Control over emerald mines in Egypt shifted from the Roman Empire to the Blemmyes during the Early Middle Ages, archaeologists have found. These are the results from research carried out in 2020 and 2021 by an international team of archaeologists led by Joan Oller Guzmán of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
Digs were carried out at the Roman site of Sikait, a set of buildings surrounding Roman Egypt’s emerald mines, located in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. The area was known in Antiquity as “Mons Smaragdus”, given that it was the only place within the Roman Empire where emeralds could be found.
This scientific collaboration was conducted jointly with the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, Poland, and focuses on the study of how emeralds were extracted and commercialized in Antiquity.
The excavations conducted in these past two years correspond to the latest Roman period, from the 4th to the 6th centuries CE, and reveal that some of the buildings were occupied or even built by the Blemmyes, a nomadic tribe living in the area at the end of the 4th century.