Amara West project blog


Investigating life in an Egyptian town

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!


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.

Leave a comment or tweet using #amarawest

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Amara West 2013: an ancient monument discovered in a modern house

Sandstone lintel found in the house on Ernetta islandMarie Vandenbeusch, Egyptologist

Most objects recorded during an excavation are found on site. When they come to light, they are patiently recorded in order to help provide as much information about the building or area from which they were recovered.

Sometimes, however, ancient objects show up in rather different circumstances. At the end of last season, after most of the team had left for home, Marie Millet and Shadia Abdu Rabo stayed to continue studying pottery. One day, they were told that a large inscribed stone had been discovered.

Sandstone lintel (F987) found in the house on Ernetta island.

Sandstone lintel (F987) found in the house on Ernetta island.

While demolishing the corner of an old house on Ernetta island, location of our dig house, the family came across a large sandstone lintel. Only half-preserved, it was carved with a column of hieroglyphs, originally located in the centre of the piece. Part of the names of Ramesses II can be read including “Ramses, beloved by Amun”. The lintel was originally brightly coloured: remains of yellow pigment are still visible on the surface, particularly within the hieroglyphs. This yellow would have contrasted with the white plaster that covered the lintel, still visible in places.

Mudbrick walls in a house on Ernetta island

Mudbrick walls in the house: the lintel was revealed during demolition of the old walls

Above stone and plaster, evidence of the modern use of the lintel is visible: a layer of mud. According to the owners of the house, the lintel acted as a shelf, built into the mudbrick wall. Covered by mud, they may not have noticed its existence until the demolition: its presence forgotten family knowledge.

Though we cannot be sure that it is from Amara West, it is very likely, and most probably from a doorway in the town, whether of a temple or a house.

According to the owners of the house, and through recording of the family tree (by Marie Millet and Shadia Abdu Rabo), it seems that the lintel was put in place around 1910-1920, which is before the Egypt Exploration Society started work at Amara West, in 1938. We tend to forget that ancient sites are often experienced and explored long before the arrival of archaeologists.

Leave a comment or tweet using #amarawest

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

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