Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Counting down to season six at Amara West

The project house under moonlightNeal Spencer, Keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum

In a few days time, I’ll be in a taxi, probably stuck in traffic, inching towards the confluence of the two Niles, and the offices of the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums (Sudan). The signing of our excavation permit will mark the start of our sixth fieldwork season at the ancient Egyptian town of Amara West, after months of planning and preparation.

The project house under moonlight, soon to be bustling with archaeologists and filled with artefacts to document and research.

The project house under moonlight, soon to be bustling with archaeologists and filled with artefacts to document and research.

What awaits? We’ll again be concentrating on the ‘neighbourhood’ of houses in the northwest of the town. There’s one late Ramesside house left to investigate (E13.5), though as we found last year, the earlier remains beneath might throw up some surprises.

View of house E13.6 at end of last season, with E13.5 to right, awaiting excavation

View of house E13.6 at the end of last season, with E13.5 to right, awaiting excavation

Surface traces suggest the house features a staircase, for access to the roof or upper storey, and a central reception room with a brick mastaba (bench) against the back wall. Our work here is providing a detailed insight into how one area of the town developed over 200 years, with episodes of neighbourhood renovation amidst the more frequent changes evident in individual houses – sometimes little more than the ancient equivalent of ‘moving the furniture around’.

Magnetometry survey of Amara West town

Magnetometry survey of Amara West town, with villa D12.5 outlined in red. Survey data: British Museum/British School in Rome.

We’re also returning to the western suburb, to excavate a villa (D12.5), which our magnetometry survey indicates as being around 400 square metres in area. Why build outside the walled town? A desire for more space, light and air may have been a motive, as we know the old town had become increasingly cramped and claustrophobic.

As ever, our team will be documenting objects and ceramics and taking archaeological samples for analysis back in the laboratories of the British Museum and universities collaborating on the project, including high resolution sampling of occupation surfaces by Mat Dalton.

Further research will be undertaken on the landscape and river channels, and our team will be back in cemetery C, led by Michaela Binder, including the second season of our Amara West Bioarchaeology Field School for Sudanese archaeologists.

We’ll be posting regularly from the site, and follow me @NealSpencer_BM on Twitter for updates.

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

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