Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: in the alley

An alley at Amara West

Barbara Chauvet, bioarchaeologist

Following excavations in the cemetery throughout January, followed by a few days documenting and sorting finds from the tombs, I moved to town … namely into a narrow street or alley (E13.11) along the west side of the neighbourhood E13.

Street E13.11 at the western edge of neighbourhood E13. Underlying image: Susie Green.

Street E13.11 at the western edge of neighbourhood E13. Underlying image: Susie Green.

There were several reasons why this area was chosen for excavation. First of all, we wanted to make a physical link between the Egypt Exploration Society excavations of the western town during the late 1940s and our current excavations in E13 – this will help tie the EES ‘levels’ to our architectural phases and chronology. We also wished to find more of a Phase IA building – part of the first period of construction in the town. Parts of this were seen in EES excavations, but also during our work outside house E13.8 in 2011.

Osman Ezz ed-Din looking down street E13.11

Osman Ezz ed-Din looking down street E13.11

Going through soft and silty deposits, dealing with a lot of sherds, animal bones and charcoal (which is not surprising in such a context!), these alley deposits may well tell us much about life in the adjacent houses (street E13.12 was excavated in 2011). The first interesting architectural feature that I exposed was the mudbrick threshold of a house excavated by the EES. With its well preserved sandstone doorjambs (1.66m) and the multiphase step stones associated with street deposits, this doorway allows us to make the link between the different phases of the 1948-49 excavations and our buildings.

The Phase IA wall at base of later street E13.11. Note the stone revetment built against wall to right.

The Phase IA wall at base of later street E13.11. Note the stone revetment built against wall to right.

What was more surprising is that I uncovered, in the north part of the alley, a lot of big stones pressed against the wall of a house on the western side of the street. These were presumably to strengthen the wall from erosion and passing traffic. Most of them look to be a later addition, bonded to the wall with mortar like that used to plaster the walls. Two of them – the biggest ones – are part of the original wall. This stone revetment is a nice example of how stone was re-used where possible – a massive quartzite grindstone is set into this revetment.

Last but not least, in these last few days I exposed a massive wall running under the walls already revealed. After taking off 70cm of deposit, I finally reached the Phase IA wall, probably built around 1300 BC, in the reign of Seti I, when the town was founded. Like elsewhere at the site, this has been levelled to one brick thick, as part of massive rebuilding of the town on a new plan, shortly after its foundation. We can now equate EES ‘Level 4’ with our Phase IA, and thus better understand the development of the northwestern part of the walled town.

Abd el-Gadus peering into the street, early morning

Abd el-Gadus peering into the street, early morning

I am currently busy drawing the elavation of these architectural phases – through days of wind or nimiti-flies – or both. This has all been accomplished with only two workmen, Abd el-Gadus and Osman Ezz ed-Din – offering me opportunities to improve my Arabic, but also learning some Nubian. I now know how to count until five!

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

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