Asmant el-Khorab (“Asmant the Ruined”; no public access), 20km east of Mut, is the local name for the ruins of Kellis, a Roman and Coptic town inhabited for seven centuries, whose temples and churches mark the shift from pagan Rome to Byzantine Christianity. Excavations have unearthed the remains of aqueducts, farmhouses and tombs, including 34 mummies and wooden codices, casting light on religion and daily life in the third century AD.

Asmant el-Khorab is now the field HQ of the Dakhla Oasis Project (DOP), a multi-disciplinary effort to understand the interaction of oasis cultures and their environment, from the Stone Age through until the twenty-first century. Half-a-dozen foreign missions are seeking the holy grail of Egyptology: evidence of links between the Old Kingdom and desert trade routes going back to Neolithic times, which may answer the question: did Ancient Egyptian civilization emerge from the Western Desert?

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