Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: burial of a lady

Illustration of the upper part of a painted wooden coffinMarie Vandenbeusch, Egyptologist, Geneva University

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with the range of graves we encounter, with varying architecture, burial assemblages and even the number of individuals buried in each chamber. The gender and wealth of the individual must have been important factors in how an individual was buried, but perhaps also whether they saw themselves as Egyptian or Nubian. The study of objects associated with individual burials goes on long after the season ends, and often into the next season.

Plan of tomb G309, with position of coffin in western chamber

Plan of tomb G309, with position of coffin in western chamber

Grave 309, excavated at the end of last season, featured two chambers set off a shaft. In the western chamber, amongst other skeletons and objects, a funerary assemblage directly linked to one specific individual came to light.

Copper alloy mirror (F8448) and carnelian rings (F8443-8448) found with the burial in G309

Copper alloy mirror (F8448) and
carnelian rings (F8443-8448) found
with the burial in G309

The skeleton belongs to a young lady, probably between 20 and 30 years old, according to the physical anthropologist Michaela Binder, who also excavated the grave.

Her remains were found in a very poor condition, as the ceiling of the chamber had collapsed on the burial. It is thus very difficult to gain an understanding about her health and the reasons for her death – as none of her bones was completely preserved. But the objects placed around her, for her use in the afterlife, lay close to the body.

A copper alloy mirror was found by her feet – discovered on the last day of excavation. She was probably wearing a pair of earrings or hair-rings, as two finely carved carnelian rings were found on each side of her head. These seemingly feminine grave goods accompanied the finely-decorated coffin.

Painstaking consolidation of the coffin by British Museum conservator Philip Kevin allowed its removal, and an illustration by Claire Thorne.

Pottery beer jars were also found in the chamber, though we cannot be sure they accompanied her burial. A large amount of faience beads suggest a necklace was placed with one of the burials.

Upper part of painted wooden coffin F8110. Drawing: Claire Thorne.

Upper part of painted wooden coffin F8110. Drawing: Claire Thorne.

Unfortunately, we do not know her name, or details of her life. But the objects suggest a person of some wealth, and presumably an inhabitant of one of the larger houses at Amara West. Was she Egyptian, as the grave goods suggest? Or someone of Nubian origin, who co-opted elements of an Egyptian style in death?

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