Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2015: let’s dig some pyramids


Michaela Binder, bioarchaeologist

With a delay of two weeks (due to my PhD graduation!), we have joined the rest of the team at Amara West, and the cemetery season has just begun. After a break of two years, we return to Cemetery D, the area located on a rocky desert escarpment north of the town, for two full months of fieldwork. During the 2010 and 2012 seasons, we were already able to establish the presence of a New Kingdom elite burial ground in the western part of the escarpment, together with graves dating to the Kerma period but also the centuries following the New Kingdom.

Pyramid tomb G309, excavated in 2012

Pyramid tomb G309, excavated in 2012

Nevertheless, the number of tombs, both elite and non-elite, dating to the New Kingdom period is overall relatively small given the size of the settlement and duration of its existence (over 200 years, from 1300 BC).

Geophysical survey showing location of G320 and G321 (in collaboration with the University of Southamption - British School in Rome)

Geophysical survey showing location of G320 and G321 (University of Southamption – British School in Rome)

The choice of area to be investigated by the team of four experienced bioarchaeologists – I’m joined by returnee Sofie Schiodt from the University of Copenhagen, freelancer Michelle Gamble, and Mohamed Saad from Sudan’s National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums – was prompted by the geomagnetic survey carried by out by a team from the University of Southampton/British School in Rome last year. The area, of 60×90 meters, seems to include three substantial tombs with similar superstructures to the tombs excavated during previous season. Most likely constructed from mudbrick, these structures comprise a rectangular chapel and a pyramid on their western side.

The somewhat unassuming heaps of rubble overlying G321, at dawn of the first day of excavation

The somewhat unassuming heaps of rubble overlying G321, at dawn of the first day of excavation

The survey gives us high hopes for what awaits us this season. G321, the eastern-most funerary monument in cemetery D, appears to be by far the largest tomb structure known at Amara West. Situated on the highest point of the cemetery with a good view over the town, this location would have been the most prominent and therefore desirable place for burial. Huge spoil heaps on the surface hint towards an equally large substructure. The next days will be busy with removing these mounds: we can´t wait to see what lies underneath.

Immediately to the west, Michelle has started to uncover another large tomb, G320. While it´s superstructure is less obvious in the survey than that of G321, large heaps of schist rubble again indicate another sizable structure. After a first half day of clearance, the workmen have already started hitting fragments of mudbrick. Whether we are dealing with another pyramid tomb will soon become clear.

And so the cemetery excavations begin…

And so the cemetery excavations begin…

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

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Filed under: Amara West 2015, archaeology, funerary, New Kingdom, survey

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