Plinthine on Lake Mariut in Egypt

Plinthine on Lake Mariut in Egypt

by Jimmy Dunn

An unfinished Doric tomb at Plinthine

Plinthine and its necroplis are located on Lake Mariut just about a kilometer east of Taposiris near Alexandria on Egypt's north coast. This small, ancient Greek town stood on a prominent position on a rocky, horseshoe shaped outcrop. The city's ruins were described by Gratien Le Pere: "I wish to speak of a fairly prominent mound which one notices on the same chain which separates the lake from the sea.

On the far side of this hillock, which lies 1000 to 1200 meters from the Tower of the Arabs on the ay back to Alexandria, one can just make out a kind of steps, some sections of masonry in dressed stone, finally some quadrangular, sloping surfaces which give the whole structure a pyramidical form.

" Just below this mound, one can just make out the course of the main street through the remains that are still visible on the surface. It descends towards the lake, and other roads are also visible

Loculi sealed with slabs painted on stucco with representations of doors and windws modeled on local houses of the Greek Period

that run at right angles. Here, houses that were laid out in tiers along the slope facing the lake are also visible. This town, like Taposiris, is oriented more towards the traffic on the lake than towards the sea coast. Plinthine remains almost completely unexcavated.

The site was investigated by Adriani between 1938 and 1939, and again by the Egyptian Archaeological Service in 1960. From these rudimentary surveys, it would appear that the site would be a worthwhile project for further archaeological study. The work concentrated on the necropolis and the Greek hypogea (an underground chamber) dating to the second century BC.

However, very little appears to be known about the town, so close to the somewhat better known Taposiris, and its function. In the necropolis, what was found were burial enclosures with dry stone walls separating the individual plots. They are well preserved, which allows us to study the way these were divided up among the dead. They also provide considerable information about the monuments that marked the underground tombs, and provide clues about tombs elsewhere on Egypt's North Coast.

So far there have been around one hundred burials discovered in the necropolis, including four subterranean tombs that are especially well preserved. In these, a flight of steps hewn from the rock leads to an atrium. A grave shaft provides the underground rooms with light. An orderly

A room with a loculus sealed by a slab with a dexiosis scene consisting of a man clasping his wife's hand in farewell

sequence of burial chambers has been cut out of the rock. These chambers once had doors, attested to by the mortices of the hinges that are still in place. The rooms are oblong and many of them have a bench running around the walls under the burial cells.

Some of these cells remain sealed up with slabs decorated with paintings or stucco. In one tomb, a beautiful dexiosis stele, similar to one unearthed at Gabbari, remains well preserved, while beside it, a double door with including a frame with Doric pilasters has been carved in stucco.

Near the door are some stone slabs set on edge, imprinted with several dozen seals, presumably of Greek magistrates. These official seals appear to guarantee that the burial would not be disturbed, a process known from Pharaonic Egypt but otherwise not known from Graeco-Roman times.

In another neighboring tomb, a frame of stucco mimics a monumental door with two double columns. The capitals on the columns are in a style known as Nabatean, but which are really Alexandrian. The columns flank two depictions of Anubis, who sit on their haunches facing each other. They are the guardians of the dead, and above

them is a band of uraei which in turn is

View of a tomb chamber with a painted Stelae at Plinthine

surmounted by an entablature supporting a pediment, typical Greek architectural elements. Essentially, this necropolis is important because the tombs here are considered to be probably very similar to those of the Alexandrian necropolises. However, while most of the tombs in Alexandria are devastated or entirely destroyed due to the ancient capital's continual occupation, Plinthine has been deserted since the end of antiquity.

This site offers a mixture of Egyptian and Greek motifs, just like the Alexandrian necropolises, and hence an opportunity to study a group of tombs thought to be very similar to those of Alexandria.






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