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Department of Archaeology


Dr Penny Wilson, BA PhD

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology

(email at


I am a specialist in Egyptology with a particular focus in areas of both hieraoglyphic texts as well as field archaeology. After reading Oriental Studies (Egyptian with Coptic) at Liverpool University (BA 1985), I continued to develop my interest in the Egyptian language. My specialist research for my PhD was a lexicographical study of the hieroglyphic texts in the Ptolemaic period Temple of Edfu (1991). Evolving out of this study, I continue to research the Egyptian hierogyphic writing system, temple ritual practice and the interweaving of mythical stories into Egyptian religious practice as a whole. I worked for seven years as Assistant Keeper in the Department of Antiquities in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (1992-1999), where I developed a wider passion for material culture of Egypt, the Classical World and the Near East. Since 1999 I have been employed as a Lecturer in Egyptology at the Department of Archaeology, Durham University.

My first archaeological work was at Bearpark near Durham, while I was at school. I have since worked on various projects in Egypt: as epigrapher at Qasr Ibrim and archaological supervisor at Ashmunein, Sinai, Tell el Balamun and Zawiyet Umm el Rakham.

I am currently the Field Director of the joint Durham University/Egypt Exploration Society/Supreme Council of Antiquities project at Sais (Sa el-Hagar), which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK (2002-2007).

I am also actively involved in the Egypt Exploration Society/British Academy Special Project 'Delta Survey'. The project aims to record and investigate as many of the archaeological sites in northern Egypt as possible. Many are in remote areas, such as the lagoons in the very north of the country and are visited only rarely.

I am interested in the dynamics of life in the Nile delta including coping with the Nile's flood regime in the past, the development of urban centres and the tension between agricultural life and the state. I am also interested in the interactions between the religious life and thinking of the temple and the world outside and the nature of religious experience in 'ordinary' daily life. My current work is focussed upon the process of change in material culture and settlements from the Pharaonic period, through the hellenistic and Roman eras, to the Christian and Islamic periods.

Research Interests

  • Ancient urbanism and sustainability
  • Settlement archaeology in the delta, in particular the city of Sais and its hinterland
  • Roman and Late Antique sites in the delta
  • Temples and theological thought
  • The relationship of living populations to ancient sites
  • Impact of the railways on archaeological areas in Egypt
  • Mud: uses, composition and feel

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2006: Invitation to colloquium: I was invited to a colloquium in December 2006 at the National Museums of Scotland to discuss issues relating to the Egyptian collections in Edinburgh.
  • 2006: Invited conference paper: I was invited to give a paper on survey and archaeological work in the western Nile Delta in Berlin by the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the conference 'The Trade, Topography and Material Culture of Egypt’s North-West Delta: 8th century BCE to 8th century CE'.
  • 2002: Principal investigator, AHRC Sais and its Hinterland project: The five year project is funded by the AHRC by £202k and supported by the Egypt Exploration Society. It runs from 2002-7.
  • 2001: Editorial Board: I am a member of the editorial board of the journal for Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry based at the University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece.


  • Wilson P (1999). The Survey at Sais (Sa el-Hagar), 1998. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 85 1-4
  • Wilson P (1997). A Ptolemaic Lexikon: a lexicographical study of the texts in the temple of Edfu. Leuven: Peeters Publishing & Department of Oriental Studies. 1343 pp
  • Wilson P (1997). Slaughtering the crocodile at Edfu and Dendera. In: S. Quirke (ed.). The temple in Ancient Egypt: new discoveries and recent research. London: British Museum. 179-203
  • Wilson P (1996). The roadway and its inscriptions. In: P. Rose (ed.). Qasr Ibrim: the hinterland suvey. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 102-117

Books: authored

Books: sections

  • Wilson, Penelope. (2011). Settlement Connections in the Canopic Region. In Alexandria and the North-Western Delta. Robinson, Duncan. & Wilson, Andrew. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology. 111-126.

Conference papers

  • Wilson, Penelope & Gilbert, Gregory (2012), Prehistoric Sais: Results from the Western Delta Floodplain, in Kabacinski, Jacek, Chlodnicki, Marek & Kobusiewicz, Michal eds, Studies in African Archaeology 11: Prehistory of Northeastern Africa. New Ideas and Discoveries. Poznan, Poland, Muzeum Archeologiczne w Poznaniu, 25-40.

Edited works: conference proceedings

  • Wilson, Penelope. (2010). Recent Survey Work in the Southern Mareotis Area. Lake Mareotis: Reconstructing the Past, Alexandria, Egypt, Archaepress.

Edited works: contributions

Essays in edited volumes

Journal papers: academic


Selected Grants

  • 2002: Arts and Humanities Research Council: 'Sais and its Hinterland: the dynamics of settlement and power in the western Nile Delta'