Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt

Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Alan Johnston, François Leclère, Aurélia Masson and Ross Thomas

With Daniel von Recklinghausen, Jeffrey Spencer, Valerie Smallwood, Virginia Webb and Susan Woodford

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Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
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The town of Naukratis in the Egyptian Nile Delta was an important centre of contact and exchange between ancient Egypt and the peoples of the Mediterranean. First and foremost among the latter were Greeks, who began to trade and settle at Naukratis at the end of the 7th century BC and who lived there in close contact with Egyptians for centuries.

The site of ancient Naukratis was rediscovered and excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over 17,000 finds from the site, alongside a variety of 'stray finds', are today distributed among more than 70 museums on five continents; with nearly 45% of the extant finds the British Museum has the single largest holding among them. Yet until now this exceptionally rich body of archaeological material had remained very poorly known and little studied.

The present catalogue brings together all these widely dispersed finds, revealing their significance for the history and archaeology of the site. When complete, it will cover the entire assemblage of known finds from the site, comprising objects from the late 7th century BC to the 7th century AD, covering Egyptian, Greek, Cypriot, Syro-Palestinian, Phoenician, Etruscan, South-Italian, Persian, Anatolian, North-African, Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine material. This will finally make it possible to chart the site’s history as a major crossroads of civilisations over centuries.

Over the years a number of scholars have worked on this catalogue. From 2008 to 2010, Giorgos Bourogiannis was responsible for cataloguing the Greek pottery from Naukratis, succeeded in 2011 until 2014 by Marianne Bergeron. Both have been assisted greatly by Valerie Smallwood and Susan Woodford. Since 2012, Aurélia Masson has been cataloguing the Egyptian finds from the site, taking over from François Leclère (2011–12). Since 2012, Virginia Webb has been assisting with cataloguing the Greek faience. Throughout, Alan Johnston has been responsible for the catalogue of Greek inscriptions (on pottery, stone and other material) as well as transport amphorae. Since 2011, Ross Thomas has been cataloguing the stone and terracotta figures, Greek sculpture and architecture; lamps; Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine small finds and pottery; tools, weapons and ephemera. Alexandra Villing has been coordinating the project throughout and has been involved with recording and studying a cross-section of objects.

The catalogue includes a large number of objects in museums worldwide, and we would like to acknowledge the invaluable help and collaboration of colleagues in many different institutions that have made this project possible. They have in many instances supplied measurements, descriptions, acquisition history, findspot information, etc., which have been invaluable for the work of the Naukratis Project’s curators and academic collaborators in writing the catalogue entries. Responsibility for the entries and the accuracy of the information provided in the catalogue, however, lies with the present catalogue’s authors and editors.

Owning institutions have also very kindly provided and/or allowed us to include photographs of their objects in this catalogue. Please note, however, that the copyright for images of non-British Museum objects always rests with the owning institutions, as indicated in the caption next to each image.

Vital assistance has also been rendered by the archives and individuals holding original documentation relating to the early fieldwork at Naukratis: the Egypt Exploration Society; the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London; the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford; UCL Archives; Caroline Barron and various archives in the British Museum and other collaborating museums. We are grateful for generous access to their material and permission to include it in this publication. This material is essential for understanding the original context of the finds as well as the early excavations and find selection.

More recently, our own new fieldwork at the site (since 2012) and the re-study of the fieldwork of the American mission to Naukratis under William Coulson and Albert Leonard Jr. in 1977–83 has contributed important, new and complete data sets that greatly expand our knowledge of the site and helps to put the sampled material from the earlier fieldwork into perspective. We are also greatly indebted to those individuals who undertook the challenging task of coordinating and carrying out the transcription of this documentation, notably François Leclère and Valerie Smallwood. This later fieldwork adds another 9,000 finds to the body of material known from the site, often from good contexts, and comprises many Egyptian Late Period and Ptolemaic finds, especially locally produced pottery.

Note on this edition

The present catalogue represents the third and final stage of research on finds from the early excavations at Naukratis 1884–1903. It publishes all extant and accessible finds from Naukratis, totalling well over 17,000 objects and thus completes a process that was begun in previous stages (released in 2013 and 2014), which made available some of the main groups of finds from Naukratis. The catalogue comprises material now (or once) held in 75 museums worldwide as well as several hundred finds that are known from excavation diaries or publications but that have not (yet) been located.

This is not a static catalogue, however. Indeed it is the project’s objective that this online resource evolves with the progress of scholarship and through the comments and suggestions of scholars around the world. In particular, research on Naukratis by the British Museum still continues, including a programme of new fieldwork. Therefore catalogue entries will continue to be revised and developed, and additional chapters on the results of research will be published as new information emerges. For those objects held in the British Museum itself the process of updating will continue well beyond the life of the present project as the entries are drawn from the Museum’s collection database which is continually being improved by curators.

