Most of the urban remains of the city have been razed to the ground. Only the ruins of a few monuments remain identifiable. As a result, before the mission began excavations in 1992, practically the only source of knowledge about the city came from papyri. Papyri provided fascinating information about the daily life of the residents of Oxyrhynchus. In fact, Oxyrhynchus was one of the cities in the Roman Empire about whose daily life and routines the most was known. By contrast, knowledge of its topography and urban development was scant. For this reason, one of our first guidelines was to study the ancient urban plan of the city.
This study involved the use of various methodologies at our disposal: archaeological prospecting and surveys; radar; kite aerial photography; topographical indications from the papyri; and the documentation of drawings, maps and photos of the site building on Denon’s work from the nineteenth century. It seems likely that the ancient (Pharaonic) centre of the city was located toward to the southeast of the site, between the monumental East Gate and an honorific column that survives. The column was dedicated to the emperor Phocas (602-610 AD), who also had an honorific column in Rome, the last civil monument erected in the Roman Forum. The column in Oxyrhynchus, however, formed part of a tetrapylon, a monumental intersection that would have been found near the Thoereion, the temple of Taweret. We also know the location of the theatre, to the southwest; the location of some baths, to the south; and the location of a hippodrome, to the north. However, extremely few visible remains survive to the present day. We also know of the existence of several temples that remain hard to locate at present.
The enclosure of the Upper Necropolis stands near the centre of the northern half of the city. When it opened in the Saite period, the Upper Necropolis was some distance outside the city. With later urban growth, however, the city expanded to encompass the burial grounds. As we have seen, the site continued in use as a necropolis in Greco-Roman and Christian periods. Also, in the Greco-Roman period, a large temple was built there, possibly a Serapeum.