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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Penny Wilson, BA PhD

Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology

(email at


I am a specialist in Egyptology with a particular focus in areas of both hieroglyphic 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 and Senior 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). The work at Sais is looking at settlement changes in relation to wider landscape dynamics and change, as well as specific sharp changes in settlement structure. The rebuilding of the late New Kingdom-Third Intermediate Period city after a collapse-event is of particular interest as it provides a sealed context for the late Ramesside city and a change in building decisions in the next phase. The long period of settlement from the Neolithic period to the modern day, with continuous but not necessarily contiguous settlement also provides an unparalleled chance to understand the relationships between material culture of differet periods in one palce and in in comparison with other Delta and Valley settlements.

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 currently also carrying out survey work at Tell Mutubis, a large Late Roman site near Rosetta, in order to understand cultural transitions during the Roman period to the early Islamic period. This project will include training and heritage development aspects. It has been supported by funding from the British Academy IPM award scheme and will be a separate monograph focussing on the development of the Bolbitine/Rashid Nile branch system.

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.

I am interested in supervising students in subjects connected with the archaeology of the Delta, settlement archaeology and Egyptian material culture of all periods. In addition, I am also keen to supervise work on Ptolemaic hieroglyphic texts in general. Themes such as connectivity, geomorphology, sustainability and materiality in Egypt are also of interest.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

  • Benchmarking the social and economic impacts of the tangible and intangible heritage of Middle Egypt
  • Ceramics
  • North-West Nile Delta Survey Project, Egypt
  • Saïs and its Hinterland: Dynamics and Power in the West Nile Delta

Research Interests

  • Egyptian settlement archaeology, especially in the Delta region
  • Material culture, pottery and artefact studies
  • Egyptian Late Period to Late Antique history and archaeology
  • Egyptian Religious practice and hieroglyphic texts


Authored book

  • Wilson, P. (2011). Sais I The Ramesside-Third Intermediate Period at Kom Rebwa. Egypt Exploration Society.
  • Wilson, Penelope. & Grigoropoulos, Dimitrios. (2009). The West Nile Delta Regional Survey, Beheira and Kafr el-Sheikh provinces. London: Egypt Exploration Society.
  • Wilson, P. (2003). Sacred Signs: Hieroglyphs in Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson P (1997). A Ptolemaic Lexikon: a lexicographical study of the texts in the temple of Edfu. Leuven: Peeters Publishing & Department of Oriental Studies.


  • Wilson, Penelope, Gilbert, Gregory & Tassie, Geoffrey (2014). Sais II: The Prehistoric Period at Sa el-Hagar. Egypt Excavation Society.
  • Wilson, P. (2006). The Survey of Saïs (Sa el-Hagar), 1997-2002. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

Chapter in book

  • Wilson, Penelope (2014). Living the High Life: Late Antique Archaeology in the Delta. In Egypt in the First Millennium AD: Perspectives from New Fieldwork. O'Connell, Elisabeth Leuven Paris Walpole, MA: Peeters. 43-58.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2011). Masking and multiple personas. In Ancient Egyptian Demonology. Kousoulis, P. Peeters. OLA 175: 77-88.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2011). Pots, People and the Plural Community: A case Study of the Greeks in Egypt at Sais. In Intercultural Contacts in the Ancient Mediterranean. Proceedings of the International Conference at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, 25th to 29th October 2008. Duistermat, K. & Regulski, I. Peeters. 149-160.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2011). Ramsîs: Ancient Memory, Archaeology and the Western Delta. In Ramesside Studies in Honour of K. A. Kitchen. Collier, M. & Snape, S. Rutherford Press. 533-540.
  • 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.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2010). Consolidation, Innovation and Renaissance. In Egyptian Archaeology. Wendrich, Willeke. Oxford: Blackwell. 241-257.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2010). Temple Architecture and Decorative Systems. In The Blackwell Companion to Ancient Egypt. Lloyd, A.B. Oxford: Blackwell. 781-803.
  • Wilson, Penelope. & Gilbert, Gregory. (2008). Trading Relations with the Eastern Mediterranean. In Moving Across the Boders: Foreign Relations, Religion and Cultural Interactions in the Ancient Mediterranean. Kousoulis, P. & Magliveras, K. Leuven: Peeters. 249-265.
  • Wilson, Penelope & Snape, Steven (2007). 3. The Excavation of the Chapels: 5. Stelae from the Habachi Excavations. In Zawiyet Umm el-Rakham I: The Temple and Chapels. Snape, Steven Bolton: Rutherford Press. 33-68; 93-129.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2007). A Cult of Amasis and 'The Procession of Two Gods' at Sais. In Egyptian Stories. A British Egyptological Tribute to Alan B. Lloyd on the Occasion of His Retirement. Schneider, Thomas & Szpakowska, Kasia Münster:
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2007). Chapter 18: The Meroitic Temple Graffiti. In The Meroitic Temple Complex at Qasr Ibrim, Egypt. Rose, Pamela J. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 105-163.
  • Wilson, P. (2007). The Delta. In The Egyptian World. Wilkinson, T.A. London: Routledge. 15-28.
  • Wilson, P. & Gilbert, G. (2006). Saïs and its Trading Relations with the Eastern Mediterranean. In Kousoulis, P.
  • Wilson, P. (2005). Naming names and shifting identities in ancient Egyptian iconoclasm. In Negating the Image: Case Studies in Iconoclasm. McClanan, A. & Johnson, J. Aldershot: Ashgate. 113-136.
  • Wilson, P. (2002). Ramesses III, Belzoni and the Mysterious Reverend Browne. In Egypt Through the Eyes of Travellers III Proceedings of the ASTENE Cambridge Congress 1998. El-Kholy, N. & Starkey, P. Durham: ASTENE. 45-56.
  • Wilson P (1997). Slaughtering the crocodile at Edfu and Dendera. In The temple in Ancient Egypt: new discoveries and recent research. Quirke, S. London: British Museum. 179-203.
  • Wilson P (1996). The roadway and its inscriptions. In Qasr Ibrim: the hinterland survey. Rose, P. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 102-117.

