Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: a chamber tomb discovered

Discovery of the top of the first chamber entranceMichaela Binder, Durham University

The first week of digging in the cemeteries is over with some interesting discoveries to report. Most importantly, our hopes for G243 have been fulfilled.

The excitement is rising after discovery of the top of the first chamber entrance

The excitement is rising after discovery of the top of
the first chamber entrance

After a day of removing windblown sand from the narrow (50 cm wide) shaft, the workmen revealed two doorways, providing access to an eastern and a western burial chamber.

These chambers were never filled after burial of the people inside; the doors were only blocked with large stones and mud plaster.

Unfortunately, we found both doors partly broken open by grave robbers – something that occurred in almost all the graves at Amara West. The opening allowed windblown sand to enter the chambers, piling up behind the entrance but not filling up the entire chambers.

Nevertheless, when first peeking into the eastern chamber of the tomb, at least seven skulls stared at us in the light of the torch.

We could also see a large amount of wooden remains, possibly remnants of coffins or burial beds, and two intact vessels.

First impressions of the eastern chamber’s content: human bones and wooden remains in near darkness

First impressions of the eastern chamber’s content: human bones and wooden remains in near darkness

Despite the temptation to enter, we had to exercise a bit of patience at the start because the roofs of the chambers had to be taken down first to guarantee our safety while working inside under a thick layer of very ancient Nile silt. This was very hard, and it took three workmen another day to remove the roof with pickaxes and local mattocks (turrias).

Hard work: removing the ceiling of the eastern burial chamber

Hard work: removing the ceiling of the eastern burial chamber

Now that the ‘lid’ of the eastern chamber has been removed, it’s safe to start working inside. After removal of the first centimetres of sand behind the entrance, Barbara Chauvet revealed three more vessels and two more skulls.

So far, the skeletons we can see appear to be articulated. Depending how many are inside, excavation of the chamber could take Barbara, supervising this tomb, a few weeks… watch this space.

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Find out more about the Amara West research project
Read posts from previous excavation seasons at Amara West

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