Nicola Aravecchia

Nicola Aravecchia

Associate Professor of Classics and of Art History and Archaeology
Study Abroad Advisor for Art History and Archeology
PhD, University of Minnesota
research interests:
  • Archaeology of the late Roman period
  • Early Christian art & architecture
  • Late antique Egypt
  • Early Egyptian monasticism
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    contact info:

    • Email:
    • Office: Umrath 249 (Classics) Kemper 217 (Art History & Archaeology) Phone: 314-935-3342 (Classics) 314-935-5225 (Art History & Archaeology)

    office hours:

    • Tuesday, 11:45am-12:45pm (Kemper 217)
      Thursday, 3:00pm-4:00pm (Umrath 249)
      or by appointment

    mailing address:

    • MSC 1050-153-244
      ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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    Nicola Aravecchia's research interests include Archaeology of the late Roman period, early Christian art & architecture, late antique Egypt, and early Egyptian monasticism.

    Prof. Aravecchia joined the departments of Classics and Art History and Archaeology in January 2018. He earned his doctorate in art history and master’s degree in ancient and medieval art and archaeology, both from the University of Minnesota. He is the Archaeological Field Director of the excavations at ʿAin el-Gedida, a fourth-century hamlet in Dakhla Oasis (in Egypt's Western Desert), and, since 2022, the Field Director at Amheida/Trimithis (also in Dakhla). He is also a Research Affiliate of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. In the Spring of 2016, he was the invited Chair of Coptic Studies at The American University in Cairo and in 2020 he was elected to the Board of Governors of the American Research Center in Egypt. In the Spring of 2021, he was awarded a Research Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC.

    Prof. Aravecchia's research interests encompass the art and archaeology of Graeco-Roman and late antique Egypt. In particular, they focus on the origins and development of early Christian architecture in Egypt’s Western Desert. He is the main author of ʿAin el-Gedida: 2006–2008 Excavations at a Late Roman Site in Dakhla Oasis, Egypt (New York: ISAW/NYU Press 2018) and a co-author of An Oasis City (New York: ISAW/NYU Press 2015). He has also written articles and essays on related subjects, including early Egyptian monasticism.

    At WashU, Prof. Aravecchia teaches courses on ancient art and archaeology and Classical languages. Previously, he taught at New York University, The American University in Cairo (Egypt), and Monash University in Melbourne (Australia).

    recent courses

    Art in the Egypt of the Pharaohs (Art-Arch 3211)

    A penetrating study of the artistic achievements in ancient Egypt during the Old, Middle and New Kingdom (c. 3000-1100 B.C.) The great monuments of Egypt will be considered both for their aesthetic importance and as expressions of the superior culture developing, flourishing, and declining in the pristine valley of the Nile.

      Art & Archaeology of Cleopatra's Egypt (Art-Arch 3212)

      This course is an introduction to the art and archaeology of Egypt from its conquest by Alexander the Great (332 BCE) to the early fourth century CE. It will examine the rich and multi-faceted history and artistic legacy of Egypt under the Ptolemies and their last queen Cleopatra, followed by the Roman conquest under Emperor Augustus up to the flourishing of Egyptian Christianity. Students will become familiar with a wide range of ancient sources, including documentary and literary texts, coins, architecture, paintings and sculpture.

        Beginning Latin I (Latin 101D)

        An introduction to Latin, the language of Ancient Rome and the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, and the most important source of English medical and scientific terms. Beginning with the foundations of Latin grammar, students will work towards developing reading knowledge with the goal of reading literary texts. Students who have already begun their study of Latin should consult the Chair of the Department.

          Cities and Towns of the Ancient World (Art-Arch 236)

          This course is an introduction to ancient urbanism in the Mediterranean region, the Near East, and the Indus Valley. The chronological span is wide, ranging from the Neolithic era to the Late Roman/Early Byzantine period. The archaeological evidence of some of the earliest known cities will be presented and discussed, with the aim of understanding the formation process of urban centers and how these shaped and influenced their socio-political, economic, and cultural life. Broad issues that will be considered in class concern the origin of urban life and its different manifestations; the relationship between natural landscape and built environment and how the former affected the development of the latter; ways in which ancient civilizations constructed and used space in order to shape social relations. The course will also highlight the available evidence of monuments and artworks in context, as integral parts of the urban landscape of ancient cities and towns.

