British Museum blog

Amara West 2012: inscribed lintel discovered under rubble

Mary Shepperson, archaeologist

House E13.6 at Amara West is a linear domestic house in the centre of the town. In its late phase, the house was entered from a narrow lane through two small rooms, leading to a large central room.

View from the central room through the doorway into room two

View from the central room through the doorway into room two

Excavation in the second of these small rooms revealed a cluster of large white sandstone blocks, lying under mudbrick rubble from a vaulted ceiling. They lay in a jumble in front of the doorway into the central room.

The largest stone slab lay on top of the smaller blocks and was cracked across its width near the centre. The profile of this slab showed that the underside was smooth with a raised edge down one long side; this was clearly a carefully worked stone face, suitable for carrying decoration or an inscription.

After the position of the stone blocks was carefully recorded, preparations were made to lift the top slab. Fortunately, the central crack made this operation much easier and safer, as the block could be moved in two lighter parts. Even so, six stout workmen were needed to lift each half above the height of the walls.

The inscribed block reassembled on site

The inscribed block reassembled on site

The first part was turned over, accompanied by the appropriate ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the assembled masses, to reveal crisp, clear bands of inscription. The second section was lifted, turned and joined to show the overall design: horizontal and vertical bands of hieroglyphs running across the middle of the slab and crossing at the centre.

The decorated surface appeared to have been coated in a fine white plaster and then painted. The bands of inscription were bordered with red pigment, and the bodies of the hieroglyphs retained traces of black and white.

Moving the block to the boat

Moving the block to the boat

The block was carried to the boat by teams of local workmen, and ferried safely to the storeroom on Ernetta island, where it is being much admired.

The remaining stone blocks, when reassembled, were found to be two tall door jambs. These would have held the large inscribed block over the doorway as a lintel. When the door jambs broke, they fell into the room, with the inscribed lintel falling on top of them and cracking in two.

The lintel will be studied in due course, with copies and translations made of the inscriptions.

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Filed under: Amara West, Archaeology

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. pwrapurley says:

    Great reporting! All archaeology teams should report like this, though of course being mindful of security for the site and its finds!


  2. Alison Tigg says:

    Wow, amazing finds, so glad I stumbled across this blog, it’s really great to hear about the work as it’s happening. And great photos too.


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Striking stone crosses, such as this one found in Monifieth, Scotland, combined ancient Celtic curves with Anglo-Saxon knotwork and interlace designs to express these distinctive Celtic identities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This sculpture may have been a personal memorial or grave-slab.
Slab of grey sandstone with a cross on one side. From Monifieth, Angus, Scotland, c. AD 800–900. National Museums Scotland.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together stunning objects from the British and Irish Isles as well spectacular loans from across Europe.
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