Ostraka and Other Inscribed Material from Bir Shawish, Small Oasis

Excavation Seasons 2005 and 2007
Volume 54
Marek Dospel

Detailed insight on writings from a Late Antique settlement in Egypt


Informal documents and remains of material culture, when analyzed properly, offer a unique window into the daily lives and workings of ancient civilizations. Published here in their archaeological context and with any relevant artifacts, the documents and inscriptions excavated recently in Egypt’s Western Desert represent a valuable addition to our meager documentation of the Bahriya Oasis in the first centuries CE.

This is the first comprehensive treatment of an archaeological dataset from the archaeological exploration of Bir Shawish. Dating to around 400 CE, these primary historical sources include documentary texts written on ostraka, informal inscriptions on various ceramic objects, plus a group of incised lids. The core of the volume consists of an annotated edition and analytical indices. This is prefaced by the historical and archaeological context and is followed by a synthesis of selected issues inherent to the published material. The book includes appendices and pictures of all published objects. Doubling the number of texts and inscriptions published to date from the Small Oasis, this new corpus furthers our understanding of the economic, administrative, and social history of Late Antique Egypt.

“Dospel has done everything possible to further the understanding of his documents, to underline his contribution, and to put it in perspective of cultural, economic, social, religious, administrative and military history. . . . A convenient and up-to-date working tool that will assist critical work by future readers.”
--Jean Gascou, Paris-Sorbonne Université

Marek Dospel is an independent scholar and Associate Editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review.

Product Details

  • 230 pages.
  • 96 illustrations; 15 tables.
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  • 2020
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  • 978-0-9799758-8-2

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  • Late Antique Egypt; Western Desert; Ba?riya; Small Oasis; el-?ayz; Bir Shawish; Archaeology; Papyrology; Inscriptions; Ostraka; Greek; Coptic; Ancient Economy; Early Christianity