Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2015: in the dig house ‘lab’


Maickel von Bellegem (Department of Conservation & Scientific Research, British Museum)

Two weeks have passed since my arrival in Sudan. Various materials were awaiting conservation assessment, after excavation: remains of papyrus and a piece of worked bone with traces of paint. The bone had been consolidated in situ and block lifted by Manuela Lehmann. This is how fragile materials are usually dealt with to allow more detailed and time consuming work to be done in a studio set up. A similar approach was taken to the excavation of a bead necklace found embedded in the clay floor of house D11.1 – the second one found in this house (the first was painstakingly excavated bead-by-bead by Manuela).

Conservation workroom with Maickel assessing a dish of Egyptian blue found in the cemetery, using a microscope for which the local blacksmith fabricated a stand (from a steel bedframe!).

Conservation workroom with Maickel assessing a dish of Egyptian blue found in the cemetery, using a microscope for which the local blacksmith fabricated a stand (from a steel bedframe!).

The block of mud floor as lifted during excavation of the central room of house D11.1

The block of mud floor as lifted during excavation of the central room of house D11.1

A chunk of the floor was lifted from site and back in the conservation workroom at the house I used solvents to soften the clay and scrape it away using a scalpel. This allowed the row of beads to be exposed so we know the sequence in which they were originally strung. The blue beads in particular were very fragmentary and would not withstand restringing so we decided to leave them all in the soil block.

Bead necklace F16006 exposed and consolidated in the soil it was found in, following conservation.

Bead necklace F16006 exposed and consolidated in the soil it was found in, following conservation.

The red beads – probably carnelian – are accompanied by white faience and blue. The blue might be faience, frit or glass. The sections of the soil block have been secured onto a plastic sheet (a re-used plastic food container – sustainable conservation!) so can be handled without risking damage to the beads. Other materials that so far have received conservation treatment are a number of copper alloy objects, bone and ivory, wood remains and also faience shabti-figures.

Detail of beads on necklace F16006

Detail of beads on necklace F16006

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

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Filed under: Amara West 2015, conservation, objects, settlement

Amara West 2015 (week 6): a familiar character appears

Neal Spencer (Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt & Sudan), and Michaela Binder (bioarchaeologist)

Aerial view of tomb G321, with pyramid, chapel and forecourt

Aerial view of tomb G321, with pyramid, chapel and forecourt

The wind howled this week, yet important and exciting new evidence continued to emerge from town and cemetery. Up on the desert escarpment, Mohamed Saad discovered our first intact burial of the season, just beside pyramid chapel G322. In a shallow pit, adjacent to the north wall of the pyramid, a child of only 1-2 years was buried. Directly underneath, a second infant was placed on a layer of large schist stones. Based on the size of the long bones and development of tooth crowns, the earlier child was likely born prematurely. Whether these burials are contemporary with the New Kingdom pyramid tomb is unknown, as neither was accompanied by grave goods. However, subsidiary burials around – or within – Egyptian funerary monuments, are found elsewhere, for example at Tombos.

Mohamed Saad documenting our first intact burial.

Mohamed Saad documenting our first intact burial.

We have just commenced excavation of the shaft of G322, but perhaps more exciting is a spread of pottery in the courtyard of the chapel. What will this tell us about funerary rituals at this tomb?

A short distance to the east, Michelle and her team are now over 6m deep in the shaft. More sandstone blocks continue to be revealed, some decorated. Most exciting, however, was the discovery of fragments from faience shabtis, found discarded in the shaft, left behind by (ancient?) looters.

Faience shabtis for the Deputy Paser

Faience shabtis for the Deputy Paser

A surface find in the first days had given us the name of an individual whose name ended in –ser. Four of the new shabtis complete the picture: it is ‘the Deputy, Paser’. A fifth shabti may have belonged to his wife. We cannot be sure this is where Paser was buried, but it now seems very likely. The most prominent Egyptian official in Upper Nubia under Ramses III, he is likely to have sought a grandiose tomb overlooking the town in which he held office. The pyramid would likely have been visible from the town, and to those approaching from the desert. A doorjamb, which seems to bear his name, was found dumped in the tomb to the east (G321). More evidence is needed to confirm whether this was his tomb.

