Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: beyond the town walls

Atop site 2-R-55 near Amara West

Anna Stevens (Amara West Project Curator, British Museum) and Delphine Driaux (Associated Member, UMR 8167, Orient et Méditerranée)

This season, the Amara West Project is branching out. During January, before excavations begin in the Ramesside town itself, we are undertaking a small survey in the desert around the site. It has long been known that the landscape here is rich in archaeological sites, dating from the prehistoric to far more recent times, but on the whole they remain little explored. They offer a wonderful opportunity to investigate the broader cultural and historical setting of the Ramesside town within a local framework.

Heading towards rocky outcrops overlooking an early Nile channel, around which several sites cluster

Heading towards rocky outcrops overlooking an early Nile channel, around which several sites cluster

Our starting point for the fieldwork is a monograph published by André Vila in 1975, La prospection archéologique de la vallée du Nil, au sud de la
cataracte de Dal (Nubia Soudanaise), volume 7, in which he describes and maps several sites in the vicinity of Amara West. Day one of the survey saw us trek out into the desert with a copy of Vila’s maps and a hand-held GPS to try and relocate these. One we got used to the landscape, the sites were fairly easy to find. Although few traces of architecture remain (the sites are far more denuded than the Ramesside town), surface scatters of potsherds are fairly clear.

By the end of the day, we had re-identified about a dozen of the sites recorded by Vila, which fall into two main groups. One clusters several hundred metres to the north of Amara West, close to the ancient water channel that was probably drying up around the time of the occupation of the Ramesside town. Another group of sites branches out along the present riverbank, to the east of the town.

One of the New Kingdom sites, recognizable by the concentration of sherds in the otherwise clean desert sand

One of the New Kingdom sites, recognizable by the concentration of sherds in the otherwise clean desert sand

In the coming weeks our aim is to undertake some mapping and small-scale excavation at a select number of these. This year, we will focus on those that show evidence of wheel-made pottery, which suggests an Egyptian presence (or an Egyptian influence on local ceramic traditions). Are these the remains of settlements that predated the Ramesside town? If so, what was their purpose, and why did the population later shift to the walled settlement? Or might they represent the later resettlement of the area? And what further do they tell us of interactions between local Nubian and resettled Egyptian populations?

We will keep you posted on the results!

A well-earned break (in what may be an ancient stone-built watch-post)

A well-earned break (in what may be an ancient stone-built watch-post)

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

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Filed under: Amara West 2014, hinterland, New Kingdom, Nubian, settlement, survey, Uncategorized

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