1(7)/2000, p. 5

Stanisław Medeksza

Conservation of architecture relics and wall paintings in Marina el-Alamain

    The Polish-Egyptian Conservation Mission, directed by the author, has been working in Marina el-Alamain on the terrain of an early Roman town, for the fifth season. The subject of the con-servation works is a complex of dwelling house relics together with the furnishings originating from the Greek-Roman period. It is very difficult to date them as we have no evidence from older excavations. Basing on our findings and taking into consideration the results of investigations of Polish archeologists carrying out explorations in the area of the western necropolis, we think that the town together with its necropolises functioned in a long time span, from the 2nd to the 6th century B.C. Whereas, the houses may practically be dated as coming from the end of the 1st  and 2nd century B.C. Later, they were rebuilt many times. The structures undergoing conservation we initially date at the 2nd to the 4th century B.C. The devastation of original arrangements may be bound partly with the results of various cataclysms and partly with natural degradation. In the last years we have been able to observe in some places an earlier level of building, about 0,80–1 m lower than the level of the houses undergoing conservation.
    The houses are located in the southern part of the antique town whose ancient name has not, as yet, been precisely deter-mined. According to analyses of sources the town could have been called Leucaspis or Antiphrae. We have no material references which would enable us to establish ultimately its name.
    In the season of 1998 we came upon on the relics of a niche enclosed by plastered half-columns and surmounted by a moulding and a triangled tympanum filled by a conch. There were also discovered fragments of paintings which we connect with the solar cult. The reconstructed fragment shows three busts of figures above the clouds. Each of the heads is surrounded by a halo. The first on the left is Helios, the second Harpokrates as the young sun, and highest is Serapis. They all look to the right. The main figure was in the axis of the painting and this, up to our times, has been preserved only in faint fragments. To the right, symmetrically to the preserved figures there were, most probably, female moon deities: Selene versus Helios and Isis as the mother of Harpokrates. As yet, it has not been determined which goddess could have been the third image in this, without doubt, symmetrical painting. Initially, on the basis of the style, we can assume that the cult niche with this painting comes, most probably, from the turn of the 2nd and 3rd century B.C. These opinions will, succeedingly, be verified by comparative studies. The niche itself shows a double-phaseness. On the basis of vague fragments of capitals we may initially ascertain that at least in phase I they represent a type called Nabatean,  popular in the locality of Marina.
    The painting underwent carefull conservation in the season of the year 1999. Due to constant, very profuse graining out, its transformation to a new, free from pollution foundation, was decided. Also in the season of 1999, the niche in accomodation 2. was subjected to partial anastylosis  and reconstruction. We do not foresee the mounting of the painting in the niche. The original, after conservation, has been prepared for exposition in a museum.
    During the cleaning of accomodation 2. we came upon an additional, small accomodation. It is located next to the main entrance to the house. From the rubble heaps we extracted a fairly well preserved relic of another wall painting, most probably presenting Heron or Serapis, with fragments of a painted black frame. Initially, we can also date it at the turn of the 2nd and 3rd century. The bearded head is surrounded by a blue halo, the hair flows on either side of the neck to the shoulders. A mondius is recognizable on the head. From behind the right shoulder there is visible the handgrip (hilt-guard) of a sword or the shaft of a spear. The figure holds a cornucopia in its left hand. A fragment of a garland is seen above the figure. This may testify to the fact that the figure discovered may only be a part of the presentation. A fragment of the lower part of the painting has been preserved, showing either a pedestal on which stood the fully dimensioned figure or a fragment of the altar. Doubts as to the interpretation of details are created by the very bad state of the painting’s surface.
    In 1999 the painting was subjected to a detailed conservation. In this case the foundation was supplemented, it was formed of artificial stone. The painting was made ready for a museum exposition.
    In the portico courtyard and surrounding accomodations there were found many architectonic details. These were: fragments of mouldings, tambours, capitals and bases of columns, as well as fragments of door jambs. All architectonic details have been catalogued.