Sarah Doherty, Egyptologist and archaeologist, Cardiff University
North of the room busy with ovens being excavated by Shadia Abdu Rabo, this last week has seen me work in a puzzling new area – also with lots of ovens! – behind house E13.5. Why this move to a new building? Shadia’s area of ovens featured an additional room with an entrance to the north, into the new building, which we christened E13.16.
After a day of shovelling out windblown sand, the nicely preserved clay floor of the first room was revealed, with a circular hearth (60 cm diameter) still containing ash and charcoal. I was thrilled to find a nice piece of Marl D amphora handle within the hearth, consistent with a late Ramesside date for these buildings.
The workmen moved next door, where a more uneven floor was uncovered, scattered with sand, ash, pottery sherds, charcoal and animal bone. At the east end of the room, perhaps inevitably, three large bread ovens emerged from the rubble. However, these are located right next to a blocked doorway, so they might not have been an original feature of the room. This is an important reminder that the layout of such buildings could change relatively quickly.
Above these ovens, several interesting finds were discovered: a polished greywacke dish, a copper alloy chisel and an ostracon with three lines of hieratic text, which awaits translation. The most aesthetically pleasing object was a necklace made of faience beads, still lying as originally strung (though the string had not survived).
The centre piece of the necklace was two small red carnelian beads flanking a beaten gold bead. After Neal Spencer photographed the necklace in situ, I used the remainder of the day to brush, remove and restring the beads, to preserve the arrangement of the necklace.
As this new building is one of the northernmost in the town, it has suffered badly from wind erosion: we can see multiple phases in the slope near the town wall. My task over this week is to try to untangle, and then document, the various layers.
There seems to be a vast number of ovens in this area beneath the floors of building E13.16, with lots of ash deposits, and charcoal pits. Do we have a bakery or brewery underneath building E13.16?
Watch this (rather ashy) space!
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