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The Late Antique necropolis on the site of El-Deir in the Egyptian oasis of Khargeh : study of the Coptic funerary practices





Study of the west necropolis at the El-Deir site in the Egyptian oasis of Khargeh helps to acquire a better understanding of the knowledge of Egyptian funerary practicesin the Late Antiquity / Late Antique period, in the first ages of Christianity. The results of this research constitute an interesting prism through which to discover the Christian community that lived at El-Deir, in the north of the oasis, in the precise location where the presence of an important Christian population is attested from the 4th centuryvia numerous archaeological remains and textual sources. The morphology of the 150 tombs, their orientation, studies of the bodies – often mummified – and the grave goods have all been compared with those of some other Egyptian necropolises dating from the late Roman period to the early Byzantine period, namely from the 4th to the late 6thcentury. This confrontation of data has brought forth several criteriathat seem to allow identification of a Christian necropolis. The funerary practices established by the first Christians thus combine elements inherited from their ancestors that already existed in the traditional necropolises and elements related to the new belief in the Christian religion. In parallel, multidisciplinary studies conducted at El-Deir lead us to discover the daily life of Christians who lived on the site in the Late Antiquity. The environment in which this population progressed, the cultures it developed, its professional and hand-crafted activities, the pains endured by its members and the links between this community and the exterior thus start to be revealed.

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