Red pigment preserved on the legs of a horse pulling the chariot of Ramses II. West Gate, Amara West.

Red pigment preserved on the legs of a horse pulling the chariot of Ramses II. West Gate, Amara West.

Moving down into the town, we finished the data-capture for 3D modelling of the West Gate, a formal monument that proclaimed Egypt’s power over Nubia – which individuals like Paser were charged with administering. Alongside the discovery of four new inscriptions not recorded by the Egypt Exploration Society, we have been documenting remnants of colour that will help reconstruct the original appearance of this entrance into the town – the red flesh of the horses, the yellow fittings for the chariot, or the black skin of the vanquished Nubian prisoners.

Abdel-Razeq digging ancient rubbish pits beneath house D12.9

Abdel-Razeq digging ancient rubbish pits beneath house D12.9

Out in the western suburb, the completion of recording in several houses has provided us with a chance to go deeper. In three places, we are now digging under floor layers, into the thick rubbish deposits on which the suburb was built. Not all are happy about this: it means a mass of ceramics will have to be processed and studied.

Seal-impression with name of Ramses II, designated ‘beloved of Thoth’

Seal-impression with name of Ramses II, designated ‘beloved of Thoth’

In two of the sondages, dozens of seal impressions came to light – with royal names, depictions of gods and other texts, which will need careful study. The rubbish – its charcoal, phytoliths, animal bone and objects – will tell us much about life at ancient Amara West. These are the remnants of what people used, made and consumed, and then purposefully discarded.

Stone tools found in house D11.2

Stone tools found in house D11.2

In the final days of excavating house D11.2, Anna uncovered a cache of stone tools, tucked behind a specially modelled door buttress. Why were these tools being tucked out of sight? It is rare that the archaeologist encounters such a deliberate placing of objects by those who used an ancient house.

House D12.12 from our photography kite

House D12.12 from our photography kite

House D12.12, under excavation by David Fallon, has thrown up a feature so far unique at Amara West. This house featured a large main room with mastaba -bench (later divided in two), small ‘back rooms’ leading off it, and an entrance corridor with at least two ovens. The northeastern room was fitted with a staircase.

Staircase room in house D12.12, with platform

Staircase room in house D12.12, with platform

The intriguing feature is a small brick structure erected in front of the staircase. Carefully plastered, is this a form of low platform, perhaps similar to the lit clos known from contemporary Deir el-Medina? We can only speculate, as no painted decoration or cult objects have been found.

The E13.17 area team pause/pose for a photograph

The E13.17 area team pause/pose for a photograph

Archaeological fieldwork is characterised by massive accumulations of data, in both hard copy and digital form. Over recent years, we’ve seen our workers become increasingly part of the same global phenomenon. What’s App messages are exchanged between those in different parts of the other site, while selfies and group pictures are a regular occurrence during breaks in the excavating.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, Egypt Exploration Society, Kite Aerial Photography #KAP, New Kingdom, objects, pottery, settlement

Amara West 2015: who let the dog(s) out?

Matt Williams, archaeologist

The paw-print, just inside the front door.

The paw-print, just inside the front door.

We found a pair of dog paw-prints this week in house D12.9, somewhat surprising given the relative lack of dog bones in the animal bone assemblage. The house is one of the later dwellings in the suburb: small and squeezed into a space between the older buildings in the burgeoning suburbs.

House D12.9, with three small rooms

House D12.9, with three small rooms

Strangely, the initial floor surface was constructed below street level, predictably leading to water run-off and dirt flowing down into the room from the street outside. During the early life of the house it must have been a constant job to keep the doorway clear of this debris. Later residents installed a higher doorstep and raised the floor considerably.

