Amara West project blog

Icon

Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: initial discoveries in the eastern burial chamber of G243

Two beer jars and a plate in the north-western corner of the chamberBarbara Chauvet, physical anthropologist

Once the workers had removed the fragments of the collapsed ceiling, we could finally start excavation of the eastern burial chamber in grave G243.

After removing the first few centimetres of windblown sand, the skulls of two more individuals appeared (in addition to the seven we found originally) – so there are at least nine people buried here.

Barbara excavating in the eastern burial chamber

Barbara excavating in the eastern burial chamber

Having brushed away some of the sand in the grave, the positions of each body became clear. At this stage of the excavation, there are four articulated skeletons, all overlying each other. All are adults, one particularly gracile (slender): two are oriented west-east, one north-south and at least one southwest-northeast.

Two beer jars and a plate in the north-western corner of the chamber

Two beer jars and a plate in the north-western corner of the chamber

Four complete pottery vessels were found lying in the northwest corner of the chamber, with traces of palm wood used for coffins around the bodies.

Barbara with the first object from the tomb, a complete beer jar, removed from the entrance to avoid damage when we removed the ceiling

Barbara with the first object to be excavated from the tomb, a complete beer jar, removed from the entrance to avoid damage when we removed the ceiling

All the objects and skeletons have to be carefully recorded before removal – photographed and drawn accurately. This is particularly important to allow us to age and sex individuals, and track pathological changes, as the bones might disintegrate during excavation.

Detail of skull of individual 243-4 with very gracile features (arrows indicating mastoid process and zygomatic bone) indicating that this was likely a female

Detail of skull of individual 243-4 with very gracile features (arrows indicating mastoid process and zygomatic bone) indicating that this was likely a female

As these skeletons are very dry and fragmentary the excavation is exhausting: crouched in the narrow entrance to the chamber, clogged with the remains of burials and associated objects. I often feel like a tightrope walker as I take measurements – we have to be flexible and adaptable, finding new poses to dig, draw and photograph.

Leave a comment or tweet using #amarawest

Follow @NealSpencer_BM on Twitter for updates

Find out more about the Amara West research project
Read posts from previous excavation seasons at Amara West

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Amara West 2013: a chamber tomb discovered

Discovery of the top of the first chamber entranceMichaela Binder, Durham University

The first week of digging in the cemeteries is over with some interesting discoveries to report. Most importantly, our hopes for G243 have been fulfilled.

The excitement is rising after discovery of the top of the first chamber entrance

The excitement is rising after discovery of the top of
the first chamber entrance

After a day of removing windblown sand from the narrow (50 cm wide) shaft, the workmen revealed two doorways, providing access to an eastern and a western burial chamber.

These chambers were never filled after burial of the people inside; the doors were only blocked with large stones and mud plaster.

Unfortunately, we found both doors partly broken open by grave robbers – something that occurred in almost all the graves at Amara West. The opening allowed windblown sand to enter the chambers, piling up behind the entrance but not filling up the entire chambers.

Nevertheless, when first peeking into the eastern chamber of the tomb, at least seven skulls stared at us in the light of the torch.

We could also see a large amount of wooden remains, possibly remnants of coffins or burial beds, and two intact vessels.

First impressions of the eastern chamber’s content: human bones and wooden remains in near darkness

First impressions of the eastern chamber’s content: human bones and wooden remains in near darkness

Despite the temptation to enter, we had to exercise a bit of patience at the start because the roofs of the chambers had to be taken down first to guarantee our safety while working inside under a thick layer of very ancient Nile silt. This was very hard, and it took three workmen another day to remove the roof with pickaxes and local mattocks (turrias).

Hard work: removing the ceiling of the eastern burial chamber

Hard work: removing the ceiling of the eastern burial chamber

Now that the ‘lid’ of the eastern chamber has been removed, it’s safe to start working inside. After removal of the first centimetres of sand behind the entrance, Barbara Chauvet revealed three more vessels and two more skulls.

So far, the skeletons we can see appear to be articulated. Depending how many are inside, excavation of the chamber could take Barbara, supervising this tomb, a few weeks… watch this space.

Leave a comment or tweet using #amarawest

Follow @NealSpencer_BM on Twitter for updates

Find out more about the Amara West research project
Read posts from previous excavation seasons at Amara West

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

@NealSpencer_BM

@britishmuseum