Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: cemetery C – infants in a large (family?) tomb

3D visualisation of G244 chambers

Michaela Binder, Durham University

A short four-week season (we usually managed 7-8 weeks) in cemetery C now seems like a distant memory. Despite its relative brevity, our season produced interesting new insights into the diverse spectrum of funerary rituals at Amara West.

The excitement at the start was dampened after our discovery that three tombs had been completely damaged by looters after fieldwork in 2013. Therefore, rather than starting new work in Cemetery D as originally planned, our two Sudanese colleagues, Murtada Bushara and Mohamed Saad, and I spent the first three weeks assessing the damage and documented what little the looters had left behind.

3D reconstruction of the substructure of G244, view from north-west. Based on Structure for Motion, produced by Susie Green.

3D reconstruction of the substructure of G244, view from north-west. Based on Structure for Motion, produced by Susie Green.

In G244, the large multi-chambered New Kingdom tomb discovered in 2013, Barbara Chauvet and Sofie Schiodt – Mohamed joined them during the last week – completed excavation of the four chambers not explored the previous season. The side chambers on the western side (244.4 and 244.5) had been heavily disturbed and contained no intact burials. Nevertheless, Sofie, with the assistance of British Museum conservator Maickel van Bellegem, was able to document parts of decorated coffins, pottery and some adornments. These finds strongly attest to the selection of Egyptian-style funerary goods for the deceased buried here.

Three child burials in the eastern chamber (244.1) of G244.

Three child burials in the eastern chamber (244.1) of G244.

Barbara was left with the most difficult task: four weeks excavating the main chamber on the eastern side (244.1) – as it turned out, the most interesting chamber of all. The chamber had been filled with 80cm of windblown sand, perhaps the main reason why the four burials inside were largely intact. Most importantly, next to an individual buried in a colourful decorated wooden coffin, Barbara discovered the intact burials of three children. This is the first time intact child burials were found in a New Kingdom tomb at Amara West. In all other New Kingdom tombs children were notably absent – as at contemporary cemeteries in Egypt and Nubia, children seemed to have been buried in separate zones of the cemetery. The unusual presence of these children in G244 can perhaps also seen as another sign of Nubian cultural markers deployed alongside more Egyptian traits. This is most clearly reflected in the use of a low mound (tumulus) to mark the surface of this burial place.

Ivory comb (F9839) buried with skeleton 244-19.

Ivory comb (F9839) buried with skeleton 244-19.

The assemblage of grave goods associated with the children is also remarkable. All three were adorned with items of jewellery, richer than all the adult burials found at Amara West so far. In addition, there are items such as an ivory comb, a small wooden box with ivory inlays and the enigmatic ivory sticks which may be part of a game.

Sofie and Barbara packing up the last finds in G244.

Sofie and Barbara packing up the last finds in G244.

Taken together, these items certainly show the a certain wealth of the group, perhaps a family, buried in G244 around 1200 BC.

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

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