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The Architectural Decoration of Marina el-Alamein

An analysis and catalogue of the late Hellenistic and Roman decorative architectural features of the town and cemetery

Rafal Czerner
Publication Year:
147pp. Illustrated throughout with figures, maps, plans, drawings and photographs 12 in colour. Catalogue of architectural features
ISBN 10:
BAR number:


The present study focuses on the ancient architectural decoration of a particular form uncovered on the excavation site of modern Marina which lies on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, about 6 km east of el-Alamein. Also known as el-Bahrein, it is located 96 km west of Alexandria, 40 km west of ancient Taposiris Magna (Abu Sir), and 185 km east of Paraetonium (Marsa Matruh). For the past twenty years, Polish and Egyptian missions have been conducting archaeological research and preservation of the remains of the Hellenistic-Roman town and necropolis found on this spot and tentatively identified on the basis of descriptions of ancient destruction on the Mediterranean coast. The excavations occupy a section of the lagoon coast more than 1000 m long E-W andabout 550 m wide N-S. The layout of the ancient town has been reconstructed on the basis of results of investigations conducted to date. The harbour infrastructure, including warehouses of which ruins have survived, lay immediately on the coast. Directlyto the south of the port and commercial quarter, was the city centre which included baths, a civic basilica and other public buildings around a porticoed main square. Surrounding the centre were densely occupied habitation quarters. Remains of more than 50 different architectural structures have been discovered in the town and necropolis. On the basis of archaeological evidence, the town functioned from the 2nd century BC to the beginning of the 7th century AD. The earliest remains, some even from the mid 2nd century BC, were found in the necropolis. A very specific type of architectural decoration characterized by simplification and decorative geometrization appears in Marina where it also seems to have been prevalent. This kind of stylization has been associated mainly with Petra where a similar architectural decoration was commonly applied. Having been recognized first in Petra, it came to be known as Nabatean. The stylized architectural decoration discovered at Petra and Hegra is so specific and dissimilar from any of the Classical orders that it has even been described on occasion as a separate architectural order.