The site of ancient Kellis, modern-day Ismant el-Kharab, is located in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. The name Kellis is attested in documentary material from the site, which also reveals that the village once belonged to the Mothite nome. The ancient settlement is denoted by numerous mud-brick structures and a dominant temple complex, and the main phases of occupation at the site are dated from the early Roman to late Roman Period (i.e., 1st-2nd to 4th-5th centuries CE). Kellis covers an area of approximately one square kilometer and is bounded upon its northwest and southeast by dried up wadis(water courses).
Several early travellers and modern Egyptologists visited the site and left brief reports of their observations. They include: B. Drovetti, J. G. Wilkinson, H. E. Winlock, G. Elias and Ahmed Fakhry. The first detailed examination, however, did not commence until 1981-2, during an extensive archaeological survey of the oasis undertaken by the Dakhleh Oasis Project (DOP). In accordance with the DOP’s system of reference, the site was ascribed the number 31/420-D6-1. The primary stages of planning and mapping of the site were conducted at this time in conjunction with small-scale test excavations.
Consequently, the site was divided into areas (see map) as part of the initial surveying process. Major excavations at Ismant el-Kharab began in 1986 under the auspices of the DOP. The principal investigators for this site are Dr. Colin Hope and Dr. Gillian Bowen of Monash University.