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Place names
Arabicقصر نسيمة
EnglishQasr Nisima | Qasr Nessima
FrenchKasr Omm el Nessim
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Site information
Trismegistos GeoID61710
Pleiades ID776220
Ancient name-
Modern nameQaṣr Nisīma
Date from300
Date to499
Dating criteria

Analysis of surface ceramic.


Qaṣr Nisīma is situated along the Darb al-Arbaʿīn, 10km south of the ancient city of Hibis. A small hamlet in antiquity, the site consists of a well-preserved columbarium, as well as a small ‘fort’, or qaṣr, surrounded by about 15 housing units, one of which includes a small church (Ghica 2012: 217; Ghica 2016: 199). In recent years, a section of the housing (to the north of the fort) has been destroyed by heavy machinery.

The fort is a central building initially constructed along a rectangular plan, built on a base of stones and ordinary clay mortar. The structure appears to have undergone at least one additional construction phase, resulting in enlargement/extension of the eastern section, as well as the reinforcement of the north and south walls by a second sloping wall (Ghica 2012: 219).

Among the housing units on the southern side of the site lies the leveled down remains of a small E-W oriented church. The heavy silting of the structure and lack of excavation has made it impossible to fully record the architectural plan of the structure, but a number of features could be identified, including two "median columns of octagonal sections", which have been noted along the north side of the nave, with there perhaps also having been matching columns along the southern side (Wagner 1991: 2038a). As a result of looting, the area of the sanctuary in the east has been made visible. Consequently, the following features have been identified: a semicircular apse decorated with four engaged pillars between which lie three niches and two cancelli, adorned with two engaged columns which close the bêma to the west (Ghica 2012: 219). Wagner identified these architectural features to be comparable to those of the church at Šams al-Dīn, but that has since been rejected (Wagner 1991: 2038a; Ghica 2012: 219).

The brickwork, presence of the columbarium, and the architectural features of the church, namely the closing of the bêma, as well as the inclusion of the church in the village plan, suggest a date of foundation in the fourth or early fifth century (Ghica 2012: 219). Additionally, the Christianisation of the village is attested to by some graffiti visible in the rubble of the central building (Ghica 2012: 219).

Archaeological research

This site, unfortunately, has remained unexcavated. It was first mentioned briefly by Guy Wagner (1987: 172-173 & 1991: 2038), after which, the Institut français d’archéologie orientale conducted three missions, resulting in a topographical plan of the site and analysis of the surface ceramic. These missions were carried out in February 2007 (V. Ghica), September (V. Ghica and D. Laisney) and December 2008 (M. Wuttmann, S. Merchand and V. Ghica) (Ghica 2012: 217). 


Ghica, V. 2012. “Pour une histoire du christianisme dans le désert Occidental d’Égypte.” Journal des savants 2: 189-280.
Ghica, V. 2016. Vecteurs de la christianisation de l’Egypte au IVe siècle à la lumière des sources archéologiques.” In Acta XVI Congressus Internationalis Archaeologiae Christianae, Rome 22-28.9.2013, edited by Olof Brandt, Gabriele Castiglia, 199, 241, fig. 2, Fig. 9a. Città del Vaticano: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana.
• Wagner, G. 1987. Les Oasis d’Égypte à l’époque grecque, romaine et byzantine d’après les documents grecs: Recherches de papyrologie et d’épigraphie grecques, 172-173. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
• Wagner G. 1991. Qaṣr Nisīma.” In The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by A.S. Atiya, 2038a. vol.
7. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Victor Ghica, Rhiannon Williams, 2020
Suggested citation
Victor Ghica, Rhiannon Williams, 2020, "Qaṣr Nisīma", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,
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© D. Laisney, 2008
© V. Ghica, D. Laisney 2013
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