The village of Euhemeria is situated near to a modern village called Ezbet Afifi in the north-western part of Fayoum city between Philoteris and Theadelpheia archaeological sites, of which the exact locations are also known. Like most of the ancient Greaco-Roman towns in this part of the Fayoum, Euhemeria was founded in the reign of Ptolemy II (if not Ptolemy I) and was abandoned in the 4th century AD.
The first securely dated papyrus mentioning Euhemeria is from 243/242 BC; the latest papyri date to the 4th century AD, among them exactly dated only from AD 347. Euhemeria is about 7,5 km to the east of Philoteris ِArchaeological site, and about 3,5 km north-west of Theadelpheia. The location sequence of these villages probably follows the course of the ancient main feeder canal in the north-western part of the Fayoum, which reached out to Dionysias (Qasr Qaroun Temple site) and beyond. This course of the ancient canal probably corresponded to the must have been situated in close vicinity.
The town was called Euhemeria, a name of good omen, meaning “fine weather also prosperity, health and wealth and happiness. The name also was mentioned in the comedy author Alexis (3rd century BC) in Tanagra, Boiotia, Euhemeria was deified so it could be the background of the town’s name.
The Arabic name is Qasr Banat which means the Palace of the young Girls. When I visited the site, I asked the local farmers about the story behind the Arabic name. They told me a legend attributed to this place which they heard from their ancestors…the legend is about a king who used to live in a palace in this area with his seven daughters. For me, I believe that the arabic name may have its background from the name of the main Canal “Bahr Banat” that runs close to the site’s vicinity.
The site presents itself today as an overall plain surrounded by cultivable lands on all sides; it measures 400×400 m. the only buildings still standing are two tholos baths in the western and eastern parts of the site, and fragments of one or several buildings of fired brick in the northern part. On the north western edge, very poor remains of possibly ancient walls. Sadly all the buildings have disappeared during the huge land reclamation activities in the first 30 years of the 20th century. The whole site is scattered with thick layers of pottery, which can be dated between the 3rd century BC and the 4th century AD.
The first scholars to excavate the site were P. B Grenfell and A. S Hunt who, accompanied by D. G. Hogarth. The archaeologists started their work on the 9th of December 1898 and excavated there for four weeks. Large parts of the site had been explored by the locals at that time in particular, the mub brick temple to the west of the site. The papyri found in the temple seem to indicate that it had been dedicated to goddess Isis.
Remaining buildings on the site:
The only remaining buildings of some substance are those made of fired brick; in Euhemeria we find the ruins of two tholos baths, and fragments of further buildings which may have belonged to a bath? Remains of very few mud brick walls in the north – west of the site may have belonged to a temple.
Entering the site from the modern village, one finds the first bath house of which El-Khachab gave a short description in 1978. What remains of bath 1 are the substructures of two tholoi A and B, which rise about 1 m from the ground, and the circles of hip-baths preserved up to the arm rests on both sub structures.
This bathing facility was located on the opposite edge of bath 1, in the eastern part of the village. The Hip bath structure (Tholoi) are less well preserved, but here we find more of the infrastructure of the bath house. This bath house was apparently, more elegant than bath 1 as the places on which the feet of the bathers rested, were covered with pebbled floors.
Some building fragments including a large block A of fired bircks which resembles the vat buildings in Theadelpheia, which perhaps part of an industrial facility of the Roman period a wine vat? – A small vat container B which is small to be an immersion tub, but rather belonged to an industrial facility – Large block of semicircular structure filled with fired brick situated to the eastern part of block B which is said by Professor Paola Davoli as “Strattura Termale” A Spa structure. While Dr. Cornelia suggests that it is part of a winding staircase.
Text: The Fayoum survey project : the Themistou Meris. Volume A, The archaeological and papyrological survey. Author: Cornelia Römer.
Photos: Explore Fayoum
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