El-Hayz is a region located roughly 40 kilometers from the town of Bawiti, which is in the oasis called Bahariya. There are lots of tiny hamlets in this region where people live. There was an ancient caravan route in this region which linked Bahariya and Farafra together. The existing ruins show that trading and agriculture were very active in this area during the age of the Roman Empire.
There is a minimum of four springs in el-Hayz. They are called Ain el-Ris, Tabla-Amun, Ain el-Izzah, and Ain El-Sheikh. A lot of the ancient sites can be found around these springs, probably because the ancient people had access to water in the springs. Between the 1930s and 1940s, several excavations were initiated near the Ain el-Ris spring by Ahmed Fakhry, an Egyptian archaeologist. However, he was not able to find out much about its history from these excavations.
There were several artefacts discovered that are believed to be from the Lithic Period and Neolithic Period. These artefacts are mostly flint blades and fragments. Other sites were discovered close by, and they’re likely prehistoric settlements. But there is not much evidence of activities from the Pharaonic Period that have been found.
The western portion of the region contains Ain el-Izzah, which is a small village near Gebel. Two kilometers from the spring is a terribly preserved ancient settlement which has lots of pottery sherds all over the ground. If you travel northwest from Ain el-Izzah, you will find a ridge with rock tombs cut in them. There are lots of pottery coffins and mummy fragments scattered everywhere on the ground. The best ruins in the region are the Ain el-Ris, which is 2 kilometers away from the main road. It is the biggest settlement in the entire oasis. During the Roman era, a huge mudbrick fortress ruled the region.
The Inspectorate of Antiquities at Bawiti sent an excavation team to the site recently. They discovered palace remnants, a wine cellar, and some orchards. Around the el-Ris area, huge cemeteries were discovered too. In the Western Desert, on the northern end of el-Ris, there is an old Christian church that was preserved well for a time. But there has been a lot of deterioration over the last 100 years or so.
It is a basilica-style church that is made of mudbrick and is two stories tall. It was likely built to honor St. George since the paintings of the church show a man on horseback. St. George was a renowned saint of Ancient Bahariya. A lot is missing from the church, including its fresco paintings, roof, and the upper floor. However, it is not difficult for historians to understand its building plan. There are some decorative remains left in the plastered walls. According to Fakhry, the church was built sometime around the 5th century or 6th century.
Other Findings Nearby
In 1938, Fakhry conducted another excavation further away from the St. George Church. Under lots of small soil mounds, he found pieces of a huge ancient palace. White plaster and geometric decorations were still on the walls too. From 1939 to 1945, more excavations were conducted, and more structures were discovered. It signifies that wealthy people must have lived in el-Hayz at some point in the ancient past.
Roughly 0.50 kilometers away from the St. George Church are wall remnants from an oddly shaped camp that belonged to the Romans. It is believed to have been a military outpost for a bigger structure just 2 kilometers south at Qasr Masuda. The fortress was several stories high and roughly 18 meters squared. It featured 13 rooms and an open court well. A rocky knoll and desert floor are underneath the fortress.
Dr. Miroslav Barta and the Czech Institute of Egyptology at Charles University are surveying el-Hayz to find more artefacts and other interesting items. Between 2002 and 2003, the survey found lots of ancient settlements and discovered several scattered remains from the Roman era and the Prehistoric era. The investigation of the area found Roman estates and many manawirs, which were underground irrigation systems used by the Romans.
Updated On May 04, 2020