Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2015 (week 4): a Deputy of Kush, monumental architecture and industry


Neal Spencer (Keeper, Department of Ancient Egypt & Sudan), Michaela Binder (bioarchaeologist)

Burnt date seeds from the corridor outside house D11.1

Burnt date seeds from the corridor outside house D11.1

Careful excavations continue across the houses in the extramural area west of the town. Our understanding of individual houses can take some time to crystallise. House D12.12, being excavated by David Fallon, is finally beginning to look like a house, as we can now see a broad room with mastaba and a hearth, later divided in two.

The large room at the heart of house D12.12, with mastaba overbuilt by later wall.

The large room at the heart of house D12.12, with mastaba overbuilt by later wall.

We hope that the next two weeks will reveal how this house related to D12.6 to the north, as they seem to be provided with complemtary sets of facilities. Were two houses created out of one? In contrast, some houses become more complex as we dig them. Anna Stevens is working on house D11.2 – seemingly a small 3-roomed house squeezed into a space left between two large buildings. The back room now seems to have been built over the remains of an earlier building, emphasising that no matter how late this suburb was built, different parts of the neighbourhood had distinct, sometimes complex, histories.

Basins and emplacements (?) inserted into the middle of the cross-hall in house D11.1

Basins and emplacements (?) inserted into the middle of the cross-hall in house D11.1

We’re still not able to see the main floor of the long cross-room in house D11.1, as Sarah Hitchens keeps finding architecture built over it – in odd places, at odd angles. We’re currently considering a series of basins and possible grinding emplacements, built right in the middle of the room – was the house partly abandoned or collapsed when these were built?

Back in the walled town, Tom Lyons has reached an area of dense indiustrial rubbish – ash, fragments of slag and much burnt material, but also small pieces of stone.

Tom Lyons positioning a scale in industrial area (E13.17) ahead of photography.

Tom Lyons positioning a scale in industrial area (E13.17) ahead of photography.

We’re not sure what was taking place here yet – metal or faience production, or something entirely different? Alongside crucibles, we’re also finding narrow cylindrical objects, burnt, but closed at one end, some with slag inside. The area sits alongside that where we excavated a small pottery kiln in an earlier season, so clearly had an extended history as a production area, perhaps not associated with a specific house.

Tom Lyons with fired object used in industrial production

Tom Lyons with fired object used in industrial production

Prompted by the success of Kate Fulcher’s modified camera in identifying Egyptian blue pigment, we have, over the last 10 days, cleared the West Gate of the walled town.

Detail of decoration on the West Gate: Merenptah, son of Ramses II (and future king) leading a Nubian captive.

Detail of decoration on the West Gate: Merenptah, son of Ramses II (and future king) leading a Nubian captive.

This sandstone gateway was discovered by the Egypt Exploration Society excavators in the 1938-9 season, revealing reliefs of Ramses II, including a scene of victory over Nubians. Initial tests with the camera indicate Egyptian blue is preserved in some of the depictions and hieroglyphs, while areas of red and yellow pigment also survive.

Looking over the West Gate and out to the western suburb (with workmen), founded on a higher level.

Looking over the West Gate and out to the western suburb (with workmen), founded on a higher level.

We intend to undertake a full architectural recording of the monument, including additional inscriptions, to better understood how it was built, modified and used. It needs to be reburied before the end of the season to protect it for future generations. Other than the imposing monumentality of the gateway – over 6m long, over 3m wide, and once standing over 4m tall – it is striking how the ground level of the house outside are set high above it, partly set on rubbish dumps.

Taking a break from excavating down the shaft of tomb G320: Zahr Zuheir (left), Ahmed Ehab and Nayel Mohamed (on ladder)

Taking a break from excavating down the shaft of tomb G320: Zahr Zuheir (left), Ahmed Ehab and Nayel Mohamed (on ladder)

Beyond the palaeochannel, the cemetery team continued to push further into the depths of the two pyramid tombs. In G320, the workmen have reached a depth of 4.7m below the present surface, with no end yet in sight. Even though the top of a doorway leading to one or more burial chambers on the western side is already visible, a large amount of sand and rocks still hides what lies beyond from our view. The depth also leaves removal of the shaft fill, consisting of sand blown in by the wind over the past 3000 years, increasingly difficult and slow.

In G321, week 3 brought about quite some excitement. Having discovered the top of an entrance at the start of the week, we now know that a central chamber off the western side provides access to two more chambers, one to the west and one to the north. Though not filled until the ceiling, the chambers’ content is nevertheless buried under at least 1m of windblown sand. Whether we will be able to go inside the chambers at all, will depend on the stability of the rock-cut chambers.

The fragments of two sandstone doorjambs in the shaft of G321, with sandbags used to keep the fill of the chamber from entering the shaft.

The fragments of two sandstone doorjambs in the shaft of G321, with sandbags used to keep the fill of the chamber from entering the shaft.

The shaft of G321, the better preserved pyramid itself already yielded some very important finds. Discarded in the shaft, 4m below the surface, were fragments of two large sandstone doorjambs. Both bear finely carved hieroglyphic inscriptions and may once have stood at the entrance to the funerary chapel.

Abou Ad untying the ropes used to recovered the heavy blocks from a depth of 4 metres below surface.

Abou Ad untying the ropes used to recovered the heavy blocks from a depth of 4 metres below surface.

However, both jambs belong to the right side of a door, thus it remains unclear which – or even if – one of them actually belongs to the tomb.

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the prenomen of Ramses II

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the prenomen of Ramses II

While one of the jambs gives two of the royal names of Ramses II, another refers to a “Deputy of Kush” – the name is very badly eroded.

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the title ‘Deputy of Kush’, followed by a badly eroded name.

Detail of inscription from doorjamb found in G321: the title ‘Deputy of Kush’, followed by a badly eroded name.

Was one of the Deputies buried here, or in the other tomb (a shabti was found earlier in the season)? Or are these doorjambs dragged from elsewhere, maybe even the town?

Removing spoil from the West Gate, at dawn

Removing spoil from the West Gate, at dawn

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, conservation, Egypt Exploration Society, funerary, New Kingdom, settlement

One Response

  1. Bl says:

    Could the doorjambs have been used as supports by someone trying to enter the shaft or chamber?

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