Roads from Bahariya to Faiyum

In 2016-2017, I collaborated with Valentina Gasperini on research into a possible route between the Bahariya Oasis and the Faiyum basin. While Valentina specialised in the pottery evidence and history of the Faiyum region, I researched possible routes using satellite remote sensing. We determined that remains of many trails can be identified in satellite imagery crossing the desert from Bahariya to the Nile valley. Most recently used in historic times, archaeological, ceramic, and settlement evidence suggested these trails have ancient antecedents and may be the same routes referred to Pharaonic and Greco-Roman texts.

Satellite imagery specialist

High and medium resolution satellite remote sensing

I combined medium resolution Landsat-8 and high resolution Worldview-2 satellite imagery to identify various trails across the Sahara between the Bahariya Oasis and the Nile valley. Analysis of the multi-spectral data revealed that desert trails appear relatively clearly in medium resolution satellite imagery where the desert surface remains largely undisturbed. The trails appeared particularly clearly in the thermal infra-red bands. The high resolution satellite imagery made it possible to track the trails across distrubed areas of the desert, while historic maps provided more recent names for the routes and evidence of their use in recent times.

University of Liverpool


Satellite remote sensing specialist

The People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the EU’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under REA
grant agreement n° 326693 (project TRADES carried
out by Dr. V. Gasperini at the University of Liverpool).

Outputs (all co-authored with Valentina Gasperini)

  • A peer-reviewed paper in Ancient Egypt and the Levant:
    • Gasperini, V. and Pethen, H. 2018. Roads from Bahariya to Faiyum: A study in remotely sensed data. Ägypten und Levant 28: 181–198. DOI: 10.1553/AEundL28s181
  • A paper at the 2016 conference, Undercurrents: New work on Egyptian commerce and communications outside the Nile valley, Liverpool,12 September.
  • A presentation to the Friends of the Petrie Museum on 1 December 2017, From Fayum to Bahariya: Desert roads and donkeys.
Laden donkey in the procession of Asiatics in the tomb of Khnumhotep II, Beni Hassan (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

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