Basket use, raw materials and arguments on early and Middle Holocene mobility in the Fayum, Egypt

Willeke Wendrich*, Simon Holdaway

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The Fayum Neolithic is well-known because the earliest evidence to date for domesticated wheat and barley in Egypt is found in the Fayum depression, north of present day Lake Qarun. Here, in 1924 and 1925, Gertrud Caton-Thompson and Elinor Gardner identified two Neolithic settlements, which they named Kom K and Kom W. The evidence for early agriculture did not derive from these two settlements, however, but from a series of storage pits which Gardner found quite by accident on a high ridge, north of Kom K. What is less well-known is that apart from domesticated wheat and barley this area also yielded evidence for a well-developed basketry technology. Recent fieldwork by the URU Fayum Project (University of California, Los Angeles; Rijksuniversiteit Groningen; University of Auckland) has provided a wealth of new information on the material remains of the Fayum Neolithic including the plant fibre objects. While animal bones and ostrich egg shell have been preserved both on the surface and in stratified deposits, no animal fibre was found. The well-preserved basketry lined storage pits and their content have been used to argue that the Middle Holocene occupation in the Fayum was characterized by a sedentary society. Recent field work has shown that the basket-lined pits were sealed off in a manner that could have enabled long-term caching. This, as well as more recent insights that long term storage does not equal sedentism, leaves the question open the nature of mobility in which Fayum Neolithic society was involved. The question whether the type of materials, basketry techniques and employment can be used as indicators of a way of life, is addressed in conjunction with the results of the interdisciplinary research team as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-249
Number of pages10
JournalQuaternary International
Issue numberPart B
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Basketry
  • Egypt
  • Fayum
  • Neolithic


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