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Research projects

The island city of Tinnis, Egypt

Principal investigators: Dr John Cooper, and Dr Alison Gascoigne (University of Southampton)

Project summary

Little known today, the archaeological site of Tell Tinnis in Egypt’s northeast Nile Delta was once such an important port and urban centre that the tenth century Arab geographer al-Maqdisi described it as “A miniature Baghdad! A mountain of gold! Port of East and West!”. This vast site was, as it is today, an island in Lake Manzala. That position made it one of the foremost ports of the eastern Delta from late antiquity until the Crusader menace prompted its abandonment in the 13th century. The site gave navigators ready access to both the Nile and the Mediterranean, as well as access to rich fisheries. It also supported a major linen-based textiles industry that produced both fine embroidered ṭirāz and the kiswa covering for the ka’ba in Makka.

In collaboration with Dr Alison Gascoigne of the University of Southampton and the Ministry of Culture of Egypt, this project investigates the urban and maritime topography of what was once a densely populated and fortified island city, testing archaeological notions of what constitutes an ‘Islamic’ city and port. Fieldwork seasons involving topographical and geophysical survey alongside sedimentary coring have been supplemented by detailed mapping of visible features using remote sensing imagery. A monograph is due for publication in 2019.