Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: 18th dynasty activity

Sieving pottery
Anna Garnett, Liverpool University

We’re in our final week of investigating the enigmatic scatter of sites lying outside the Ramesside enclosure wall of the main town at Amara West. Over the last weeks I’ve been studying the pottery coming out of two sites in the desert north of Amara West - and trying to make sense of why the sites existed, what they were used for, and importantly when they were occupied in relation to the town itself: are they earlier, contemporary or post-Ramesside?

Sieving deposits for pottery

Sieving deposits for pottery

Thankfully the amount and fine quality of the pottery coming out of the first two sites has assisted this analysis greatly. The sites excavated so far (2-R-18 and 2-R-65) featured on Andre Vila’s 1970s survey of the area, and he described them both as being New Kingdom occupation sites with evidence of Egyptian wheel-made pottery on the surface.

The forms of the ceramics from both sites, including cooking pots, tableware and storage vessels, are suggestive of the domestic nature of the occupation. Nile silt, marl and imported fabrics are all represented, as are local Nubian-made vessels in a relatively high quantity (around 10% for some of the excavated contexts): both finewares, and coarsewares used for cooking pots. This also raises interesting questions about the nature of the interactions between the Egyptians and the local Nubian population at these sites.

Anna in the workroom sorting pottery

Anna in the workroom sorting pottery

But when were the sites occupied? From the pottery excavated and studied so far, it is clear that Egyptians of the early 18th Dynasty were present at these sites, likely before the reign of Tuthmosis III (around 1479-1425 BC). This is an important discovery since it now seems likely that the Egyptians were active here prior to the foundation of Amara West, indeed nearly 200 years before the town wall was built in the reign of Seti I. The quality of this early 18th Dynasty assemblage is remarkable and includes a large number of diagnostic and beautifully painted sherds including blue-painted and polychrome examples. We have one more week of excavations at hinterland sites, which I hope will continue to yield more of the same!

I’d like to extend grateful thanks to Julia Budka who kindly offered to look at some of the survey pottery on our visit to Sai Island last week and confirmed my interpretation of an early 18th Dynasty date.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #AmaraWest

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Filed under: Amara West 2014, archaeology, hinterland, New Kingdom, Nubian, pottery, survey

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