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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: week two of the desert survey

Excavations at 2-R-18

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

Over the past week or so on the desert survey, we’ve turned our attention to small-scale excavation at two sites that we visited last week to the north of the walled town. The first (2-R-18) is a low mound scattered with potsherds, and the second a nearby stony outcrop where the remains of ancient stone walls are just visible, emerging from the windblown sand.

Excavations underway on the low mound scattered with potsherds; the larger stony outcrop is visible in the background.

Excavations underway on the low mound scattered with potsherds; the larger stony outcrop is visible in the background.

At site 2-R-18 we laid out a small trench on the highest part of the mound, not knowing quite what to expect. Would there be much archaeological deposit below the sherd scatter? It was a welcome surprise to find about 40 cm of deposit: two layer of ashy debris, one of which contained a large number of potsherds (Nubian and Egyptian), along with some animal bone. This kind of material is suggestive of an ancient midden – and specifically, one in which the debris from fires was being regularly dumped.

Delphine and Tomomi excavate through the ashy midden.

Delphine and Tomomi excavate through the ashy midden.

It is the potsherds that are the most immediately helpful in dating the site, and our ceramicist Anna Garnett is proposing an 18th Dynasty date for this material. This is a really interesting result: the site offers a glimpse of Egyptian presence in the area before the foundation of the Ramesside town. But how will the date of this site compare to that on the outcrop? Were they occupied at the same time? Might they be part of one much larger site, now only preserved in small patches?

A pottery puzzle: Delphine with sherds from 2-R-65

A pottery puzzle: Delphine with sherds from 2-R-65

On the stone outcrop (2-R-65), excavations are only just underway. But already it is clear that we have a different kind of space. Rather than an outdoor area used as a rubbish dump, we seem to be digging inside a structure. A few objects have emerged that suggest a residential assemblage, and one that is at least partly influenced by Egyptian traditions: a fragment of a faience bowl, faience beads and part of a stone earring of well known Egyptian form. Potsherds are less abundant so far – but we are confident of getting a good collection as we excavate deeper into the stratigraphy.

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, hinterland, New Kingdom, pottery, survey

One Response

  1. […] year we investigated two sites (2-R-18 and 2-R-65) on the southern side of the palaeochannel. Both showed very clear hallmarks of Egyptian […]

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