2(6)/1999, p. 13

Rafał Czerner, Stanisław Medeksza

Conservation of Graeco – Roman settlement at Marina el – Alamein

    In 1986 al the location of today's Marina El-Alamein vestiges of the ancient town were discovered, that along with the necropolis func­tioned from the 2nd c. BC to the 3rd c. AD. Its name, still to be proven beyond a doubt, was presumably Leucaspis or Antiphrae. The area has been explored archaeologically since its discovery. The urban architec­ture has been investigated by a team of Egyptian archaeologists from the Alexandrian division of the Supreme Council for Antiquities, di­rected by Mohammed Ali Abd el-Razek. Explorations of the western necropolis are conducted by an archaeological mission from the Polish Centre of Archaeology of Warsaw University, directed by Wiktor A. Daszewski. ParalleI with the excavations, the Polish Centre has spo­nsored successive conservation missions in the years 1988-1993. First, under the supervision of architect Włodzimierz Bentkowski, then as a joint Polish-Egyptian mission directed by architect Jarosław Dobro­wolski. In 1995 the Polish-Egyptian Mission for Conservation, direc­ted by Stanisław Medeksza began to work.
    The necropolis. Successive missions for conservation, direc­ted by Dobrowolski, concentrated upon the reconstruction of the com­plex of columnar tomb monuments discovered by Polish archaeologi­sts on the western necropolis. This spectacular anastylosis was the first conservation actually accomplished at Marina. The three columnar tombs, which were found to have fallen down to pieces, were then reconstructed using the original elements and partly the new stone blocks.
    The town. Between 1987 and 1995, that is, from the time when relies of two houses, designated as H9 and H9a, were dug up to the moment the Polish-Egyptian mission started conservation works, al­most no prevention measures were taken with respect to the buildings. The ruins suffered from extreme devastation as a result of active saline rains and seasonal strong winds carrying abrasive sand that aggressi­vely attacked the stones. This way the documentation for architectural conservation prepared by the previous teams was no longer valid. The present mission, working on the conservation of houses in Marina, had to prepare new documentation recording the current state of the fabric. The first interventions were made to elaborate proper methods for the future work. In the next seasons of 1996 and 1997, the large scale works were executed as regards the preservation and conservation of excava­ted relics.
    The general objective of these works, apart from the protection of ruins, was to make the plan of the houses comprehensive for future visitors and, where possible, also to include the height and the whole arrangement. The works comprised:
1. Conservation of the existing relics of the walls and their par­tial reconstruction. A very thorough pointing was necessary in all the walls made of roughly shaped stone pieces, because of the extensive erosion suffered by the joints and wall tops. The walls that were techni­cally sound when excavated, were by the beginning of the conserva­tion in a condition that excluded any hope for preserving the ancient substance in its original form. The only way was to carry out comprehensive rebuilding and building up of the walls to reinforce the structure and to make the houses' functional plans more compre­hensive.
2. Reconstruction of wall niches. In many rooms of the house H9, always in the walls made of roughly shaped stone pieces there were small niches. Although the niches had been all preserved before the conservation, they almost never saved their full height. Their jambs were damaged and only few of them maintained original lintels. There­fore their in reconstruction had also to be done during the in conserva­tion of the walls they belonged to.
3. Anastylosis and reconstruction of door jambs. During the conservation the door jambs were build up one stone layer over the original jamb bloks that had been cither preserved in situ or put again in the original positions. This way the door jambs were reconstructed higher than adjacent preserved or reconstructed walls. Consequently each door, although never returned to the full original height, always distinguishes from the neighbourhood.
4. Anastylosis and reconstruction of columns and pillars (the courtyard of the house H9). The fuli anastylosis of two columns, one pillar and one adjacent semi-column was made in the porticoed courty­ard of the house H9.It was achieved with the use of original elements such as drums square blocks and capitals. The bases and the lower parts of reconstructed elements had been preserved in situ and needed only conservation and protection. However, some missing parts of co­lumn shafts and pillars, necessary for the anastylosis had to be made anew of lime stone. There was also made a partial anastylosis of other elements of the same courtyard's porticoes.
5. Conservation of pavements or making new ones. Recon­struction of destroyed parts of vaults of cellars and cisterns. These works comprised repairing or pointing all pavement joints between slabs and preparation of a new gravel floor in several rooms. The destroyed parts of vaults of the cellar and of the cisterns were recon­structed.
6. Protection of the architectural details and reconstructed walls from future damage. The last course of wall tops was consolidated for protection against water penetration and chemical damage caused by it. The wall coping not only has to assure good protection from the water penetration, but also its aesthetic character is important. 1t was designed in a form such as to make it clear that the original walls were higher than reconstructed ones. The protection of columns, pillars and their architectural details against the surface destruction by crystallizing salts was achieved by specially designed coating plaster.
7. Cleaning and landscaping the area around the house. The excavated area surrounding the villas H9 and H9a was widened in a stripe about four to five metres wideo This space was delimited by a regularly formed slope.