The Fayum is a distinctive region, in character between the main Nile Valley and the desert oases: its fields are watered by a channel of the Nile, the Bahr Yussef, as it drains into a desert depression to the west of the Nile Valley. The Bahr Yussef veers west through a narrow neck of land north of Ihnasya, between the archaeological sites of Lahun and Gurob; it then branches out, providing rich agricultural land in the Fayum basin, draining into the Fayum lake, freshwater in prehistory, but now a large saltwater lake. This region has the earliest evidence for farming in Egypt (see Fayum (A) Neolithic), and was a centre of royal activity in the Middle Kingdom and Ptolemaic Period. In the late first millennium AD, the arable area shrank, and settlements around the edge of the basin were abandoned. These sites include some of the best-preserved from the late Roman Empire, notably Karanis, and from the Byzantine and early Islamic Periods, though recent redevelopment has greatly reduced the archaeological features.
Fayum in Ptolemaic and Periods | maps
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