At some point the room seems to have gone out of use, maybe the building was abandoned for a period. During this time, mud accumulated around the doorway, spreading into the room and partially covering a nearby hearth and a ceramic bowl lying on the floor.

Figure of a dog with fish in mouth (ivory, bronze). Late 18th dynasty, c. 1350 BC. Egypt. British Museum EA 13596

Figure of a dog with fish in mouth (ivory, bronze). Late 18th dynasty, c. 1350 BC. Egypt. British Museum EA 13596

Perhaps a scavenging dog managed to get into the house, looking for leftover scraps or somewhere to escape the elements? On the way out (with a string of sausages in its mouth?) it left its prints in the wet mud by the door… bad dog!

A dog in Nubia, on Tuesday (thank you AcrossBorders!).

A dog in Nubia, on Tuesday (thank you AcrossBorders!).

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, New Kingdom, settlement

Amara West 2015: recycling in the New Kingdom town

Anna Garnett, Assistant Project Curator (Amara West), British Museum

Piles of sherds, awaiting sorting

Every day on site, thousands of pottery sherds are excavated from within the ancient houses at Amara West. These sherds are sorted into piles of diagnostic and non-diagnostic shapes and fabrics, but the eyes of the pottery sorting team are also finely tuned to identify ‘pottery finds’ within these huge piles – those pieces of broken vessels which were subsequently recycled for different functions. By studying such objects, we contribute to understanding the past histories of the different spaces at Amara West.

Sherd re-used as shovel

We also find ancient hand shovels or scrapers: sherds which fit nicely into the hand with one or more eroded edges. This season, several ‘shovels’ (for example that above) have been identified on the surface around the pyramids in Cemetery D – perhaps evidence of an ancient attempt at tomb robbery?

Pot-mark: rear part of a crocodile

Painted text on sherds (ostraca) and carved pictorial markings (pot marks) are always a welcome surprise for the sorting team: this season we have already discovered a small menagerie of pot marks including a gazelle-type animal and the rear end of a crocodile (above) … of which we hope to find the front end in the coming weeks!.

Sherds with pigment

Pottery sherds, when broken, also provided a durable and easily accessible material which could be used in industrial practices. Small flashes of colour within the generally homogenous brownish pile of pottery catch the eye, including red, yellow, white, black and blue, which prove that they were reused as colour palettes – used for painting rooms, objects or even pottery. This season, many pottery ‘palettes’ from house D12.8 preserve powdery pigments, helping us to paint a picture of how colourful the town must have appeared to the ancient occupants of Amara West.

And, of course, there are the counters

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, New Kingdom, objects, pottery, settlement, tools

Amara West 2015: books by boat, cart and car


Tomomi Fushiya, archaeologist

Amara West Arabic edition

Towards the end of last year, we published Amara West: Living in Egyptian Nubia, made possible through the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project. Published in English and Arabic editions, the Arabic one printed with the communities living in and around Amara West in mind.

Abd el-Razeq, veteran excavator at Amara West.

Abd el-Razeq, veteran excavator at Amara West.

Over the last weeks, we have been distributing the book amongst our workmen. Abdelraziq, who has worked with our mission from the first season in 2008, commented “the book is very useful and I benefit from it so much. If from the first or second season they publish(ed) a book and gave it to the workers and to the community here, all of the community would be informed and know about the (local) history… I worked here from 6 years ago but I knew nothing about why they collect bones and pottery… … I know (now) they put them together and test bones to understand diseases, their date ….’.

Tomomi delivering books to Abri secondary school

Tomomi delivering books to Abri secondary school

We also gave the books to villagers around our dig house, to the local school library and teachers in Ernetta and Abri. In the school curriculum, the major archaeological sites such as Kerma, Jebel Barkal and Meroe are studied. This foregrounds a national, rather than local, history, despite the presence of such famous sites (to archaeologists!) as Sai, Sedeinga and Amara West.

