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.

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English sculptor Henry Moore was born #onthisday in 1898.
Drawing played a major role in Henry Moore's work throughout his career. He used it to generate and develop ideas for sculpture, and to create independent works in their own right.
During the 1930s the range and variety of his drawing expanded considerably, starting with the 'Transformation Drawings' in which he explored the metamorphosis of natural, organic shapes into human forms. At the end of the decade he began to focus on the relationship between internal and external forms, his first sculpture of this nature being 'Helmet' (Tate Collections) of 1939.
This drawing titled ‘Two Women: Drawing for sculpture combining wood and metal’ was based on a pencil study entitled ‘Ideas for Lead Sculpture’. It reflects his awareness of surrealism and psychoanalytical theory as well his abiding interest in ethnographic material and non-European sculpture; the particular reference in this context is to a malangan figure (malangan is a funeral ritual cycle) from New Ireland province in Papua New Guinea, which had attracted his interest in the British Museum. 
Henry Moore, Two Women: Drawing for sculpture combining wood and metal. England, 1939. Here's another fabulous view of the Great Court captured by @whatinasees at our instagramer event #regram #repost
Check out all of the photos at #emptyBM Vincent van Gogh died #onthisday in 1890. Here's a print of his only known etching. It depicts his doctor, Dr Paul Gachet, seated in the garden of his house.
#vanGogh #etching Beatrix Potter was born #onthisday in 1866. Here are some of her flopsy bunnies! 🐰
#BeatrixPotter Made in AD 700, the exquisite Hunterston brooch was found at Hunterston, Ayrshire during the 1830s. It is a highly accomplished casting of silver, richly mounted with gold, silver and amber decoration. It is sumptuously decorated with animals executed in gold wire and granules, called filigree. In the centre of the brooch is a cross flanking a golden ‘Glory’ representing the risen Christ #MedievalMonday
The Hunterston brooch will feature in our forthcoming #Celts exhibition, on loan from @nationalmuseumsscotland. Encounter an African contribution to the global carnival tradition through contemporary artist @zakove’s Moko Jumbie sculptures in the Great Court. These spectacular 7-metre-high male and female figures in striking black and gold costumes are inspired by aspects of African masquerade. #ZakOve
Find out more about our #Africa season this summer with events and displays at www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/celebrating_africa.aspx
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