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ISAW Papers 9 (2015)

A New “Roman” Sword from Soknopaiou Nesos (El-Fayyum, Egypt)

Paola Davoli and Christian Miks

http://doi.org/2333.1/c59zw6cw

Abstract: A long and well preserved sword was brought to light in 2006 during the archaeological excavations carried out by the Soknopaiou Nesos Project (University of Salento, Lecce) in the temenos of the main temple in Soknopaiou Nesos, modern Dime. The current state of research would suggest a classification as a Roman, or at least Roman influenced, weapon of the late Republican period. However, some peculiar elements of this sword seem to point to an oriental or Egyptian final assemblage. It thus may give a new impulse to the still open discussion about the appearance of Hellenistic swords starting from the period of Alexander's Successors. The weapon can have been used by soldiers of the late Ptolemaic period as well as by members of the Roman army. The question whether the sword ended up in the temenos as part of local defensive arms or as a votive object will largely remain speculative, as its find context is not stratigraphically reliable.

Library of Congress Subjects: Dīmay (Extinct city). Military history, Ancient.

Contents

I. Introduction (P. Davoli)

The Soknopaiou Nesos Project (SNP), directed by Mario Capasso and Paola Davoli, started working at Dime es-Seba, the Graeco-Roman Soknopaiou Nesos, in 2003.1 The kome (ca. 600 x 320 m) was one of the numerous settlements founded during the regional project of land reclamation realized by Ptolemy I and II. It is located in a desert area, north of Lake Qarun, and its function was mainly religious and commercial (Fig. 1). Archaeological evidence attests to the presence in this area of settlements, tombs and other features datable from the Neolithic to Islamic periods. The local landscape has undergone several drastic changes during this long period of time, from a wet to a hyper-arid environment. However, there is a strong possibility that one of the reasons for a new foundation or refoundation of a settlement at the beginning of the Hellenistic period was the presence of a revered sanctuary on top of a natural hill. In fact, below the Hellenistic period temple dedicated to the god Soknopaios, features of a previous phase have been found but not yet precisely dated.2