Journal Article

  • •Wilson, Penelope (2019). Gateway to the Underworld: The Cult Areas of Sais. British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 24: 341-364.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2018). Human and Deltaic Environments in Northern Egypt in Late Antiquity. Late Antique Archaeology 12(1): 42-62.
  • Pennington, B., Sturt, F., Wilson, P., Rowland, J. & Brown, A.G. (2017). The fluvial evolution of the Holocene Nile Delta. Quaternary Science Reviews 170: 212–231.
  • Wilson, Penelope. (2007). Prehistoric Settlement in the Western Delta: a regional and local view from Sais (Sa el-Hagar). Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 92: 75-126.
  • Wilson, P. (2003). The Delta Survey, 2002. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 89: 1-8.
  • Wilson, P. & Gilbert, G. (2003). The Prehistoric Period at Saïs. Archéo-Nil 13: 65-72.
  • Wilson P (1999). The Survey at Sais (Sa el-Hagar), 1998. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 85 : 1-4.

Conference Paper

  • Wilson, Penelope (2017), Landscapes of the Bashmur – Settlements and Monasteries in the Northern Egyptian Delta from the Seventh to the Ninth Century, in Willems, Harco & Dahms, Jan-Michael eds, Mainzer Historische Kulturwissenschaften, 36 The Nile: Natural and Cultural Landscapes. Mainz, Germany, transcript, Bielefeld, 345-368.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2015), Baltim, Parallos and Mutubis: Late Period and Ptolemaic Antecedents for Late Antique Ports and Settlements in Northern Egypt, in Hulin, Linda eds, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology Monograph 8 Heracleion in Context. Oxford, England, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Oxford, 297-314.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2014), The Prehistoric Sequence at Sais: Temporal and Regional Connections, in Mączyńska, A. eds, Studies in African Archaeology 13: The Nile Delta as a centre of cultural interactions between Upper Egypt and the Southern Levant in the 4th millennium BC. Poznan, Poland, Poznań Archaeological Museum, Poznan, 299-318.
  • Wilson, Penelope & Gilbert, Gregory (2012), Prehistoric Saïs: Results from the Western Delta Floodplain, in Kabaciński, Jacek, Chłodnicki, Marek & Kobusiewicz, Michał eds, Studies in African Archaeology 11: Prehistory of Northeastern Africa. New Ideas and Discoveries. Poznan, Poland, Poznań Archaeological Museum, Poznan, 25-40.
  • Wilson, Penelope (2010), Recent Survey Work in the Southern Mareotis Area, in Blue, Lucy & Khalil, Emad eds, BAR international series, 2113. University of Southampton series in archaeology, no. 2 International Conference on the Archaeology of the Mareotic Region. Alexandria, Egypt, Archaepress, Oxford, 119-125.

Conference Proceeding

  • Wilson, P. (2007). Masking and Multiple Personas.