Wadi al-Natrun Project
The mission of the Wadi al-Natrun project (YMAP-North) involves the excavation and conservation of early Christian remains in the desert west of the Nile Delta. Darlene Brooks Hedstrom serves as director of excavations. The current focus of work is the Monastery of St. John the Little. Vast in extent (over seven square kilometers in area) and containing around one hundred unexcavated architectural structures, the John the Little site is increasingly threatened by agricultural encroachment and human vandalism. The leadership of YMAP is working with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to document these valuable remains and to preserve them for future generations.
Several successful seasons of work have already been completed, made possible by grants from the Simpson Endowment for Egyptology at Yale University, the National Geographic Society, Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University), and Columbia University. In 2006, the YMAP team initiated its work with a series of geophysical and archaeological surveys at the monastic site of Pherme in the western Delta, before shifting its attention to the Monastery of John the Little. Beginning in 2007, the excavations at John the Little were expanded to include a large, well-preserved monastic residence. This structure features a distinctive mud-brick architectural style, extensive kitchen installations, a program of figural wall paintings, and numerous Coptic dipinti (painted wall inscriptions).
During upcoming seasons, the YMAP team plans (1) to complete the excavation of this residence, (2) to produce a comprehensive archaeological map of the site, (3) to clean and document the central monastic church, and (4) to develop a long-term strategy for monitoring visitation.