Reading the book en route from Amara West to Ernetta

Reading the book en route from Amara West to Ernetta

The book – distributed by hand, boat, donkey cart and pick-up truck – has been well received so far, and represents our small contribution to communicating archaeological knowledge to the local communities who do not have easy access to museums or libaries.

Women reading the book on the mastaba outside their house on Ernetta island

Women reading the book on the mastaba outside their house on Ernetta island

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, community engagement, Modern Amara

Amara West 2015 (week 5): the practical, the unusual and the desert beyond

Neal Spencer (Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt & Sudan, British Museum) & Michaela Binder (bioarchaeologist)

Now the time seems to be slipping through our fingers like the loose windblown sand that shrouds the ancient buildings at Amara West, but with less than two weeks to go (in the town). We are now working across a range of very different spaces – some built for living, others for making things (and thus producing a lot of rubbish) and of course the monumentswhere the dead were commemorated and buried. And this week we moved beyond, into the desert….

Sequence of attempts to keep the sand out of house D12.8

Sequence of attempts to keep the sand out of house D12.8

Agnieszka Trambowicz has now provided some clarity as to what was happening in house D12.8. It looks increasingly like the house had a northern front door – thus far a uniquely bad idea in this windswept neighbourhood. The inhabitants soon started to try and lessen the impact of the sand, with a series of blocking walls erected outside the front door, before the door was finally sealed up and a new western entrance to the house created. Yet beneath all these phases lies a nice mudbrick pavement – we have yet to understand whether this is another outside court, or even paving in a public space between houses.

Ovens along the corridor around house D11.1

Ovens along the corridor around house D11.1

We try not to mention ovens too often, despite their ubiquity on site. Yet the end of the week saw several familiar circles of ash and ceramic emerge from the dusty brown deposits that choke the corridor surrounding house D11.1, in a row along one wall. This house is unique in having a precinct wall surrounding the house, and it now looks as is this was a place for food processing and cooking. It may seem sensible to put such activities outside the house, given the smoke and rubbish created. If unroofed, it could have been a space that filled with dust and sand very quickly – is that why most houses placed ovens inside?

Copper alloy bracelet emerging from the dirt in house D11.1

Copper alloy bracelet emerging from the dirt in house D11.1

Over in one of the side rooms, a nice copper alloy bracelet was revealed. Like a number of other objects – especially dozens of crumbly seal impressions – this will need the attention of our conservator, Maickel van Bellegem, who has just arrived from the British Museum. It also serves as a reminder of how these brick buildings, and their inhabitants, would have lived amongst brightly coloured objects but also materials (wood, textiles) which rarely survive here.

Kite photograph over northern part of walled town

Kite photograph over northern part of walled town

Over in the walled town, Johannes Auenmüller has excavated a trench that embodies the concept of Groundhog Day. Each day sees us photograph a new floor, made of hard Nile silt, running up to a narrow doorway. Frankly, they all look almost identical. We’re at 7 floors and counting now – what kind of building needed this careful and repeated refurbishment? Yet on the other side of the wall, Tom is digging through layers of industrial waste that may be related to metal production. These two spaces are very distinct, and perhaps had more defined purposes than the houses we have excavated, where many of the rooms probably acted as places for eating, sleeping, making things, housing animals …

Michelle Gamble faces recording the stonework recovered from the shaft of pyramid tomb G320

Michelle Gamble faces recording the stonework recovered from the shaft of pyramid tomb G320

Up in cemetery D, progress continued in the shafts of both pyramid tombs (we are not at the bottom after 5.6m in G320!), with stone architecture remaining the surprising focus of discovery. After the door jambs and lintel from the shaft of G321, the second tomb G320 started yielding an even higher amount of sandstone blocks. In contrast to G321, the majority of these blocks, again deriving from door frames, are undecorated. Yet two lintels bear traces of carved decoration, one showing a kneeling woman in the characteristic pose of a mourner.

Sandstone lintel from the shaft of pyramid tomb G320, with frontal depiction of a figure with wig and beard.

