringing together different specialists and disciplines. The archaeometric study begun on the garnets will be continued on the emeralds and amethysts in collaboration with the C2MRF, and the examination of the glass bead workshop, which recalls other Alexandrian discoveries, will be conducted in collaboration with the Centre Ernest Babelon/IRAMAT.

On a broader level, the CEAlex intends to work with the IFAO on a long-term project looking at fire-use craftsmanship in Egypt, paying particular attention to the operational chain of the different crafts (pottery, metallurgy, glass and, relatedly, lime kilns) and their production structures.

Alexandria, with its position on the Mediterranean, was also a remarkable centre of the trade in foodstuffs, particularly in when transported inamphorae. After the online and hard copy publication of the corpus of Rhodian eponym dies, the next step is the creation of a joint collection with the French School of Athens (EFA) entitled Amphores de Méditerranée to hold the corpus of Rhodian fabricant dies (447 fabricants, 4,707 dies online; 4 volumes) and a volume of addenda and corrigenda, the corpus of Chiot amphora dies, the corpus of Latin stamps of Alexandria and Delos, the corpus of Cnidian amphora dies, and the corpus of Coan fabricant dies.

Lastly, we must take advantage of the series of chemical and petrographic analyses already carried out on Egyptian ceramics and uploaded to the IRN pXRFCUN (2021-2025) managed by the CEAlex. This is a network that brings together French and other laboratories using p-XRF for the physico-chemical characterisation of ceramic and amphora workshops.


Theme 4: Towards an archaeology of the corporal and spiritual

New light can be shed on the beliefs of ancient Alexandrians thanks to two studies, one on the Boubasteion in Alexandria, where excavations in the early 2010s yielded exceptional ex-votos in the form of terracotta and stone cats and statues of children dating from the very early Hellenistic Period. The other will re-examine the decorations of Tomb 2 in the Anfoushi necropolis, using new photographic techniques involving LAB layers and visible-induced luminescence that reveal in an exceptional way funerary beliefs in the middle of the Hellenistic Period reflecting purely Greek-inspire allegories and Egyptian iconography.

The uploading of documents on Alexandria in the 19th and 20th centuries, whether newspapers, rare and old books on Alexandria or iconographic documents, will continue on the site and on the Bibliothèques d’Orient. portal. One of the challenges of the next five-year programme will be to continue our collections policy with a view to safeguarding an endangered Francophone memory and to developing an online archive of the various collections, whether family papers, institutional archives such as the Graeco-Roman Museum or the religious orders of Alexandria, or professional archives (architects’ plans, archives of archaeologists/antique dealers etc.). The integration of the CEAlex into the GIS MOMM should help to raise the profile of our resources and encourage new research.