Houses 1, 2 and 3

Houses 1, 2 and 3 exhibit a combination of architectural features typical of domestic structures encountered in this sector of Area A. Each of the houses is entered from the south. A fourth structure, the North Building, abuts Houses 1 and 2; it may originally have served a domestic function, but was later used as a rubbish dump. Traces of vaulting suggest that many of the smaller rooms were barrel-vaulted.

Some of the larger rooms appear to have had flat roofs comprising wooden beams, palm-fronds and mud-plaster, yet it is also possible that some were kept partly open to the sky. Preserved stairs in Houses 1 and 2 indicate that many activities took place at roof-top level.

A plan of Houses 1, 2 and 3.

Houses 1 and 2 were provided with kitchens and built ovens. House 3 was provided with ovens in the northwest corner of its courtyard. Typical features of the walls within these houses include ledges, cupboards, shelves and niches, often delineated with white plaster; bands of white plaster were placed across some of the vaults. Courtyards of varying sizes are associated with the individual houses.

Importantly, the excavation of these structures revealed many artefacts. The objects primarily included domestic items such as a wide selection of ceramics and glass, basketry, textiles and sandals, furniture and items associated with textile manufacture. House 2 contained a number of well-preserved wooden implements such as mallets, and sections of wood that indicate the manufacture of wooden codices. Inscribed material was numerous and proved to be some of the most important evidence upon which to reconstruct life at the site. The corpus of material includes papyri and wooden boards which were inscribed predominantly with Greek and Coptic, though a few are in Latin and Syriac. Papyri have provided the site’s ancient name – Kellis.

Additionally, these documents and others from the North Building often contained consular dates of the late 3rd and early 4th centuries CE which assisted in understanding the overall occupational phasing. Two books with their original binding were found in House 2 stand out as particularly significant finds: (1) the Cyprian Orations of Isocrates the Orator – perhaps the earliest surviving copies of sections of his work dating to the early 4th century CE; and (2) an agricultural account book – dated to the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century CE which contained valuable economic information on commodities.

A plan and profile of House 3.


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Houses 1-3: general views

House 1 at the beginning of excavation showing predominantly sand fill, typical of all of the houses.
House 2 looking north at the beginning of excavation showing the remains of the barrel-vaults.
House 2 excavation of the kitchen area again showing the depth of the sand fill.
A view of House 3, post excavation, looking southeast.
The beginning of excavation of House 3.
General overview of House 1 and part of the North Building (foreground), looking towards the south.

Houses 1-3: rooms and architecture

Detail of a cupboard in House 1. Note the burning on the upper shelf from lamps.
A niche in House 1 with emplacement for a pottery vessel.
House 1, corridor with staircase on the left, looking south.
A shelf unit in House 1, showing it partially cleared and after excavation.
House 1, Room 7, looking southwest.
House 1, Room 7, dining area partially excavated.
House 1, animal manger on the north of the courtyard, showing a hole in the wall for tethering.
House 1, animal manger on the northeast corner, showing architectural modification.
Detail of the animal mangers in the north of the courtyard in House 1, looking east.
The south end of Room 6 in House 1.
House 1, Room 4 east wall.
The staircase in House 1. Note the wooden treads.
The entranceway to House 1.
House 2, the lower part of the staircase.
House 2, Room 8, showing a niche, wall plaster and emplacement for a shelf above the niche.
House 2, staircase showing a lightwell to an understairs cupboard.
House 2, kitchen floor levels, showing an earlier structure.
Room 6 of House 3 after excavation, looking northeast.
Detail of the threshold for the main entrance to House 2.
The entrance room to House 2.
South end of House 2, post excavation.
House 2, Room 4 looking west, showing emplacement for a shelf, a niche and white wash.
House 3, Room 2, palm-rib shelf in situ.
Detail of a palm-rib shelf within a niche in House 3.
House 3, corridor looking south to the entrance.
Room 6 of House 3 after excavation, showing the cupboards in the east wall.
House 3, courtyard showing storage facilities on the south.
Detail of the storage facility in the courtyard of House 3.
House 3, courtyard showing ovens in the northeast corner.

Houses 1-3: floor and other deposits

Ovens in the kitchen area of House 1.
Detail of the woven base belonging to a bed in House 1.
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House 1, Room 4 floor deposit showing a woven bed springing with the remains of imported Nile Valley amphorae.
Detailed view of basketry found in Room 4 of House 1.
Detailed view of bed springing as found in House 1, Room 4.
House 1 floor level visible from Rooms 3 (foreground), 4 and 6. Note the use of white plaster in Room 6.
Detailed view of the floor in Room 6 of House 1.
Animal feeding troughs in an animal manger situated in the north of the courtyard belonging to House 1.
A collapsed shelf as found during excavation of House 2.
Roof collapse encountered in House 2.
House 2 floor levels with ceramics.
The floor level in House 2 beneath the roof collapse.
The understairs cupboard in House 2 with woven bed springing and a small deposit of papyrus documents.
Detailed view of a collapsed shelf in House 2.
Floor level deposit in Room 4 of House 2 at the east end.
Partial clearance of the floor deposit in Room 6 of House 3.
Detail of the floor deposit in Room 6 of House 3.
A view of the floor deposit emerging in Room 6 of House 3.
Another view of artefacts scattered upon the floor of Room 6 of House 3.
Floor deposit elswhere in House 3.

Houses 1-3: the ceramic and material corpus

House 1, local storage jar (Object Registration Number A/1/10).
House 1, imported Nile silt amphora (Object Registration Number A/1/31).
House 1, imported Nile silt amphora with white decoration (Object Registration Number A/1/37).
House 1, deep bowl (Object Registration Number A/1/43).
House 1, strainer (Object Registration Number A/1/58).
House 1, small bowl copying a Roman prototype (Object Registration Number A/1/59).
House 1, cooking bowl with red painted rim (Object Registration Number A/1/60).
House 1, small cooking vessel with residual handle (Object Registration Number A/1/61).
House 1, deep bowl with deformed rim (Object Registration Number A/1/62).
House 1, small cooking vessel (Object Registration Number A/1/63).
House 1, bowl with typical incised groove on interior rim (Object Registration Number A/1/64).
House 1, thin-walled cooking vessel (Object Registration Number A/1/65).
House 1, thick-walled cooking vessel (Object Registration Number A/1/80).
House 1, deep bowl used for cooking (Object Registration Number A/1/67).
House 1, small bowl with black oily deposit on exterior (Object Registration Number A/1/69).
House 1, squatt jar (Object Registration Number A/1/70).
House 2, Oasis Red Ware imitation of North African Red Slip Ware (Object Registration Number A/2/1).
North Building, bowl with cream-ringed band and red ticks; typical decoration of the 4th century (Object Registration Number A/3/4). ( 19 / 40 ).
House 2, storage jars.
House 2, one handled jug.
House 2, typical 4th century barrel keg with fibre bung.
House 2, deep mixing bowl.
A selection of typical ceramics of the 4th century from House 2. Note the local large barrel-shaped kegs and the local imitation of North African Red Slip ware.

The inscribed material

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