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Kom W and X Basin: Erosion, Deposition, and the Potential for Village Occupation


The twentieth-century excavations of stratified deposits at Kom W, adjacent to Lake Qarun in Fayum north shore, Egypt, led to a variety of interpretations, including the argument for the presence of a Neolithic village. This has influenced the evaluation of early to mid-Holocene occupation in Egypt. Here, we report our recent study of the erosion and deposition processes at the site and its environs in order to reassess these interpretations. Changes in the level of Lake Qarun, evidence for wind erosion, deflation, and deposition, and analyses of artifact density provide a geomorphic context for Kom W and its immediate environs. Radiocarbon determinations from surface hearths that surround the Kom are reported. From the time of its initial formation, Kom W was subject to post-depositional processes, particularly wind erosion, which have affected the site’s current form, and the preservation of features and artifact within the deposits. These changes need to be considered when deriving behavioral interpretations from the archaeological record at Kom W and in the surrounding area. The composition of deflated deposits that surround Kom W suggests that the site is not as unique as once imagined. Remains that might have allowed interpretations of a village occupation have not survived. Instead, deposits are consistent with other early to mid-Holocene occupations interpreted as locations with the use of domesticates but without villages.


Les fouilles du XXe siècle des dépôts stratifiés de Kom W, adjacent au lac Qarun sur la rive nord du Fayoum, en Égypte, ont donné lieu à diverses interprétations. Notre récente étude des processus d’érosion et de dépôt sur le site et ses environs, dont il est question ici, permet de réévaluer ces interprétations. Les changements de niveau du lac Qarun, les preuves d’érosion éolienne, de déflation et de dépôt, et les analyses de la densité des artefacts fournissent un contexte géomorphique pour le Kom W et ses environs immédiats. On rapporte des déterminations de radiocarbone dans les foyers de surface qui entourent le Kom. Depuis sa formation initiale, le Kom W a été soumis à des processus post-dépôt, en particulier l’érosion éolienne, qui ont affecté la forme actuelle du site, et la préservation des caractéristiques et des artefacts dans les dépôts. Ces changements doivent être pris en compte lors de l’interprétation du comportement des vestiges archéologiques du Kom W et de ses environs. La composition des dépôts dégonflés qui entourent le Kom W suggère que le kom n’est. pas aussi unique qu’on l’avait imaginé. Les vestiges qui auraient pu permettre des interprétations de l’occupation d’un village n’ont pas survécu. Au contraire, les dépôts correspondent à d’autres occupations du début et du milieu de l’Holocène interprétées comme des lieu où l’on utilise des domestiques sans village.

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The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) granted permission to work on the Fayum material to the University of California Los Angeles, Groningen University, University of Auckland Fayum Project (URU). We also wish to thank G. Lucarini and J. Linstädter for the invitation to present in the UISPP session in Paris and to contribute to this volume. Seline McNamee prepared Fig. 5. Thanks to Alice Leplongeon for assisting with the translation of the French abstract.


This study was supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand through a Marsden grant (UOA1106), by the National Geographic Society (8293-07, 8295-07, 8413-08), and by the University of Auckland.

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Correspondence to Joshua Emmitt.

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Emmitt, J., Phillipps, R., Koopman, A. et al. Kom W and X Basin: Erosion, Deposition, and the Potential for Village Occupation. Afr Archaeol Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-020-09370-1

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  • Fayum
  • Egypt
  • Neolithic
  • Wind erosion
  • Site formation