The catalogue is accompanied by numerous analytical chapters that discuss the site’s archaeology and history:

·         Four introductory chapters cover the history of Naukratis and its excavation as well as the challenges their study poses to us today.

·         A brief chapter on the site’s topography summarizes the current state of knowledge and provides links to recent (online) publications that provide more detailed discussions of key aspects of the site’s layout and development.

·         An extensive overview of the material culture of Naukratis introduces the kinds of finds made at the site, outlining their character and significance and setting them into the context of the site’s archaeology.

·         A range of detailed analytical chapters present and discuss some of the most important, largest or instructive categories of finds, ranging from Greek pottery and inscriptions to Egyptian temple decoration and votive offerings.

Search pages allow users to retrieve all or specific groups of material from the catalogue.


This catalogue would have been impossible without the collaboration of institutions and individuals worldwide: The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge; Oriental Institute, University of Chicago; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Greco-Roman Museum, Alexandria; Egyptian Museum, Cairo; City Art Gallery and Museum, Bristol; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Musée du Louvre, Paris; Antikenmuseum der Universität Heidelberg; World Museum, Liverpool; Redpath Museum, Montreal; Bolton Museum; University College London, Institute of Archaeology; Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua (NY); Royal Museum of Art and History, Brussels; The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London; Akademisches Kunstmuseum, Universität Bonn; Leiden University, Faculty of Archaeology; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia; Ure Museum, Reading; Castle Museum, Nottingham; Antikenmuseum der Universität Leipzig; McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock; Kyoto University Museum, Kyoto; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich; Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois; Wellesley College; McManus Galleries, Dundee; University College Dublin, Department of Classics, Classical Museum; British School at Athens; Queen’s University Belfast, School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Museum of Ireland, Dublin; Art and Artifact Collections, Bryn Mawr College; The Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate; Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, Clinton (NY); Warrington Museum; Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim; Manchester Museum; Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; Harrow School, Old Speech Room Gallery and Museum; Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities; Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery; Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; St. Helens Council Collection, The World of Glass; Bagshaw Museum, Kirklees; Yorkshire Museum, York; West Park Museum, Macclesfield; Sammlung des Ägyptologischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg; Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Merchant Taylor's School, Northwood; Touchstones Rochdale, Rochdale; Museum August Kestner, Hannover; Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, Baltimore; Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow; The Field Museum, Chicago; The Atkinson, Southport; Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter; Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden; Oriental Museum, Durham University; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan; Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle; Alexandria University Museum; National Archaeological Museum, Athens; Verulamium Museum, St Albans; Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva; Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe; Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge; Weston Park Museum, Sheffield; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University; The Robert Hull Fleming Museum; The University of Vermont; Boston Children’s Museum; McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago; Original- und Abguss-Sammlung der Universität Trier; Newbury, West Berkshire Museum; Charterhouse, Godalming; University College of Wales at Aberystwyth; Egypt Centre, Swansea University; Egypt Exploration Society; Griffith Institute, University of Oxford; UCL Archives; W.D.E Coulson Archives and Library, Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly; Ursula Höckmann, Udo Schlotzhauer and Sabine Weber of the Naukratis Project of SFB 295 at the Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz; Professor Sir John Boardman.

For their generous funding of the Naukratis Project, the British Museum would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust (Research Project Grant F/00 052/E); the Leon Levy – Shelby White Program for Archaeological Publications; the British Academy, Reckitt Fund; the Institute of Classical Studies, London; the Honor Frost Foundation; the Michela Schiff Giorgini Foundation; Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art; Dan and Karen Pritzker; and the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. Financial support has also been provided by the British Museum's Caryatid Group of Supporters of the Greek and Roman Department and other sponsors through the British Museum’s Research Board.

We would like to express our gratitude to the many academic collaborators, staff and volunteers – too numerous to name here – both in the British Museum and in partner institutions who have provided access to, information about and photographs of objects and archival documents, and who have generously given their time and expertise to assist our work on ancient Naukratis.

We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable support provided by those past and present colleagues in the British Museum who have worked specifically on the production of this catalogue, especially Alex Peters, Lesley Arnold, Shelley Mannion, David Prudames, Chris Michaels and Matthew Cock (Digital Media); Tanya Szrajber, Peter Maine, Jonathan Whitson Cloud and Julia Stribblehill (Collections Services), Sarah Faulks (British Museum Press), Matt Hinton, Rebecca Green, Deborah Tydings, Dominic Oldman and Lydia Weller (Information Services) and Carolyn Jones (copy-editing).