Anna Stevens (Amara West Project Curator, British Museum) and Tomomi Fushiya (archaeologist)
It’s been another productive week on the desert survey, spurred on by the news that the pottery we’re recovering seems to date to the early part of the 18th Dynasty – several generations before the walled town of Amara West was built. So what can we say about the archaeological context of this material?
This week we’ve been focussing on a second site (2-R-65) located along a large dried up Nile channel in the desert to the north of the walled town. It sits on a low rocky outcrop not far from the first of our excavation sites (2-R-18), and already on the surface it is possible to make out occasional lines of dark grey schist that are presumably the remains of walls.
André Vila undertook test excavations in the corner of one of the buildings here in the 1970s, and noted that it contained open fireplaces and a plaster floor. We set out a small trench over another of the stone walls and found similar deposits. In our trench, however, it was clear that the walls were actually built over the layer containing the fireplaces. The ashy debris from the fires in turn sealed a layer of rubbish containing sherds and animal bone, below which was a trampled surface with a few scattered pieces of brick.
We didn’t find any definite trace of structures that predate the stone walls, but the stratigraphy is itself important for showing that there were at least three ‘activity horizons’ here: a surface with associated mud brick structures; the subsequent accumulation of rubbish over the surface; and the later construction of the stone walls. A far more complicated site history than the surface remains suggested! It’s tempting now to see sites 2-R-18 and 2-R-65 as part of one much bigger early 18th dynasty settlement – but far too early to speculate much further on this.
So, what’s next for the survey? Well, we know that there is another large scatter of potsherds, which Vila thought were also of New Kingdom date, along the riverbank to the east of the walled town of Amara West, and in the days ahead we will be turning our attention to opening another small trench here. This site is a good few kilometres away from 2-R-18 and 2-R-65, so can we expect it to be of a different date?
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