Sandstone lintel from the shaft of pyramid tomb G320, with frontal depiction of a figure with wig and beard.

The second lintel, which can be reconstructed from a series of fragments, bears a frontal representation, rare in pharaonic art. Depicting a face with wig and beard, with no accompanying inscriptions, the figure dominates the lintel. What does this represent, and where was it set up? In the shaft or as part of the above-ground cult chapel? Or has this lintel been brought from somewhere else?

After a few hours of surface excavation, the pyramid base of tomb G322 is already visible

After a few hours of surface excavation, the pyramid base of tomb G322 is already visible

In G321, Sofie started removing the upper layers of sandy fill from the entrance area of the central burial chamber: so far, there is only windblown sand. From next week, we are joined by NCAM inspector and bioarchaeologist Mohamed Saad, supported by the Institute for Bioarchaeology. Mohamed will excavate tomb G322, and initial surface cleaning has already revealed another T-shaped chapel combined with a pyramid base of almost similar width (4.50m). For the first time here, the tomb further features a small walled forecourt: as ever at Amara West, no two graves are alike.

This week saw the Amara West project extend out into the desert, to look at sites in the hinterland of the town and cemetery. Last year’s brief survey revealed the presence of two early 18th dynasty sites along a Nile channel some 2km north of the townsite. Anna Stevens will, next week, oversee another short season, concentrating on another site along this river channel.

Mohamed Abdelwahab walking grids of geophysical survey (fluxgate magnetometry) at site 2-R-65, in the desert north of Amara West

Mohamed Abdelwahab walking grids of geophysical survey (fluxgate magnetometry) at site 2-R-65, in the desert north of Amara West

To help us target our excavations, and to better understand the form and extent of these sites, a geophysical survey was completed this week, by Mohamed Abdelwahab Mohamed Ali, Musaab Hussein Eltoum Elkabbashi and Amar Adam Ali Ibrahim, colleagues from the Faculty of Earth Sciences and Mining of the University of Dongola (at Wadi Halfa). The survey and excavation in the desert will hopefully shed more light on what was happening in this area before the town of Amara West was created in the reign of Seti I.

Shadia lecturing at the Ernetta community club

Shadia lecturing at the Ernetta community club

The highlight of last week, however, was a lecture at the Ernetta Community Club. Over 200 people – on an island with only 180 occupied houses – turned up for a talk by Shadia Abdu Rabo and Neal Spencer, to talk about the exploration of Amara West, past and present. It’s amazing to think that despite Wallis Budge, James Henry Breasted and the Egypt Exploration Society working here between 1906 and 1950, this was probably the first time anyone in the area had seen old excavation photos, or learnt about what was found. Set beneath a warm starry sky, with a break prompted by the evening call to prayer (from the mosque next door), it was a memorable evening. Tomomi Fushiya finished off the evening by asking what the people of Ernetta wanted in terms of ongoing engagement – perhaps including talks and guided visits to the site.

Haris Mohamed, one of our workmen, has a first look at the information panels in the Amara West visitor orientation area

Haris Mohamed, one of our workmen, has a first look at the information panels in the Amara West visitor orientation area

Maickel brought more than conservation materials with him this week – he was also laden down with our Arabic-English information panels. We’ve just unpacked them, and hope to install them in the visitor orientation area next week.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, Egypt Exploration Society, funerary, Kite Aerial Photography #KAP, Modern Amara, New Kingdom, objects, settlement

Amara West 2015: clarity (?) from above

Neal Spencer, Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan

Nearing the end of excavations in the western suburb – only two weeks to go, much of it involving recording rather than digging – the perfect weather today prompted a kite flight for more aerial photography. Mohamed Tawfiq is our designated pilot on these missions, aided by archaeologists sighting in where we want the camera to fly over.

