The 'New Villa of Serenus' in Amheida

The Villa of Serenus, Amheida, Egypt.

The 'New Villa of Serenus' in Amheida

Dorothea Schulz

In 1979, while surveying the late antique city of Amheida (ancient Trimithis), a team of the Dakhleh Oasis Project discovered the upper part of lavishly decorated walls. The main building, including the decorated rooms, was subsequently excavated in 2004 and 2007 by a team from Columbia University, directed by Roger S. Bagnall (it is now a project of New York University). It turned out to be a fourth century ‘villa’, once occupied by a family of high social status (the owner was a city councilman).

The well-preserved decoration in four of the rooms depicts geometrical patterns as well as figurative scenes. Both the paintings in situ and the collected fragments pose considerable conservation problems; the layer of plaster is very thin and extremely fragile. The best way of conserving this precious building for future generations is refilling it with sand – after extensive documentation.

Because this unique Villa would be destroyed by being exposed to the public, the plan was made to build a full size reconstruction of the main house. The Villa was built by Nicholas Warner and finished in 2009, next to the site of Amheida. In order to recreate the full splendor of this building the decision was taken to reconstruct the painted decoration as well.

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