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UNC Assistant Professor of Classics Is Member of Team Awarded 1.5 Million Euro Grant

August 31, 2017
College of Arts & Sciences

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assistant professor of classics Jennifer Gates-Foster is part of a small team recently awarded a 1.5 million euro European Research Council starting grant in support of archaeological work in the Eastern Desert of Egypt.

As a member of the French Archaeological Mission to the Eastern Desert (Mission archéologique française du désert Oriental/MAFDO), the grant will support the project: Desert Networks: Into the Eastern Desert of Egypt from the New Kingdom to the Roman period. The Desert Networks project aims to explore the southern part of the Eastern Desert of Egypt, located between the Nile and the Red Sea.

The ancient remains in the region are numerous and excellently preserved. Yet, due largely to the region’s remoteness and inhospitable nature, the study of their history of occupation has been static and compartmentalized. Additionally, many of the region’s most important archaeological sites are under threat from looters.

Gates-Foster believes this project will revolutionize study of this region: “This project will build an innovative digital platform that combines spatial data with archaeological and textual remains in a dynamic and exciting way, allowing scholars across the globe to work collaboratively on this multi-disciplinary project even as new data is recovered through ongoing excavation.”

Gates-Foster will lead a part of the team that will examine the way the resources of this region have been exploited by outside powers over time and ask questions about the economy of the region at different scales.

Berangere Redon of the University of Lyon and the French National Center for Scientific Research, the project’s principal investigator, recognizes great potential in this partnership with UNC: “I am excited to collaborate with Professor Gates-Foster on the Desert Networks project. She has a remarkable and in-depth knowledge of the Eastern Desert, where she has been working for 17 years. She surveyed the area several times and visited most of the sites that will be examined by the project and will be included in the online atlas we wish to achieve. In addition, she will oversee one of the work packages of the project, dedicated to the analysis of the economic networks that have crossed the region during a millennium and a half.”

Gates-Foster has been a member of the French Archaeological Mission to the Eastern Desert of Egypt since 2013. In her role as ceramicist and historian, she takes part annually in archaeological missions focused on recovering and recording Hellenistic and Roman remains from this remote desert. This project will deepen ties to the French archaeological and papyrological community and provide new research opportunities for students. The grant will support work conducted through 2023. To learn more about the Mission’s work, visit their blog at

Listen to an IAH podcast with Jennifer Gates-Foster.

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