Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: the grind

Sunrise at Amara West

Nanette Bülow, University of Copenhagen

Christmas presents come early … grindstones awaiting Nanette’s attention

Christmas presents come early … grindstones awaiting Nanette’s attention

Throughout my stay here at Amara West, I have been working as an illustrator, mostly drawing finds, but also a few complete ceramic vessels have found their way to my desk – including the pots found by David Fallon in house D12.6. For the last few weeks, stones have occupied me. Big stones. A large selection of grindstones, more than 180, have been recovered from the ancient houses and around, and I am studying the whole group, to try and achieve a better understanding of their use at Amara West.

Grindstone built into revetment in alley E13.11

Grindstone built into revetment in alley E13.11

The grindstones vary considerably in size, shape and type of stone, which might imply variations in their usage and functions. At the same time one has to take into account the availability of natural resources in the immediate area, which might make pragmatic re-use of such artefacts very attractive, rather than sourcing more stone from afar. Good examples of the latter are, for instance, grindstones which have been reused as door-sockets, or as parts of a staircase. In the alley excavated by Barbara Chauvet, a very large intact grindstone was built into a stone revetment, presumably to protect the wall from erosion and damage.

Typical quartzite grindstone (F5379)

Typical quartzite grindstone (F5379)

Most grindstones are made from various types of quartzite, a very hard stone which varies from pink to beige-brown. A few are made of sandstone, a relatively soft stone: limestone is not available locally. Many of these are likely to have been used for grinding emmer wheat and barley – cereals we encounter in the archaeobotanical record.
The most distinctive group are those made from a bluish-green schist – these also have a particular shape, with shallow depressions worked out of both surfaces. Some even bear evidence of quartz processing, or the grinding of red, yellow and pink pigments.

Hard schist grindstone, perhaps for quartz processing (F5901)

Hard schist grindstone, perhaps for quartz processing (F5901)

After studying and drawing all these objects, we will consider how they are distributed within the houses. Some must have been set in the brick emplacememts often found near ovens, but others seem very portable. Some grindstones are found in rubbish deposits, or rubble that accumulated after houses were abandoned, so we may never know exactly where these were used. In any case, the people of Amara West were clearly busy grinding!

Grindstone with yellow pigment (F5962)

Grindstone with yellow pigment (F5962)

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

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One Response

  1. Cleopetra says:

    I am sorry to say, but the links: the pots found by David Fallon in house D12.6 and alley is not working. Recards Petra Lether (Netherlands)

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