Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: changing spaces (again) in E13.17

Tom Lyons (archaeologist) and Johannes Auenmueller (Freie Universitaet, Berlin)

Tom with nimiti-fly protection headgear, works around an ancient oven

Tom with nimiti-fly protection headgear, works around an ancient oven

Time has run out… As we approached the last days of digging, excavations beneath house E13.16 continued to be an investigation of spaces in transition, excavating the layers and features predating the building. Lower physically, and earlier in time than the later house, we were trying to link various floors, walls and accumulations which remain arbitrarily divided by the overlying later architecture. Thankfully we revealed some conspicuous archaeology to help our task – in the area we now call E13.17.

The mud-brick arrangement in – or to be more precise, under – room E13.16.2 described earlier represented the uppermost archaeological layer directly beneath the kitchen of the later house. These bricks tell a story: they seem to be the remains of an open brick yard, where dried mud bricks were stacked and prepared before construction. We recently saw similar brick storage areas in contemporary Nubian villages such as on Ernetta island.

Mud bricks lined up outside a house on Ernetta island

Mud bricks lined up outside a house on Ernetta island

After careful recording and removal of the the brick yard, we became embroiled in layers of ash, charcoal, pottery sherds and brick rubble – the refuse typical in such communities. But soon the wall of a hitherto unseen building appeared – over 10m long – with compact mud plaster floors on either side, peppered with small holes which might once have served as postholes for a wooden construction – perhaps a sunshade?

Early walls revealed alongside large ovens or kilns

Early walls revealed alongside large ovens or kilns

Beneath these floors we came across the remains of an entire wall which had fallen (or been pushed over?) in one go. Some of the bricks were irregularly spread out due to the collapse, but in places the original wall collapse could be seen. The wall collapse is a single event, that neatly separates what lies beneath from what came later – in the coming months back indoors, these bricks will be key in helping us stitch together archaeological layers which have become separated by later walls.

Sheet collapse – a tumbled mud brick wall

Sheet collapse – a tumbled mud brick wall

Close to the town’s northern boundary, it looks increasingly likely that we have uncovered a courtyard of several bread ovens as well as a possible kiln. General questions remain concerning this space: was it roofed? Where are the doorways? The relative size and number of ovens (large and numerous!) suggests that this might area have been used for a relatively long duration, before being built over by a residential house (E13.16).

In combination with artefacts and environmental samples, these deposits and architecture are beginning to tell a detailed story about how a space moved from being communal or public (?) to private or residential – modern terms that we have to be wary of when thinking of Amara West, 3200 years ago.

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

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