British Museum blog

Amara West 2012: questions and challenges in house E13.7


Mat Dalton, archaeologist

This season at Amara West, a team of workmen from Ernetta Island and myself will set out to answer some of the intriguing questions raised by last years’ excavations of the unusual house E13.7.

View of white-painted walls in house E13.7, with walls of later E13.4 above

View of white-painted walls in house E13.7, with walls of later E13.4 above

While most houses so far excavated at Amara are axial – that is, a series of rooms laid out in a row with only one or two entrances to each – E13.7 is radial. The house, a neighbour to the palatial Residence of the Deputy of Kush (the most important position in the Egyptian administration of Upper Nubia), has a large central room (E13.7.3) and no less than five separate doorways leading from it, not to mention a black and white painted wall decoration motif that is so far unique at the site.

View of the main room (E13.7.3) with column base at the centre

View of the main room (E13.7.3) with column base at the centre

Where do these doorways lead? How large was the complete house, and what kind of activities took place within it? Why was it so completely demolished and built over by much smaller houses?

Trying to answer these questions will be quite an undertaking; a lot of later overlying buildings and deposits will have to be examined first. In the south a new ‘street’ – the size of a narrow lane to those of us freshly arrived from London – was even built over the top of the house after it was demolished. An extra challenge (well known to my colleagues Shadia Abdu Rabo and Charlie Vallance from the 2011 excavation season) is caused by the pits dug in more recent times to extract material from the old walls to make new mudbricks.

Plan of house E13.7 at the end of the 2011 season

Plan of house E13.7 at the end of the 2011 season

Mudbrick walls are perfect trench supports, keeping sand out of our excavation areas. With these mined away in the south of our excavation area, we have had to engage in a running battle with the endless loose sand threatening to overwhelm the trench. Sandbag walls engineered yesterday by workman Gazafi Mohammed Ahmed are currently keeping the sand at bay.

Sandbag engineering at Amara West

Sandbag engineering at Amara West

Similar structures (though usually built of mudbrick or recycled stone) are also found in the doorways of ancient houses, where they would have stopped windblown sand and rising street dirt from creeping inside. A helpful reminder of how the problems faced by Amara West’s ancient inhabitants and its modern excavators are sometimes not so very different…

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Filed under: Amara West, Archaeology

One Response - Comments are closed.

  1. Rebecca says:

    Great photography! I hope you don’t get buried in sand.

    Like

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Handwritten in Greek, not long after the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), it contains the earliest complete manuscript of the New Testament. 
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Discover how Egypt’s religious and political landscape was transformed over 12 centuries in our #EgyptExhibition, opening 29 October 2015.

#history #ancientEgypt #Cleopatra #RomanEmpire New exhibition announced: ‘Egypt: faith after the pharaohs’ opens 29 October 2015

Discover Egypt’s journey over 1,200 years, as Jews, Christians and Muslims transformed an ancient land. From 30 BC to AD 1171, #EgyptExhibition charts the change from a world of many gods to the worship of one God.

Tickets now on sale at britishmuseum.org/egypt

#egypt #history #faith For our final #MuseumInstaSwap post we’re highlighting the 'Make Do and Mend' campaign of the Second World War, as told by our partner @ImperialWarMuseums in their #FashionontheRation exhibition.

The campaign was launched to encourage people to make their existing supplies of clothes last longer. Posters and leaflets were circulated with advice on subjects including how to prevent moth damage to woollens, how to make shoes last longer or how to care for different fabrics. As the war went on, buying new was severely restricted by coupon limits and no longer an option for many people. The ability to repair, renovate and make one's own clothes became increasingly important. Although shoppers would have to hand over coupons for dressmaking fabric as well as readymade clothes, making clothes was often cheaper and saved coupons. ‘Make Do and Mend’ classes took place around the country, teaching skills such as pattern cutting. Dress makers and home sewers often had to be experimental in their choice of fabrics. Despite disliking much of the official rhetoric to Make Do and Mend, many people demonstrated great creativity and adaptability in dealing with rationing. Individual style flourished. Shortages necessitated imaginative use of materials, recycling and renovating of old clothes and innovative use of home-made accessories, which could alter or smarten up an outfit. Many women used furnishing fabrics for dressmaking until these too were rationed. Blackout material, which did not need points, was also sometimes used. Parachute silk was highly prized for underwear, nightclothes and wedding dresses.

We've really enjoyed working with and learning from our friends at @imperialwarmuseums this week. You can catch up on all our posts and discover many more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 4773 For #MuseumInstaSwap we’re discovering the street style of the Second World War in the #FashionontheRation exhibition at @ImperialWarMuseums. In this archive photo a female member of the Air Raid Precautions staff applies her lipstick between emergency calls.

In wartime Britain it was unfashionable to be seen wearing clothes that were obviously showy, yet women were frequently implored not to let 'standards' slip too far. There was genuine concern that a lack of interest in personal appearance could be a sign of low morale, which could have a detrimental impact on the war effort. The government's concern for the morale of women was a major factor in the decision to continue the manufacture of cosmetics, though in much reduced quantities. Make-up was never rationed, but was subject to a luxury tax and was very expensive. Many cosmetics firms switched some of their production to items needed for the war effort. Coty, for example, were known for their face powder and perfumes but also made army foot powder and anti-gas ointment. Make-up and hair styles took on an increased importance and many women went to great lengths to still feel well-dressed and stylish even if their clothes were last season's, their stockings darned and accessories home-made. As with clothing, women found creative ways around shortages, with beetroot juice used for a splash of lip colour and boot polish passing for mascara.

Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap © IWM (D 176) In the @ImperialWarMuseums exhibition ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s street style’ we can see how men and women found new ways to dress while clothing was rationed. Displays of original clothes from the era, from military uniforms to utility underwear, reveal what life was really like on the home front in wartime Britain.

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#FashionontheRation exhibition runs @imperialwarmuseums until 31 August.

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