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Deir Abu Matta

a Pleiades place resource

Creators: Nicola Aravecchia Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Oct 30, 2012 01:10 PM History
Late antique settlement, possibly monastic, with substantial remains of a church, mud-brick structures, and tombs.

https://pleiades.stoa.org/places/667956220

25.63017222, 28.91679722
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settlement, church, monastery


Pleiades

Deir Abu Matta is located in the Dakhla Oasis of Upper Egypt, ca. 8 km southeast of the town of El-Qasr and ca. 6 km southeast of the archaeological site of Amheida (ancient Trimithis). The area of the visible archaeological remains is fairly limited and is surrounded to the north, west, and east by some desertic land, habitations, and cultivated fields, and to the southeast by a paved road.

In 1908, H. E. Winlock briefly recorded and photographed the site of Deir Abu Matta during his trip from Kharga to Dakhla. In 1980, D.O.P. members surveyed the mound atop which the church is located and carried out test trenching inside the basilica. An archaeological project involving the investigation and documentation of the church and adjacent structures began at the end of 2007, under the direction of Gillian Bowen. Full excavation started in 2008.

The church is the largest visible building of the site. It is oriented east-west and is rectangular in shape, measuring ca. 24 m east-west by 10.35 m north-south. The mud-brick walls are over 1 m thick and are still standing several meters above ground level. They were built in sections and originally supported a beamed roof, as suggested by holes piercing the south wall. A triconch, whose entrance is framed by two engaged pillars, is set inside the church along its east wall. To the sides of the lateral conches, against the northeast and southeast corners of the building, are L-shaped pastophoria. According to Grossmann’s plan, the church was originally divided into a nave and two side aisles by two rows of six square pillars, with an additional L-shaped pillar at the west end. A return aisle along the west side of the building joined the two colonnades by means of two square pillars, forming an ambulatory around the central nave. A mastaba is still visible against the northern section of the west wall. Another bench –no longer preserved– was once located against the south wall. Evidence of a relatively narrow door –possibly a secondary entrance into the church– was detected toward the west end of the north wall. The main doorway may have been placed along the west wall.

Test trenches were dug along the north wall of the church between 1979 and 1980 and then in 2008. These revealed numerous early Christian burials, although some of them, at least those excavated more recently, were found to have been disturbed.

Considerable evidence of different construction phases in the area of the church was documented since 2008. Architectural features predating the construction of the basilica are visible to the north of it, possibly extending further south. Other walls, later than the church according to the excavators, were found to the north and to the west. A wide, tower-like building was also excavated to the west of the basilica. It is possible that at least some of the structures excavated in the proximity of the church were associated with a small-scale monastic establishment, whose existence in Late Antiquity is suggested by the modern name of the site (also known as Deir al-Saba Banat, “Monastery of the Seven Virgins”, following Cassandra Vivian).

According to the D.O.P. report, fifth-century coins and ceramics datable from the fifth to the seventh century were collected during the survey and the test excavation. The finds collected during the 2008-2009 seasons, which include coins, ceramics, and an ostrakon, were all dated to the fourth/fifth century CE, with no evidence from earlier or later centuries. Hence, it is possible that the church of Deir Abu Matta was constructed a few centuries earlier than previously thought, roughly at the same time when several other churches were built in Dakhla, such as at Kellis and Ain el-Gedida.

Nicola Aravecchia

 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bowen, Gillian E. (2009). “The Church of Deir Abu Metta, Dakhleh Oasis: A Report on the 2009 Excavation,” The Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology 20: 7-36.

― (2008a). “The Church of Deir Abu Metta and A Christian Cemetery in Dakhleh Oasis: A Brief Report,” The Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology 19: 7-16.

― (2008b). “The Survey and Testing at Deir Abu Metta and a Cemetery at Muzawwaqa.”

http://arts.monash.edu.au/archaeology/excavations/dakhleh/metta-muzawwaqa/assets/documents/metta-muzawwaqa-report-2008.pdf

Grossmann, Peter (2002a). Christliche Architektur in Ägypten. Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill: 565-66; plan 180; pl. XVIa.

― (1991). “Dayr Abū Mattā,” in The Coptic Encyclopedia. Edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan. Vol. 3: 706.

Mills, Anthony J. (1981). “The Dakhleh Oasis Project. Report on the Third Season of Survey. September-December, 1980,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 11: 175-92 (in particular, 185).

Vivian, Cassandra (2000). The Western Desert of Egypt: An Explorer’s Handbook. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press: 135.

Winlock, Herbert E. (1936). Ed Dakhleh Oasis, by H. E. Winlock. Journal of a Camel Trip Made in 1908. New York: 24; pls. 12-13.

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Nicola Aravecchia, Sean Gillies, Anne User, and Tom Elliott, 'Deir Abu Matta: a Pleiades place resource', Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places, 2012 <https://pleiades.stoa.org/places/667956220> [accessed: 17 October 2018]

            {{cite web |url=https://pleiades.stoa.org/places/667956220 |title=Places: 667956220 (Deir Abu Matta) |author=Aravecchia, N. |accessdate=October 17, 2018 1:29 am |publisher=Pleiades}}