The Late Roman necropolis of Fag el-Gamus on the eastern edge of Egypt's Fayum Oasis is a valuable archaeological site for exploring issues of personal and cultural identity in Roman Egypt. Former scholarship regarding the people buried at Fag el-Gamus has claimed-based on narrow evidence--that they represent an exceptionally early Christian community in Egypt. However, a more careful look at the evidence-using recent theoretical approaches, data-driven analyses, and comparisons with contemporary sites throughout Egypt and neighboring areas-reveals a more complicated portrait of their religious affiliation and other aspects of their identity. This study examines several potential markers of religious affiliation at Fag el-Gamus placed in the context of burials from throughout the Roman and early Byzantine eras in Egypt. Aspects of burial that appear to be "Christian" innovations or first occur in the period during which Christianity first appears are highlighted. Conclusions from this broader and more in-depth evidence suggests that the case for the early arrival of Christianity in Egypt is highly ambiguous, and any arguments concerning it must be correspondingly complex. The necropolis of Fag el-Gamus, due to its extensive size and excellent preservation, provides valuable evidence for the unfolding of this slow and piecemeal change and for the discussion of multiple aspects of identity.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Anthropology



Date Submitted


Document Type





burial practices, Byzantine Egypt, Fag el-Gamus, identity theory, Roman Egypt

Included in

Anthropology Commons