British Museum blog

Amara West 2012: a new pyramid chapel


Milena Grzybowska

As my area of expertise is osteology (the scientific study of bones), I’m working in Cemetery D under Michaela Binder’s supervision. This is my first season on the Amara West project and the second day onsite has already brought the excitement I was hoping for.

Remains of a pyramid and tomb-chapel (G309)

Remains of a pyramid and tomb-chapel (G309)

I completed the pre-excavation documentation of feature G309 on Friday, and yesterday started excavating its central portion, with four local workmen, Nail, Mohammed, Ashmi and Akasze. The south-west interior corner of a building appeared very quickly. Brushes and trowels in hands, we were eager to define the extent of this structure.

Milena cleaning the remains of the chapel

Milena cleaning the remains of the chapel

The surviving remains, although presently not very high – 40 centimetres at the southern edge – still suggest a structure of impressive scale. Eight metres long and four metres wide, it is larger than the examples exposed previously. Constructed on an east-west axis, the grave originally consisted of a chapel, at the western edge of which stood a small brick pyramid.

Cleaning back sand from around the small pyramid base (right)

Cleaning back sand from around the small pyramid base (right)

What next? We will excavate the burial shaft, which might be over two metres in depth. Judging from the extent of the buildings and the adjacent mound of debris, whose height should reflect the depth of the grave, this phase of excavation might take some time. Let’s hope our patience will be rewarded with intact human remains and associated burial assemblages.

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  1. David says:

    Exciting stuff!

    Where do you think the material came to build this structure – is there a quarry nearby? Also Is there enough left to determine where the entrance was – and do these buildings all adhere to a strict layout, which allows you to more easily interpret the structure?

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    • @ David

      The superstructure (tomb chapel and pyramid) was made of mudbrick. These are formed from Nile clay, which is abundant along the banks of the Nile; shaped in moulds, and left to dry. The chapel may have had stone elements (perhaps doors) but these do not survive. These would have been of sandstone, quarried in the local region. The entrance is likely to have been at the eastern end (facing the rising sun), on the basis of parallels from other broadly contemporary cemeteries (e.g. Tombos, Sai, Sesebi, Soleb etc).

      Neal Spencer, British Museum

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