Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: what a difference a day makes

Revealing an inscriptionPhilip Kevin, conservator, British Museum

On Tuesday of this week, after a number of days consolidating and uncovering painted plaster from several coffins within burial chamber G244 with various degrees of success, Michaela Binder revealed the top and part of the base of a wooden headrest. There has been poor wood preservation in this chamber due to hyperactive termites and wood rot, and possible flooding. The survival of the top and part of the base in what appeared to be a reasonable state of preservation was received with excitement, but the underside of the base was badly tunneled by termites. It was very weak and required slow step-by-step excavation and consolidation.

Philip revealing the faience situla in Grave 244

Philip revealing the faience situla in Grave 244

When removing the soil and wind-blown sand next to the base a white curved surface appeared and soon after the first black decorative lines were visible, including lotus leaf and palm branch motifs. The shape, colour and surface texture indicated this was a decorated situla, a round-bottomed vessel, lying horizontally in the soil and sand. It appeared complete but with a number of old (dark) cracks along its length.

Philip back in the ‘laboratory’ of our dig house, reconstructing the situla

Philip back in the ‘laboratory’ of our dig house,
reconstructing the situla

On lifting it, the cracks opened up and two fragments collapsed into the vessel. The whole object was unstable and any delay in reconstructing the vessel would risk further damage to the edges of the breaks. After consolidating the edges with a polymer in a solvent, to give the weak break edges and surrounding material additional strength, more consolidant was applied to the top of the cracks and allowed to run and settle along its length naturally.

The vessel was reconstructed “dry” (without adhesive) to find the correct location and order of reconstruction, then with the position determined the vessel was adhered. One triangular section 4×4 cm (widest points) remains missing – an old break, and it is still hoped that we will find this fragment near the chamber floor level.

The next day I was “out on the town” working within room E13.5.3 excavated by Sarah. There were a number of inscribed stone pieces – lintels and jambs – which had been plastered over and reused as door jambs.

Philip ‘on the town’, revealing the inscription re-used in house E13.5

Philip ‘on the town’, revealing the inscription
re-used in house E13.5

The inscription on one lintel was visible only at the bottom, with the first few hieroglyphs positioned upside down. The remainder of the inscription (“the interesting bit”….no pressure!) lay under a thick course of whitish plaster. Using a sharp pointed tool and working in from the edge of the plaster it was possible to cleave small pieces from the surface – direct pressure to shear between plaster and stone is likely to pull some surface of the stone away.

After a couple of hours the inscription could be read: ‘An offering that the king gives, to Amun-Ra, lord of the thrones of the two lands’.

Lets see what tomorrow brings.

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Amara West 2013: excavating house E13.5

View over house E13.5, with front room to leftSarah Doherty, Cardiff University and Shadia Abdu Rabo, National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums

House E13.5 is located just north of the official residence of the Deputy of Kush (E13.2), excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society in 1947-50. It is the eastern-most visible in a run of four small dwellings facing onto a narrow alley. The walls had been planned by Mary Shepperson in 2010, showing five rooms, but excavation of these rooms only began this Saturday, under our supervision.

View over house E13.5, with front room to left

View over house E13.5, with front room to left

At the front of the house Shadia excavated windblown sand mixed with mudbrick rubble, which contained many fragments of mud bearing the impressions of the wood, grass and matting used to construct a roof over the space. The excavation can seem futile, as our 6-10 workmen remove windblown sand only to see the north wind bring in yet more of it!

AW_2013_shadia_544

Shadia recording brick rubble around the front door of house E13.5

The front door to the house had partly collapsed, with remnants of brickwork and stone doorjambs scattered nearby. The last floor in use within the room, probably just over 3,000 years old, was very well preserved: a smooth clay surface, with a circular hearth in the centre, and a pottery stand set into the ground to one side.

Detail of inscribed jamb, re-used as a threshold stone, bearing the name Horhotep

Detail of inscribed jamb, re-used as a threshold stone,
bearing the name Horhotep

Meanwhile, Sarah started the business of clearing the middle and rear of the house, including a room fitted with a low brick bench (mastaba). Remnants of three stone doors were revealed in this part of the house, and all three employed stonework recycled from an earlier building, perhaps also a house.

These include an inscribed doorjamb giving the titles of a man named Horhotep, and an inscribed door lintel; both were re-used as threshold stones. The builders of house E13.5 were clearly not particularly interested in the old inscriptions – in one doorway, two old inscribed doorjambs had been erected upside down. Perhaps these had then been plastered and painted, but any such decoration has been eroded away.

There is certainly a lot happening in this intriguing part of inner Amara West. After clearing the staircase room, we’ll soon be busy documenting the house (plans, drawings, photographs) before we remove the floors to reveal an earlier phase of occupation.

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