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Place names
Arabicتل جنوب قصر العجوز
FrenchTell Ganoub Qasr el-Agouz
Site map
Site information
DEChriM ID14
Trismegistos GeoID61697
Pleiades ID-
PAThs ID428
Ancient name-
Modern nameTall Ǧanūb Qaṣr al-ʿAǧūz
Date from330
Date to750
TypologyMonastic settlement
Dating criteria

Radiocarbon dating of organic material found in occupation layers; ceramic; coinage; ostraca.


Tall Ǧanūb Qaṣr al-ʿAǧūz is located 2.4km south of the Roman village of Qaṣr al-ʿAǧūz and 3.8km N-W of the Roman farms of ʿAyn Qaffara. The site is situated on the Darb al-Bahnasāwī, the ancient track leading to the Nile Valley, and consists of six 'sectors' comrpising individual structures constructed essentially of basalt blocks and mud, but also of mud bricks, or dug partially or completely in the geological substratum (Ghica 2009: 604). These structures are the remains of a unique monastic community, occupied from the fourth to the end of the sixth centuries. Most of the ceramic dates from the fifth and early sixth, indicating that this was likely the peak of activity, at least in the sectors GQA1, 2, 3 and 6 (Ghica 2019b: 239). Traces of later occupation, dating from the seventh to eighth centuries, have also been identified in GQA1, 2 and 6, probably correlating with the pastoralist re-occupation of the site (Ghica 2019b: 239). The geographic isolation, as well as the organisation of internal space and graffiti indicate the semi-anchoritic nature of the establishment.

This is the largest sector of the site, and comprises a hermitage constructed in 5 phases, spanning from the first half of the fourth century to the seventh century (Ghica 2019a: 126). The structure consists of three rooms built entirely into the gebel, six semi-excavated rooms, and two constructed exclusively of masonry. The nucleus of the sector are the rock-cut areas, comprising a church (P1a), as well as adjoining liturgical spaces (P1b and P1c), the first of which likely served as a pastophorion, while the second was probably a diakonikon, which also served as a living room (Ghica 2019b: 237). Four additional areas were then constructed: two cells (P5 and P6), a kitchen-refectory (P2) and a distribution room (P4), followed by subsequent extensions and renovations consisting of four more rooms, one of which was a church (P9). This church, which dates to the very last phase of construction of the sector (phase 5), is of an atypical plan, comprising two doors and an apse of semi-elliptical plan separated from the nave by a pillar (Ghica 2019a: 237). This pillar appears to have once supported two arches, which marked the openings of the sanctuary, fragments of which have been found in a collapse layer in the apse (Ghica 2013: 146). On the western wall of the church, there are traces of a cross and a drawing of a ship, possible evidence of the desecration of the church after its abandonment, much of which is concentrated in the area of the shrine (Ghica 2013: 146).

The planimetry of the buildings as well as the techniques make this an atypical laura, with the only parallel found in the earliest structures of Kellia (Ghica 2019a: 126; Ghica 2019b: 240). A general chronology of phasing is as follows: P1a, b and c comprise a single, homogenous unit and belong to the first phase of construction, which was arguably intended for a single occupant (Ghica 2013: 145). P2, 4, 5 and 6 belong to the second phase, while P7 belongs to the third phase, and P3 belongs to the fourth. P8 and P9 belong to the fifth and final phase of construction at this sector (Ghica 2013: 146). Based on stratigraphy, radiocarbon analysis, ceramic assemblages and two coins, the terminus post quem for phase three has been dated to the second half of the sixth century, enabling the foundation date (the first construction phase) to be pushed back to the first half of the fourth century, making it the oldest preserved Christian monastic site that has been dated with certainty (Ghica 2019b: 240).

This sector is located 100m N-E of GQA1 and houses a residential building consisting of 14 rooms. These rooms were built in 3 successive phases: phase 1a (P10), phase 1b (P1-9), phase 2 (P11-12) and phase 3 (P13-14). The use of these spaces can be divided into four phases of occupation: phase 1 (P1-10), phase 2 (P2, 9-10 & condemnation of P1, 3-8), phase 3 (P2, 9, 10-13 and construction of P11 and 12), phase 4 (P2, 9, 10-14, construction of 13 and 14) (Ghica 2013: 148). The structure is almost entirely masoned, with only P6 partially excavated in the substrate. The abandonment layers, much like those of GQA1, were devoid of material which could possibly indicate the function of spaces. Consequently, only the planimetry of the building makes this possible. In the center of the building, two spaces have been recognised as distributing rooms (P2 and P4), which controlled internal movement within the building and communicated with each other through a partitioned passaged (P3). The second largest room (P1) likely served as a living room as indicated by the presence of shelves, while the niches in P5, 6 and 9 indicate that these rooms were probably used as bedrooms (Ghica 2013: 148; Ghica 2019b: 238). P8 was a kitchen and P7 was a storage room. Structural additions were made in the third phase of occupation in the 5th-6th centuries, comprising P11 and P12, the second of which appears to have served as a stable, based on analysis of the organic sediment on the ground (Ghica 2019b: 238). Finally, the third phase of construction (correlating with the fourth and final phase of occupation) saw the addition of a store (P14) and a small kitchen (P13). Burnt macro remains were recovered from the latter which date from the middle of the fifth and the end of the seventh centuries (Ghica 2019b: 238). The nature of the sector is not yet completely understood, with it possible that it was a reception area, or xenodochion, rather than a hermitage (Ghica 2019b: 241).

