Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: plans for excavation in the cemetery

Bioarchaeologists Dyan Semple and Carina Summerfield-Hill excavating the chamber tomb G201 in 2011Michaela Binder, Durham University

For this, our latest excavation season at Amara West in Sudan, the team excavating in the cemeteries will return to the northeastern necropolis, Cemetery C. I’ll be joined by French and Sudanese bioarchaeologists, including participants in the second season of the Amara West Bioarchaeology Field School, which aims to train Sudanese archaeologists in bioarchaeological field and laboratory methods.

View over Cemetery C in the early morning with the town in the background

View over Cemetery C in the early morning with the town in the background

This season will be my last opportunity to gather new data in support of the part of the project I’m working on, exploring health and diet in ancient Nubia through climate and political change – and the last newly-excavated data that can be included in my PhD.

Many questions remain to be answered.

Previous work in Cemetery C was carried out in 2009 and 2011, with 32 graves excavated to date. This cemetery is of particular importance because it provides insights into the ‘Dark Ages’ of Nubian history: the period between the end of the New Kingdom and the beginning of the Napatan (tenth – ninth century BC). Until very recently, most of Nubia had been thought to be abandoned during this period.

Tomb G237, radiocarbon-dated to the 10th/9th century BC, a niche burial typical of the last centuries of use of Cemetery C

Tomb G237, radiocarbon-dated to the 10th/9th century BC, a niche burial typical of the last centuries of use of Cemetery C

In Cemetery C at Amara West, however, the majority of tombs date to this time, as confirmed through direct C14 dating of human remains. Thus, the results from this cemetery are now changing our perception of Nubian history and cultural trends during the early first millennium BC – but there’s still much to be investigated.

Bioarchaeologists Dyan Semple and Carina Summerfield-Hill excavating the chamber tomb G201 in 2011

Bioarchaeologists Dyan Semple and Carina
Summerfield-Hill excavating the chamber
tomb G201 in 2011

Initially, we will focus on excavating another chamber tomb, perhaps similar to G201 and G234, excavated in 2011. These graves were used for the burial of several generations and appear to be in use both during the New Kingdom period and afterwards. Thus, excavating another one will assist in getting a better understanding of cultural trends and developments taking place. Moreover, they will also provide a significant number of skeletons to be used in trying to understand living conditions at Amara West.

In addition, we hope to investigate more tombs in an area with unusually large niche burials, provided with tumulus superstructures. Three of those were already excavated in 2011.

These tombs are particularly intriguing as they may represent high status burials – how they relate to the remainder of the niche tombs (in terms of grave goods and funerary features) will be interesting, but also if differences can be observed in the human remains.

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One Response

  1. ritaroberts says:

    Amara West looks to be very exciting. I am looking forward to see what the finds will be.So will follow your blog with great interest. Thankyou for sharing.

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