Old Kingdom

Ancient City of Memphis, near the modern city of Mit Rahina

Project Dates
2011, 2014-2016

Previous Excavators
BAA: Joseph Hekekyan, Jacques de Moragan, Flinders Petrie, Survey of Memphis; FAD: Mohammed Ashery; FAG: Mustafa al-Amir, J Dimick, Apis Project; QAS: Flinders Petrie; RAB: Ahmad Badawi, Rudolf Anthes; RAD: Labib Habachi; RAG: Abudlla Mahmoud; RQA: Mohammed Al-Hitta

A satellite image of the Memphis sites

Sites that were documented in the 2016-2017 project at Memphis.

Memphis was Egypt’s first capital city, and its history spans over 3,000 years. It was once a vast settlement, with magnificent temples, palaces and Nile ports. It is believed to have been the most populous city of ancient Egypt, reaching 100,000 people at its peak. The only other ancient Egyptian city that compared to it in importance was Thebes (modern Luxor).

Though it was Egypt’s administrative capital through much of the pharaonic period, Memphis was eventually abandoned, lost, and then  rediscovered in 1799 by Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Since then portions of the city’s ruins—estimated to span 23 square miles in its entirety—have been surveyed, mapped, and excavated by successive cartographers and archaeologists and it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mit Rahina Field School Project

In 2011, AERA ran a beginners field school for inspectors from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) at Kom el-Fakhry—a residential district and cemetery from the 1st Intermediate period section of Memphis. In 2014, we returned to run an Advanced Field School to analyze the materials from our 2011 excavations. Find out more about our Field School Program.

Memphis Site and Community Development Project

In 2015, we once again returned to Memphis, this time working with the University of York on a two-year project sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to document some of Memphis’ major monuments and improve the visitor experience. We also ran field school programs that trained 77 MoTA inspectors in cultural heritage management.

The results of our Memphis research area are available in two PDF publications available for download:

Memphis Photogallery

Selected Bibliography 

2020. Ohara, Aude Grazer. Treasures from the Lost City of Memphis: Objects from the  Museum Sculpture Garden. Boston, AERA.

2017. Sadarangani, Freya. “Conclusion at the Capital: The Memphis Site and Community Development Project.” AERAgram vol 18 no 2, pages 2–9.

2017. “Memphis Site and Community Development.” AERA Annual Report 2016–2017, pages 6–7.

2016. “Memphis Site and Community Development (MSCD) Project Information Packet: Memphis (South), Historic Environment Record (HER).” USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) website.

2016. “Memphis Site and Community Development: The Final Year.” AERAGRAM vol 17 no 1&2, pages 12–16.

2016. “Research: Blazing a New Trail. Memphis Site and Community Development.” AERA Annual Report 2015–2016 page 5.

2015. “Memphis Site and Community Development: Ambitious Plans, Big Challenges.” AERAGRAM vol 16 no 2, pages 2–7.

2014. “Return to Memphis: MRFS 2014.” AERAGRAM vol 15 no 1 & 2, pages 6–9.

2012. “2011–2012 Archaeological Field Schools: Mit Rahina Field School.” AERA Annual Report 2011–2012 pages 16–18.

2012. “Memphis, A City Unseen.” AERAGRAM vol 13 no 1, pages 2–7.

2011. “New Cycle, New Site: The Mit Rahina Field School.” AERAGRAM vol 12 no 2, pages 18–19.