University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Dionysias Archaeological Project: the discovery of a new town in Egypt through Remote Sensing and GIS
Gabriella Carpentiero

Last modified: 2011-12-13


In the ancient Arsinoite nome, the modern Fayyum oasis, located to the West of the Nile valley and fed by a tributary of the Nile river, many of the villages were built around the perimeter of the cultivated area. They were mostly built on high points not reached by floods or irrigation, but many of them sit under later occupation. This region is certainly the best synthesis of the archaeology of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, but there is still an immense amount to be investigated.

Despite recent archaeological researches in the Fayyum region, the sense of how villages were spatially organized is still missing.

The presented research was made under the Dionysias Archaeological Project led by University of Siena (Italy) in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt. The principal aim was to give a new light to the discussion about the organization and the planning of Graeco-Roman towns in Egypt, which is till now strongly deficient.

Different kinds of Remote Sensing techniques were applied, such as Satellite Imagery and Geomagnetic prospection in an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach. During the first two years of research a survey of Geomagnetic prospection has been carried out using a Fluxgate Gradiometer FM36 (Geoscan Research). An area of 10.8 hectares was prospected, divided in a regular grid of 270 squares. The measurements were taken with 0.50 m of sample interval and 1 m traverse interval with a total number of 216.000 readings.

The field work of the magnetic prospection was punctually registered with a custom made form, in order to record all the archaeological features visible on the ground. All the information were stored in a relational database and then imported in CAD-GIS platform, in order to reach new information from GIS based spatial analysis.

The map of buried features gained with geophysical prospection was improved with the help of Satellite Image interpretation. The use of a high resolution multispectral and panchromatic image (GeoEye-1) - 56 square km wide with a resolution up to 50 cm on the ground - gave the possibility to detect features not visible or partially visible on the ground. Once images were stored in a digital form a high range of processing techniques were used to enhance contrast, brightness, edge detection, defects removing.

Those records were all processed in a GIS based system integrated with a Digital Elevation Model (DEM). The maps were draped on two DEMs with different spatial resolution: the ASTER Global DEM which covers the entire region of the Fayyum provided by the website; a more precise DEM realised using a Differential GPS within the area of the site of Dionysias.

The paper presented will show the outstanding results that shows precisely the entire organization of  the site of Dionysias with the different quartiers, road network, city walls etc. These results are promising for further investigation in the same region with the same methodology.


Geomagnetic prospection; Satellite imagery; Digital Elevation Model; GIS system; urban planning