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06 December 2012 | 14:30

New book by the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology

The Decree of Saïs

Schöne Teller

Oxford University’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA) has published a new book on Maritime Archaeology in the Canopic Region in Egypt. The volume by Anne-Sophie von Bomhard focuses on a stele found during underwater excavations in Aboukir Bay off the coast of Egypt, at the site of ancient Thonis-Heracleion. The stele is inscribed with hieroglyphs that convey a copy of the Decree of Saïs as it relates to the redistribution of taxes raised at the important port of Thonis-Heracleion.

The stele is astonishingly well preserved and served as one of the keys for the identification of the sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion with the hieroglyphs naming the place where it was set up. Furthermore, the stele is the twin of the Naukratis stele found in 1899, the difference between the two being in the name of the place where they were erected and in the fact that they were carved by two different stone masons from a single copy of the decree.

The publication is the first detailed study of the stele. It gives an introduction to the discovery, as well as a description of the monument. Von Bomhard then goes on to discuss the arrangement of the texts and figures depicted on the decree, and the possible symbolism behind them. The bulk of the text is occupied by a careful translation and transliteration of the text, followed by an exhaustive bibliography and indices. The Decree of Saïs is an important document for the understanding of royal benefactions to temples and aspects of the taxation system associated with maritime trade during the Late Period when Thonis-Heracleion was the foremost port of entry in to Egypt for foreign traders.

The Decree of Saïs by Anne-Sophie von Bomhard is the fifth volume in the Canopic region series of publications of the excavations by the Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM) in Aboukir Bay (Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology 2012, ISBN-13: 978-1-905905-23-2, international distributor: Oxbow Books, Park End Place, Oxford, OX1 1HN, United Kingdom, P:+44 (0)1865 241249, F:+44 (0)1865 794449.