Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: the season approaches

Sunrise at Amara West

Neal Spencer, Keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum

Sunrise at Amara West

Sunrise at Amara West

In 10 days, we’ll be on the way back to Amara West, for our seventh season of fieldwork in this late second millennium BC town and its cemeteries. Amara West was founded in the reign of Seti I (c. 1300 BC) as a new administrative centre for the Egyptian control of Upper Nubia (Kush). The well-preserved architecture of the site (along with deposits and artefacts) are allowing us to gain new insights into how the town developed across over two centuries of occupation, the experience of living in houses, aspects of ancient health and diet, and the complex entanglement of Egyptian and Nubian cultures, all set within a changing environmental context.

This season will be the largest (up to 31 specialists), longest (nearly three months) and, more importantly, the most diverse in terms of research. Throughout January, Michaela Binder will be leading a team of bioarchaeologists in the cemeteries associated with the town, including a return to cemetery D, but also completing excavation of multi-chambered tomb G244 in cemetery C. Meanwhile, Anna Stevens will undertake a survey, and some test excavations, at sites in the desert surrounding the site. This is a first step towards better understanding the relationship between Amara West and existing settlement patterns in the immediate vicinity. In the midst of this archaeology, we have some building work to undertake on the project house.

Aerial view of house E13.5

Aerial view of house E13.5

The start of February will see our attentions shift towards the ancient town, with two months of excavation planned. We aim to investigate what lies beneath house E13.5 (excavated in 2013), but also clarify the complex area to the north, where a number of kilns and ovens were found last season. Outside the town walls, there are questions still to answer in villa D12.5, and we will extend our excavations further west.

Alongside the routine (though unpredictable) finds, pottery and conservation work, Mat Dalton will continue micromorphological sampling in the houses. Kate Fulcher joins us for the first time to investigate colour technology and application within the houses, as part of an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Collaborative PhD with University College London (UCL) and the British Museum. This season sees the start of a new strand of research, also funded by the AHRC: “Sustainability and subsistence systems in a changing Sudan”. Philippa Ryan (British Museum) and Katherine Homewood (UCL) will explore ancient and modern plant subsistence strategies in and around Amara West, using archaeobotanical and ethnoarchaeological methods.

Finally, we are also aiming to improve site protection, undertake a Ground Penetrating Radar survey and host a filmmaker who wishes to document different perceptions of the archaeological work.

Nubian breakfast at Amara West

Breakfast with the workmen

All this activity will be set against a backdrop of howling winds, chilly mornings, boat commuting, crocodile sightings, beautiful landscapes, delicious Nubian breakfasts and, we fear, biting nimiti-flies.

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, funerary, New Kingdom, settlement

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