Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: Rich stratigraphy — and curving walls — below house E13.5

Curved walls at Amara West

Anna Stevens (Amara West Project Curator, British Museum)

Area E13 at Amara West, with house E13.5. Underlying image: Susie Green

Area E13 at Amara West, with house E13.5. Underlying image: Susie Green

For the past few weeks I’ve been digging in house E13.5 in the walled town at Amara West, not far from Johannes and Tom in E13.16. E13.5 itself was uncovered last year, and so this season we’re digging through its floors to expose the earlier deposits and architecture below. I’ve taken the front two rooms of the house (Rooms 1 and 2) and Michael Lewis is excavating two of the back rooms (Rooms 4 and 5): together we hope to reach the original island alluvium in the weeks ahead!

Space E13.20.1 (under scale), with curving wall built against earlier wall (left) and loose silty deposits.

Space E13.20.1 (under scale), with curving wall built against earlier wall (left) and loose silty deposits.

One of the important questions here is whether there was a second row of the thick-walled magazines that characterize the western part of E13. It’s slow going, though — and no sign of magazines yet. But we are also encountering some unusual architecture. Just under the floors of house E13.5, in both Rooms 1 and 2, emerged two curving walls, the function of which is not yet clear. At first we thought they might be circular granaries (well known in ancient Egyptian settlements), but this was quickly ruled out for onewhen it joined an earlier wall and so cannot have defined a circle. Perhaps it was a perimeter wall for an outside space – something that seems to have been quite rare within the walled town, at least in the areas so far excavated.

Space E13.20.2, with remnants of fires inside (later) curved wall. Architecture of later house E13.5 above.

Space E13.20.2, with remnants of fires inside (later) curved wall. Architecture of later house E13.5 above.

This part of the site seems otherwise to be characterized by dense deposits of silt, ash, sherd-rich layers, a little rubble, and charcoal deposits created by expedient fireplaces. Every ten or twenty centimeters, a new deposit emerges and it is time to stop digging, to plan, photograph and take elevations.

Anna, Hashem Shawgi and Mohamed Tawfik removing deposits from E13.20

Anna, Hashem Shawgi and Mohamed Tawfik removing deposits from E13.20

But these deposits (not only the architecture!) are crucial to how we understand Amara West. Part of our job is to reconstruct the activities that these represent: periods in which these spaces were used as rubbish dumps, or left unattended so that fine dust accumulated. Hopefully by placing the curving walls within the context of the deposits that accumulated within and around them, we can come closer to understanding them in the weeks ahead.

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, New Kingdom, settlement

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