The Safwat el-Mokadem project

Project leader: Neal Spencer

Department: Ancient Egypt and Sudan

Project start: September 2002
End date: October 2010 (field season)

Other British Museum staff: (occasional) Tracey Sweek, Nicholas Badcott

Other departments: Conservation and Scientific Research, Learning and Audiences

External partners: Archaeological Geophysics Laboratory, University of Akron, Ohio, USA www3.uakron.edu/anthro/csaa/index.htm (2003-2005)

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge www.esc.cam.ac.uk (from 2007)

Project funded by: the British Museum, Dr Ahmed el-Mokadem


Kom Firin is an extensive archaeological mound located near the western edge of the Nile Delta in Egypt, an area where little fieldwork has been undertaken. This area has never been the subject of intensive archaeological investigation before and the project has used a combination of geophysical survey and excavation to research aspects of the site’s history.

The earliest remains date to the Ramesside Period (thirteenth-eleventh century BC), when a small mudbrick and limestone temple was built and decorated in the reign of Ramses II. Nearly entirely destroyed, parts of an inscription of Ramses II from a doorway in the temple describe him as a valiant ruler, who ‘gives commands at the head of his troops’.

The temple was set inside an impressive mudbrick enclosure in an area of 44,000m², outlined by walls over five metres thick and entered through a narrow gateway flanked with towers. It seems possible this complex was built in response to the growing threat from Libyan groups to the West.

Kom Firin flourished for nearly two thousand years after this time with at least two major temple enclosures constructed in the latter part of the first millennium BC, although the buildings within are long since destroyed. Fragments from pottery containers and tableware from as far afield as the Greek mainland, Rhodes, Clazomenae and Cyprus attest to the cosmopolitan world of the Nile Delta during this era.


The project aims to investigate, through excavation and non-destructive survey, the site of Kom Firin, a fifty-five hectare settlement mound at the western edge of the Nile Delta. The principal objectives are:

  • To obtain evidence for the nature of urban settlement in the Western Delta, a largely unexplored area despite its strategic importance in the Ramesside period, c.1300−1070 BCE (attempted invasion and immigration by Libyan groups) and in the ensuing rise of the Great Kingdom of the West, a precursor to the 26th dynasty (672-525 BCE).
  • To seek material to help assess whether proximity to the Greek trading emporium of Naukratis led to an increased exposure to imported goods in comparison to contemporary sites further south.
  • To disseminate information through academic publications, but also provide resources (video, images, text) on the ancient site, and the modern village, for use in cross-curricular teaching initiatives.

More information:

The first monograph on the site will be available shortly: Neal Spencer, Kom Firin I: The Ramesside temple and the site survey (British Museum Research Publication 170, 2008).

Present-day appearance of the site
The south east temple
Domestic installation in the ruined temple
Fortified enclosure
Later structures at Kom Firin
Local histories and traditions

Summaries of the work undertaken during each season:

Reports submitted to the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities

See a 360 degee panorama of Kom Firin in Google Earth, created by Stefan Geens: http://www.ogleearth.com/2007/11/the_kom_firin_d.html


N. Spencer, Kom Firin I, (London, British Museum Press, forthcoming)

K. Smoláriková, ‘Recent identification of Greek imports from Kom Firin’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (in press)

N. Spencer, ‘The temples of Kom Firin’, Egyptian Archaeology 24 (2004), pp. 38−40