            The Reception of Egypt in the Graeco-Roman World

            Ancient Greeks and Romans found Egypt an exceptionally enthralling world, in terms not only of its physical features but also of its people, monuments, and traditions. This course will explore how different views of Egypt emerged in the Graeco-Roman world; it will also investigate the possible reasons for the remarkable popularity and allure of Egypt and things Egyptian, as reflected in the writings of Greek and Roman authors, as well as in the art and architecture of the Mediterranean world in Classical antiquity. In this seminar, we will read primary literary sources (in translation) that focus on the reception of ancient Egypt and, more specifically, its history, religion, and customs. Several of these sources also offer a privileged viewpoint to investigate how the perception of notable Egyptian figures-chiefly Cleopatra-was shaped by Rome to suit a specific agenda. In addition to the written sources, we will look at the artistic and archaeological evidence that best showcases the impact of Egypt's legacy on Graeco-Roman traditions. The readings assigned for each class will also provide a broad sample of secondary sources, consisting of some of the most significant scholarship on the image of Egypt in Classical antiquity.

              Selected Publications


              2018: ʿAin el-Gedida: 20062008 Excavations at a Late Roman Site in Dakhla Oasis, Egypt. New York: ISAW/NYU Press. (335 pages, plus contributions by R.S. Bagnall et al.)

              2015: An Oasis City (co-authored with R. S. Bagnall et al.). New York: ISAW/NYU Press.


              Recent Articles and Essays

              In Press (2023): “Christian Identity in the Archaeological Record: Evidence from Egypt’s Western Desert.” In Studies in Coptic Culture and Community: Ordinary Lives, Changing Times, ed. by Mariam Ayad. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

              Accepted for publication in Antiquité Tardive (2023): “The Use and Capacity of Early Churches in Dakhla Oasis: A Liturgical and Archaeological Perspective” (with Dr. Nathan Chase, Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis).

              2022: “Catechumens, Women, and Agricultural Laborers: Who Used the Fourth-Century Hall at the Church of ‘Ain el-Gedida, Egypt?” Journal of Late Antiquity 15/1: 193-230.

              2021: “The Hamlet of ʽAin el-Gedida in Dakhla Oasis: A Late Roman Epoikion?” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 57: 13-31.

              2020: “Geometric Painting in Late-Antique Egypt: The Ceiling of a 4th-c. Church at Amheida (Dakhla Oasis),” Journal of Roman Archaeology 33.1: 449–66.

              2020: “The Changing Sacred Landscape of Egypt’s Western Desert in Late Antiquity: The Case of ʿAin el-Gedida, American Journal of Archaeology 124.2: 30120. Available on-line at:

              2015: “The Church at Amheida (Ancient Trimithis) in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt: A Bioarchaeological Perspective on an Early Christian Mortuary Complex” (with T. Dupras et al.). Bioarchaeology of the Near East 9: 21–43. Available on-line at:


              Ain el-Gedida: 2006-2008 Excavations of a Late Antique Site in Egypt's Western Desert

              Ain el-Gedida: 2006-2008 Excavations of a Late Antique Site in Egypt's Western Desert

              ‘Ain el-Gedida: 2006-2008 Excavations of a Late Antique Site in Egypt's Western Desert is a presentation of primary evidence from an archaeological dig at ‘Ain el-Gedida. ‘Ain el-Gedida dates to the 4th century and is a uniquely important archaeological site for the study of early Egyptian Christianity; it is also a rare example of a type of Late Roman rural settlement that was previously known only from written sources.

              The authors first present the data collected during excavations of various buildings and rooms at ‘Ain el-Gedida; in the second half of the book, specialists on the ‘Ain el-Gedida research team catalog and describe what was found at the site: ceramics, coins, ostraka, and zooarcheological remains.

              An Oasis City

              An Oasis City

              Scattered through the vast expanse of stone and sand that makes up Egypt’s Western Desert are several oases. These islands of green in the midst of the Sahara owe their existence to springs and wells drawing on ancient aquifers. In antiquity, as today, they supported agricultural communities, going back to Neolithic times but expanding greatly in the millennium from the Saite pharaohs to the Roman emperors. New technologies of irrigation and transportation made the oases integral parts of an imperial economy.

              Amheida, ancient Trimithis, was one of those oasis communities. Located in the western part of the Dakhla Oasis, it was an important regional center, reaching a peak in the Roman period before being abandoned. Over the past decade, excavations at this well-preserved site have revealed its urban layout and brought to light houses, streets, a bath, a school, and a church. The only standing brick pyramid of the Roman period in Egypt has been restored. Wall-paintings, temple reliefs, pottery, and texts all contribute to give a lively sense of its political, religious, economic, and cultural life. This book presents these aspects of the city’s existence and its close ties to the Nile valley, by way of long desert roads, in an accessible and richly illustrated fashion.