Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: furniture in the dust

Fragments of furnitureMarie Vandenbeusch, Geneva University and Michaela Binder, Durham University

Fragment of wood with wooden dowel still in place

Fragment of wood with wooden dowel still in place

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.

Fragments of furniture from grave G201: funerary beds and a headrest

Fragments of furniture from grave G201: funerary beds
and a headrest

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.

Emerging from the storeroom: Marie and Michaela after an afternoon sorting dusty old wood

Emerging from the storeroom: Marie and Michaela after an afternoon sorting dusty old 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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Find out more about the Amara West research project
Read posts from previous excavation seasons at Amara West

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One Response

  1. Interesting article on excavations of tombs in the new kingdom, yielded wood remains along with plastic bags. Most of the remains are wooden planks coffins etc. Great post and thanks for sharing the article.

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