Amara West project blog


Investigating life in an Egyptian town

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.

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