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Settlements, Towns and Cities in Egypt: after the New Kingdom

There are relatively few excavated and recorded settlements of the Late Period. Archaeological interest is often focussed on early periods: therefore, even when discovered, levels and structures of the Late Period are often not recorded at all. As a result, it is not easy to gain any clear picture of towns and settlements in the Late Period.

Settlement areas of the Late Period have been excavated and published at Medinet Habu, Elephantine and Ashmunein. For places such as Tanis and Pithom the temple district is at east partly excavated. Of special interest is the Greek city Naukratis. Petrie published a detailed plan of it. The city consists of a residential area and a huge enclosure built in the 30th Dynasty. Naukratis is a Greek colony, and therefore it is not possible to say how much this layout also applies to purely Egyptian settlements.

plan of Naukratis
Shaghanbeh, plan

With the arrival of the Greeks on a larger scale, following the conquest by Alexander the Great (332 BC), town planning in Egypt changed. Many new settlements were founded, especially in the Fayum. Most were built on an orthogonal plan, the main example being Alexandria, the capital. The Greeks claimed that this type of town planning was developed by Hippodamus of Miletus (born about 500 BC). Aristotle (Politics VII, 1330b, 21) describes: 'The arrangement of the private dwellings is thought to be more agreeable and more convenient for general purpose if they are laid out in straight streets after the modern fashion, that is, the one introduced by Hippodamus, but it is more suitable for security in war if it is on the contrary plan, as cities used to be in ancient times; for that arrangement is difficult for foreign troops to enter and to find their way about when attacking' (translation after Castagnoli 1971: 66-72).

However, orthogonal town planing is already known earlier at sites such as Lahun in Egypt (and elsewhere). The contribution of Hippodamus seems to be therefore not so much in the layout of a town, as in the size of squares, the harmony and the special scenographic effects (Castagnoli 1971: 71)

plan of Tebtunis
plan of Philadelphia

Further reading:

  • Castagnoli 1971 (on Greek town planning)
  • Petrie 1886: pl. XL (plan of Naukratis), XLI (plan of the streets of the residential area), XLII-XLIII (the great enclosure)
  • Spencer 1993 (excavation report on the settlement of Ashmunein; the remains date mainly to the Third Intermediate Period)



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