Marie Vandenbeusch, Geneva University and Michaela Binder, Durham University
As an excavator or a finds registrar, the fragments of wood found in a grave – termite eaten, small, broken and often powdery – are rather challenging to comprehend in terms of the original objects.
The 2009 excavations within post-New Kingdom chamber tombs (about 1000-800 BC) in cemetery C yielded an unexpected mass of wood fragments – which filled a series of large plastic bags we have only just managed to turn our attention to. The burial chambers were heavily disturbed and the wooden fragments were not found in their original position, so only a small amount of them had been singled out as diagnostic finds at the end of the 2009 season.
Time and patience were needed, and this last week we both embarked on many afternoons of sifting through the dusty fragments. Fragments from each archaeological context were laid out on a large metal tray. It was still not possible to identify meaningful shapes with many fragments, but some elements were distinctive – and we encountered some nice surprises.
Many fragments belonged to coffins: simple wooden planks, some with remnants of painted decoration. Also distinctive are the fragments of Nubian funerary beds, identifiable on the basis of better examples found in other graves (G214, for example).
The terminals of the bed legs can be square or curved, sometimes carved with decorative lines. Finely-worked fragments of headrests – occasionally decorated with lines in a wavy pattern – were also encountered. Fragments of crossbeams, maybe also from beds, and pieces of delicate baskets or dowels were also found, some still embedded in other pieces of wood.
Despite a daily covering in fine, ancient, wood dust, we are learning more and more about the fine wooden funerary objects being placed with the burials of the inhabitants of Amara West.
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