M Tawfiq reels in kite

This image, showing the five houses being excavated for the first time this year (white labels), is fascinating in terms of seeong how a neighbourhood developed in the late New Kingdom, just over 3000 years ago:

Western suburb

We currently think D11.1 and D12.7 are the earliest houses here, with the others built later. Sometimes this means filling an empty space between two existing houses, or building up against a house, using its walls. House D12.8 is unusual – starting off as a small house, it was gradually extended outwards. The room or court with sandstone column base can be seen in the image. A number of excavators are visible in the photo as small coloured dots, and the shadow of the kite is visible at the left edge.

The recording – of architecture and deposits – will help us refine the chronology of this neighbourhood. And, in turn, make this apparently clear picture more complicated!

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, Kite Aerial Photography #KAP, New Kingdom, settlement

Amara West 2015 (week 4): a Deputy of Kush, monumental architecture and industry


Neal Spencer (Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt & Sudan), Michaela Binder (bioarchaeologist)

Burnt date seeds from the corridor outside house D11.1

Burnt date seeds from the corridor outside house D11.1

Careful excavations continue across the houses in the extramural area west of the town. Our understanding of individual houses can take some time to crystallise. House D12.12, being excavated by David Fallon, is finally beginning to look like a house, as we can now see a broad room with mastaba and a hearth, later divided in two.

The large room at the heart of house D12.12, with mastaba overbuilt by later wall.

The large room at the heart of house D12.12, with mastaba overbuilt by later wall.

We hope that the next two weeks will reveal how this house related to D12.6 to the north, as they seem to be provided with complemtary sets of facilities. Were two houses created out of one? In contrast, some houses become more complex as we dig them. Anna Stevens is working on house D11.2 – seemingly a small 3-roomed house squeezed into a space left between two large buildings. The back room now seems to have been built over the remains of an earlier building, emphasising that no matter how late this suburb was built, different parts of the neighbourhood had distinct, sometimes complex, histories.

Basins and emplacements (?) inserted into the middle of the cross-hall in house D11.1

Basins and emplacements (?) inserted into the middle of the cross-hall in house D11.1

We’re still not able to see the main floor of the long cross-room in house D11.1, as Sarah Hitchens keeps finding architecture built over it – in odd places, at odd angles. We’re currently considering a series of basins and possible grinding emplacements, built right in the middle of the room – was the house partly abandoned or collapsed when these were built?

Back in the walled town, Tom Lyons has reached an area of dense indiustrial rubbish – ash, fragments of slag and much burnt material, but also small pieces of stone.

Tom Lyons positioning a scale in industrial area (E13.17) ahead of photography.

Tom Lyons positioning a scale in industrial area (E13.17) ahead of photography.

We’re not sure what was taking place here yet – metal or faience production, or something entirely different? Alongside crucibles, we’re also finding narrow cylindrical objects, burnt, but closed at one end, some with slag inside. The area sits alongside that where we excavated a small pottery kiln in an earlier season, so clearly had an extended history as a production area, perhaps not associated with a specific house.

Tom Lyons with fired object used in industrial production

Tom Lyons with fired object used in industrial production

Prompted by the success of Kate Fulcher’s modified camera in identifying Egyptian blue pigment, we have, over the last 10 days, cleared the West Gate of the walled town.

Detail of decoration on the West Gate: Merenptah, son of Ramses II (and future king) leading a Nubian captive.

Detail of decoration on the West Gate: Merenptah, son of Ramses II (and future king) leading a Nubian captive.

This sandstone gateway was discovered by the Egypt Exploration Society excavators in the 1938-9 season, revealing reliefs of Ramses II, including a scene of victory over Nubians. Initial tests with the camera indicate Egyptian blue is preserved in some of the depictions and hieroglyphs, while areas of red and yellow pigment also survive.

Looking over the West Gate and out to the western suburb (with workmen), founded on a higher level.

Looking over the West Gate and out to the western suburb (with workmen), founded on a higher level.

We intend to undertake a full architectural recording of the monument, including additional inscriptions, to better understood how it was built, modified and used. It needs to be reburied before the end of the season to protect it for future generations. Other than the imposing monumentality of the gateway – over 6m long, over 3m wide, and once standing over 4m tall – it is striking how the ground level of the house outside are set high above it, partly set on rubbish dumps.

