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Villa of the Birds

Villa of the Birds: The Excavation and Preservation of the Kom al-Dikka Mosaics

Wojciech Kołątaj
Grzegorz Majcherek
Ewa Parandowska
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    Villa of the Birds
    Book Description:

    This fascinating book describes the excavation and preservation of three early Roman villas in Egypt’s ancient port city of Alexandria. Chronicling the work of the Polish Archaeological Mission in Alexandria, Villa of the Birds is an engaging and informative account of how these ancient dwellings were unearthed, and how the famous mosaic floors were brought to light two thousand years after they were laid. With the expert guidance of the archaeologists responsible for the excavation, the reader is led through layers of clues reaching ten meters below today’s street level, and to an in-depth appreciation of this extraordinary site’s rich history. Drawing directly on their work with the Polish Archeological Mission, the authors describe in detail the excavation of the housing areas, as well as the baths, the gymnasia, and the theater that comprise the villa complex. Villa of the Birds reconstructs not only the villas themselves, with their magnificent mosaics, but also the history of how they were built and used, and ultimately how they were destroyed by fire. The book is richly illustrated with detailed floor plans as well as spectacular color photographs of the mosaics themselves. American Research Center in Egypt Conservation Series 3

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-608-7
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The chief objectives of this project were the conservation, protection, and display of the floor mosaics from the Early Roman Villaalpha, discovered at Kom al-Dikka in Alexandria. The remnants of this building offer a unique example of Alexandrian domestic architecture, showing not only the layout, but also the interior decoration within the original architectural context. The set of four mosaic floors offers examples of different decorative techniques employed in the Roman Imperial period. The total area of conserved mosaic floors is almost 110 square meters and is so far the only such permanent in situ mosaic display to be...

  5. Chapter 1 Archaeological Research Work
    (pp. 5-42)
    Grzegorz Majcherek

    The site of Kom al-Dikka is situated in the very center of modern Alexandria, next to the main Masr railway station (Fig. 1). Several centuries of accumulated deposits turned this area into a mound, which was raised and modified in the Napoleonic era when a fort was erected on the hill. The site has piqued the interest of archaeologists for a long time, but the first, very limited, excavations at the end of the nineteenth century brought meager results. Later work on the outskirts of the hills was limited to an exploration of the Medieval layers.¹ Regular excavations became possible...

  6. Chapter 2 Mosaics Conservation Work
    (pp. 43-72)
    Ewa Parandowska

    The full extent of the four mosaic floors was revealed in the course of the present conservation project. An assessment of the condition of particular mosaics carried out at the time their surfaces were cleared reveals some deterioration in their condition relative to what was recorded during the original excavations.

    When excavated, the mosaics appeared to be in fairly good condition, although some fragments were almost completely lost: two panels with birds and a fragment of geometric design in mosaic α–5, and a major part ofopus sectilepavement in α–3 and α–6. There was also further...

  7. Chapter 3 Archaeological and Functional Assumptions
    (pp. 73-86)
    Wojciech Kołątaj

    The conservation of the mosaic floors was a very urgent issue. Their location in the lowest point of the excavation area made them especially sensitive to damage caused by repeated rainfall flooding. Seeping water is dangerous to the stability and soundness of the floor substructure, leading to quick disintegration. Consequently, any conservation work required not only direct conservation treatment of the ancient floors, but also the erection of a shelter, an appropriate restructuring of the immediate surroundings, and the establishment of an efficient water drainage system.

    In view of the general development of the site, the Supreme Council of Antiquities...

  8. Chapter 4 The Shelter Design
    (pp. 87-102)
    Wojciech Kołątaj

    The shelter, measuring 15 × 12 meters, was designed to protect the mosaics from the detrimental effects of atmospheric factors, mainly rainwater. The protection of mosaic floors from direct sunshine also reduces the danger of daily thermal expansion, and last but not least, it protects against destruction caused by visitors.

    Structural requirements as well as the specification of the steel sections and roof tiling available on the local market led to the adoption of a basic 3 × 3 meter structural module. Such a module ensures the almost perfect adjustment of the shelter to the existing remains of ancient architecture...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 103-104)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 105-116)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 117-122)
  13. Index
    (pp. 123-126)