Wolfgang MÜLLER
(Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt, Switzerland)


The main objective of the project is to monitor all building activity in modern Aswan and to establish an urban archaeological unit within the local inspectorate of the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities). Further aims are to introduce current standards of salvage excavation techniques and, being a research institution, to investigate the history, topography and development of a town that has been settled for at least 5500 years. Following scholarly publication the information gained shall then be processed and brought to public awareness. Besides the visualization of already vanished archaeological evidence, the protection and opening of selected areas to the public shall trigger touristy interest in the town itself and thus divert the massive flow of visitors that are currently using Aswan mostly as a stopover on their way to attractions in the vicinity like Philae or Abu Simbel.


In 2000 the Swiss Institute for Archaeological and Architectural Research on Ancient Egypt and the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities launched the Swiss-Egyptian Joint Mission in Old Aswan. Since then 64 areas have been investigated archaeologically. The vast majority of these sites were salvage excavations. Over the last years it was possible, firstly to familiarize the Egyptian colleagues with a concept more or less new to them and secondly, to boost acceptance and willingness for cooperation among the population of Aswan. An extensive geomorphological survey undertaken in cooperation with Morgan De Dapper from Ghent University is complementing the archaeological work. The data gained by augerings and observations are essential for a reconstruction of the ancient landscape.

Situated at the northern end of the not or only in a very limited way navigable first cataract, the town was an important checkpoint for traffic on the river Nile. The mostly very small rescue excavations led for example to the discovery of the earliest traces of human activity in Aswan (3500 BCE), Old Kingdom habitations and quarries, a settlement of the Middle-Kingdom, a garrison of the Persian period etc.. Of special importance is research on the later periods (Byzantine, Early Islamic and Medieval) as these epochs have the most decisive impact on the modern cityscape.

Based on the work of the mission an archaeological map was generated showing the location and extents of the town during several periods of its history. The map is an important tool for threat assessment and the archaeological evaluation of new construction projects.

As most urban centres in modern Egypt are sitting on top of an archaeological record covering thousands of years threatened by economical development and exploding population size, the project , up to now the only long term urban archaeological effort in Egypt, constitutes an important pilot operation.


Aswan, Syene, Kataract