This sector is located in a slight depression in the center of the triangle formed by GQA1 to the south, GQA2 to the east and GQA5 to the west. The area has not yet been excavated, but surface cleaning has revealed a number of features. The structure comprises a building with a sub-rectangular plan, to the south of which are three contiguous rooms. These two areas are separated by a corridor parallel to the south wall of the main building. Several partitions and fittings inside these spaces have been identified, including basalt slab partitions (P2), post holes (P2 and P4) and a fitted pit (P2), but their function is unclear (Ghica 2019b: 238). The abandonment level of the central cell (P3) revealed a decorated siga barrel, deposited in the NW corner (Ghica 2013: 150).

This area has not yet been excavated

This sector has been partially excavated, revealing a building consisting of two adjoining rooms rectangular in plan, which likely served as a small domestic unit. The eastern room, which is the smallest of the two rooms, includes a large niche in the northern wall, the base of which contains four semi-spherical hollows likely used as supports for water jugs. In the NW corner, is a small fireplace devoid of signs of smoke, while in the western wall, a door enabled communication with the larger room (Ghica 2013a: 151). Another door in the southern wall gave access to the complex formed by the two rooms, and the northern half of the eastern wall contains a window. The space presumably served as a kitchen, store and a vestibule (Ghica 2013a: 151).

The sector is situated 190m north of GQA5 and has not yet been completely excavated. Surface cleaning has so far revealed the outlines of nine rooms organised in a cluster on the eastern side of a vaulted, rectangular room (Ghica 2019b: 239). A trench was opened in the southern half of the easternmost room, revealing a storage space equipped with a dolium, a large basin with a spout, and two large local amphorae reused as storage jars (Ghica 2013: 151). A series of benches were also identified, partially running along the west and south walls. A fragmentary Coptic ostracon was found in the abandonment layer of the structure (Ghica 2013: 151).

Archaeological research

The first work conducted on the site was carried out by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, during the 1990s. During this campaign, two rooms of GQA1 were cleared, however no documentation is available. This was then followed by two seasons of excavation conducted by the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO) led by Victor Ghica, first in 2009, then in 2013 and 2020.


• Ghica, Victor. 2009. “Bahariya / Ganub Qasr al-‘Aguz.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 109: 604-606.
• Ghica, Victor. 2012. “Pour une histoire du christianisme dans le désert Occidental d’Égypte.” Journal des savants 2: 251-253 and fig. 18.
• Ghica, Victor. 2013a. “Tell Ganub Qasr al-‘Aguz.” Supplément au Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 113: 145-154.
• Ghica, Victor. 2013b. “Le christianisme des déserts.” Supplément au Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 113: 143-145.
• Ghica, Victor. 2014. “Le christianisme des déserts.” Supplément au Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 114: 108-112.
• Ghica, Victor. 2016. “Vecteurs de la christianisation de l’Égypte au IVe siècle à la lumière de l’archéologie.” In Acta XVI congressus internationalis archaeologiae christianae Romae (22-28.9.2013). Costantino e i Costantinidi: l’innovazione costantiniana, le sue radici e i suoi sviluppi, edited by Olof Brandt, Gabriele Castiglia and Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai, pars I, 239, 249 and fig. 9, 10, Città del Vaticano: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana.
• Ghica, Victor. 2019. “L’archéologie du monachisme égyptien au IVe siècle: état de la question.” In Nag Hammadi à 70 ans. Qu’avons nous appris ? Nag Hammadi at 70: What Have We Learned? (Colloque international, Québec, Université Laval, 29-31 mai 2015), edited by Eric Crégheur, Louis Painchaud, Tuomas Rasimus, 126-127 and fig. 1, 2, 3, Leuven–Paris–Bristol: Peeters.
• Ghica, Victor. 2019. “Ganoub Qasr el-Agouz (oasis de Bahariya).” In Archéologie française en Égypte. Recherche, coopération, innovation, edited by Laurent Coulon and Mélanie Cressent, 236-241, Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
• Ghica, Victor, Rhiannon Williams, Zulema Barahona Mendieta and Valérie Schram. 2021. “Culture matérielle du christianisme égyptien : les déserts Occidental et Oriental,” Bulletin archéologique des Écoles françaises à l’étranger [En ligne], Égypte, mis en ligne le 30 mai 2021, consulté le 22 juin 2021. URL :

Victor Ghica, Rhiannon Williams, 2020
Suggested citation
Victor Ghica, Rhiannon Williams, 2020, "Tall Ǧanūb Qaṣr al-ʿAǧūz", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,
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© V. Ghica, D. Laisney, O. Onézime, A. Di Miceli, 2021
© V. Ghica, D. Laisney, O. Onézime 2013
© O. Onézime, V. Ghica 2013
© O. Onézime 2013
© O. Onézime 2013
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