British Museum blog

Amara West 2012: looking back on the season in the cemetery


Michaela Binder, Durham University

After seven weeks of excavation we can look back to a very successful season in the cemetery at Amara West. In total, the two field school members (Åshild Vagene and Mohamed Saad), Laurel Engbring, Milena Grybowska and I were able to excavate and document 11 graves.

Multiple burials in the eastern chamber of G314

Multiple burials in the eastern chamber of G314

All of them proved to be complex features with one or two burial chambers used for the interment of several individuals – up to 15 in the case of G314. But even though the general outline of the graves appears similar, they differ from each other considerably in terms of size, shape and orientation. The results of this season confirm our picture of a mixed culture combining elements of Nubian and Egyptian funerary customs.

Copper alloy mirror (F8448) found within G309

Copper alloy mirror (F8448) found within G309

G309, the newly discovered pyramid tomb, attests to the wealth of some individuals living at Amara West. The use of a pyramid superstructure, the decorated coffin and a copper alloy mirror, only discovered on the very last day of the season, show that the people buried in this grave chose to be buried surrounded by recognisably Pharaonic objects and architecture. However, this does not prove they were Egyptians – they could also have been acculturated Nubians, or descendants of intermarriage between Egyptians and Nubians.

The discovery of an Early or Middle Kerma tumulus, dug by Åshild and Mohamed, shows that the area of Amara West had already been occupied long before the establishment of the Egyptian town. Even though the site of settlement changed, the inhabitants of the Pharaonic settlement chose to use the same burial grounds, which would have been demarcated by the prominent Kerma tumuli back then just as they are today. Was the cemetery placed here, over a Kerma burial ground, to underline Egyptian domination of the area perhaps?

Excavation area – Due to the strong wind the graves had to be covered with tarpaulin for most of the season

Excavation area – