Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: back to the cemeteries … and the chamber tomb

Excavating Grave 244

Michaela Binder, Durham University

Michaela revealing ancient pottery vessels in G244 (February 2013)

Michaela revealing ancient pottery vessels in G244 (February 2013)

We fly out to Khartoum tomorrow, and I’ll be leading a four-week season of excavation in the cemetery. I’m particularly excited about our return to finish excavating the large multi-chambered tomb G244, discovered in January 2013. This tomb, dating to the late New Kingdom (c. 1150 BC) has turned out to be one of our biggest surprises: a Nubian-style burial mound above a multi-chambered substructure conforming to traditional Egyptian funerary customs. G244 represents a unique, and as yet unparalleled, expression of the cultural processes taking place at ancient Amara West.

Tumulus (mound) of Grave 244

Tumulus (mound) of Grave 244

Due to the complicated nature of the burial and time constraints we were only able investigate one of the five burial chambers last year. A multi-national team of bioarchaeologists –  including last year’s team members Barbara Chauvet (University of Bordeaux) and Mohamed Saad (NCAM), along with newcomer Sofie Schiodt (University of Copenhagen) – will excavate the remaining four chambers. In addition, NCAM inspector Murtada Bushara is joining us as part of the Amara West Field School for Bioarchaeology, supported by the Institute for Bioarchaeology.

Unfortunately, all burial chambers were heavily disturbed. From what we can see from the outside, the same holds true for the chambers yet unexcavated. However, the first chamber also held six intact burials placed in beautifully decorated Egyptian-style wooden coffins (found in very small fragments). What’s left in the back chambers is still hidden underneath a thick layer of sand.

What lies beyond? Doorways into two unexcavated chambers.

What lies beyond? Doorways into two unexcavated chambers.

Time permitting, another focus will be the eastern part of cemetery D. While we have a relatively good idea of the western part thanks to the geomagnetic survey carried out in 2010, the eastern side is still largely unexplored. The presence of burial mounds and disarticulated bones on the surface indicates substantial tombs there too. Burials dating to the New Kingdom are still greatly poorly represented – are they hidden under the mounds of rubble on the eastern side of the escarpment?

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

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