|30||PTOLEMAIS AND OTHER SITES.|
Fayum is 150,000, when it was much more widely cultivated in Roman times it may have held 250,000. So that this decree would concern about an eighth of the province, which was probably the size of the district of which Ptolemais was the principal town.
56. At present the ruins have been much dug away for the sake of the earth to spread on the fields; but nothing before the Roman period is exposed, and there is no height of accumulation, so that the city had evidently but a brief history. Some of the streets can be traced, and are shewn on the plan (PL. XXXI); also a raised square area of an important building - now swept away - near the end of the canal. Part of a massive building of red baked Roman brick remains at the south-east; much of it has been destroyed lately, and more waits to be uncovered. At the west side a group o( pillars and bases shew where a large building existed, which was probably a Christian church, judging by the capitals with wreaths and crosses of the IVth cent. I carefully enquired for inscriptions or sculptures, but only saw one fragment, which is given here on PL. XXXI. The only other portable antiquity was a bronze steelyard. It had two scales on it, whereby we can recover the unit which it was intended to weigh, although the scalepan, chains, hook, and counterpoise are lost. The unit of it is 7000 ± 200 grains; this is evidently the Attic mina, which was the "common mina" in Greco-Roman Egypt.
The line drawn on the S.E. of Ptolemais is a trench cut in the rock, about 200 yards from the town; it was an ancient work to enable surplus water in the canal to be run off into the low Gharak basin to the south, so as to lower the canal in case of need. It has been lately turned up in some part for the sake of the lining , and other parts could be traced by a dry line on the ground after rain.
57. The fort, a little over a mile to the S.W. of the town, is the place where the inscription was found, so far as I could learn. When the new sluice gates were being built at the end of the canal, the contractor excavated at this fort for materials. Indeed it is a stipulation in some contracts that only ancient bricks are to be used, as they are so superior to the modem native produce. While excavating the ruins, the fragments of this inscription were found built into a wall. The contractor sent them to Mr. Marshall Hewat, the district inspector, who very kindly passed them on to me. From a rough copy which he sent I saw that Ptolemais was referred to, and I took the first leisure time I could to go over and see the place.
The position of the fort is excellent. It stands on the rise of desert nearest to the town, and at the same time it commands a desert horizon at least five or six miles away all along the south. Thus any raid of Bedawin could be noticed in time to repel it. There is a square mass of ruined building and rubbish about 125 feet E. to W., and 150 ft N. to S. An outer wall enclosed a space 67 feet wide on the east; a rubbish mound is banked against the west face for about 150 feet out; and another lower heap stands about 120 feet away on the north. It is about half a mile from cultivated land; and the magnetic bearings are to canal end 31º, to Hawara pyramid 47¼º to Tutun 65º, to Gharak 338º. But the position of Tutun on the map must be altered to make this possible.
The three patches of ruins between Ptolemais and Medinet Madi are small villages of Roman age; in the furthest I found an Alexandrian coin of the first century. The mound of Medinet Madi I had not time to visit.
58. Before proceeding to describe other sites I should say that the map PL. XXX does not profess accuracy in details of canals, &c. The faultiness of all existing maps is scandalous. Any person with a compass might make a better map than any yet existing of the Fayum. On all the older maps the Birket Kurun is entirely wrong in form and place; the present outline is taken from a government "map of the basins of the Fayum and Wady Rayan"; but the canals are I believe better laid out on the war office map. That is tolerably good in general; but quite wrong on the Birket, and in error as to the positions of villages. It is seldom that a group of cross bearings can be taken that will plot on the existing map without discrepancies being shewn. My present business is merely to fix the ancient sites as well as I can, and I disclaim any responsibility for the errors of this map.
A great feature of the ancient Fayum is the canal all along the eastern side. This originally branched near Hawara, but since Roman times it has been allowed to be breached, and has been dried up for probably all the Arabic period. In consequence a broad band of country has been thrown out of cultivation ; and it only needs the reopening of this canal to bring into use again over thirty square miles, or twenty thousand acres, of good land. Probably now the bed of the Bahr Yusuf has been so much eroded by flushes of water that it would be needful to make a new branch canal from the great dyke to feed this
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