The Desert Fortresses of Ptolemaic Egypt

Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Time: 8:00 pm - 9:15 pm
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Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 8 pm EST via Zoom

The Desert Fortresses of Ptolemaic Egypt

Jen Gates-Foster


Recent archaeological work in Egypt’s Eastern Desert has revealed a network of fortresses and way stations constructed in the mid-third century BCE by the pharaohs of Ptolemaic Egypt. These military installations were constructed to supply and protect caravans transporting battle elephants from the coast of the Red Sea to the Nile Valley, as well as to provide support to mining expeditions dispatched to this mineral-rich region.


The remains of these remote outposts demonstrate a significant investment by the Egyptian monarchs in the exploitation of this desert landscape and a remarkable period of intensive occupation that lasted some seventy years, ending in the early second century BCE in the years after the Great Revolt in Upper Egypt in 206 BCE.


The occupants of these desert forts—a community that included members of the Ptolemaic army, civilians and even members of the royal household—left behind a remarkable material and textual record that gives us detailed new information about their daily life, food preferences and religious practices as well as their contact with nomadic peoples of the region.


Jennifer Gates-Foster is an Associate Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Michigan

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