Taking a break from excavating down the shaft of tomb G320: Zahr Zuheir (left), Ahmed Ehab and Nayel Mohamed (on ladder)

Taking a break from excavating down the shaft of tomb G320: Zahr Zuheir (left), Ahmed Ehab and Nayel Mohamed (on ladder)

Beyond the palaeochannel, the cemetery team continued to push further into the depths of the two pyramid tombs. In G320, the workmen have reached a depth of 4.7m below the present surface, with no end yet in sight. Even though the top of a doorway leading to one or more burial chambers on the western side is already visible, a large amount of sand and rocks still hides what lies beyond from our view. The depth also leaves removal of the shaft fill, consisting of sand blown in by the wind over the past 3000 years, increasingly difficult and slow.

In G321, week 3 brought about quite some excitement. Having discovered the top of an entrance at the start of the week, we now know that a central chamber off the western side provides access to two more chambers, one to the west and one to the north. Though not filled until the ceiling, the chambers’ content is nevertheless buried under at least 1m of windblown sand. Whether we will be able to go inside the chambers at all, will depend on the stability of the rock-cut chambers.

The fragments of two sandstone doorjambs in the shaft of G321, with sandbags used to keep the fill of the chamber from entering the shaft.

The fragments of two sandstone doorjambs in the shaft of G321, with sandbags used to keep the fill of the chamber from entering the shaft.

The shaft of G321, the better preserved pyramid itself already yielded some very important finds. Discarded in the shaft, 4m below the surface, were fragments of two large sandstone doorjambs. Both bear finely carved hieroglyphic inscriptions and may once have stood at the entrance to the funerary chapel.

Abou Ad untying the ropes used to recovered the heavy blocks from a depth of 4 metres below surface.

Abou Ad untying the ropes used to recovered the heavy blocks from a depth of 4 metres below surface.

However, both jambs belong to the right side of a door, thus it remains unclear which – or even if – one of them actually belongs to the tomb.

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the prenomen of Ramses II

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the prenomen of Ramses II

While one of the jambs gives two of the royal names of Ramses II, another refers to a “Deputy of Kush” – the name is very badly eroded.

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the title ‘Deputy of Kush’, followed by a badly eroded name.

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the title ‘Deputy of Kush’, followed by a badly eroded name.

Was one of the Deputies buried here, or in the other tomb (a shabti was found earlier in the season)? Or are these doorjambs dragged from elsewhere, maybe even the town?

Removing spoil from the West Gate, at dawn

Removing spoil from the West Gate, at dawn

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, conservation, Egypt Exploration Society, funerary, New Kingdom, settlement

Amara West 2015: glimpses of a burial chamber

Michaela Binder, bioarchaeologist

Excavating the shaft of pyramid tomb

At a depth of 2.5m below present surface, workmen Al-Nezir Mohamed (“Bushi”) and Abou Ad (right) revealed the top of an ancient doorway in the shaft cut through the schist bedrock below pyramid G321. Patience is needed, with the sand fill removed by hauling buckets up the shaft, before we can glimpse into the burial chamber.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, New Kingdom

Amara West 2015: 1000th find registered – an age-old technology

Hilary Stewart, archaeologist

Flint arrowhead F13676

Our 1,000th registered find this year, designated F13676, is a finely worked flint arrowhead (3.9cm long) from house D11.1, excavated by Sarah Hitchens. Flint objects are some of the most interesting to register because, like other stone tools, they’re quite tactile: it’s always fun to hold them and try to figure out how they were shaped and used – usually their purpose is more obscure than this one!

Flint was not a technology just for the Neolithic: blades and tools are commonly found in the New Kingdom houses at Amara West (and other sites in the Nile Valley and beyond). Some are still sharp, such as this blade with serrated edge from house D11.2.

Flint tool F13920

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Filed under: Amara West 2015, objects

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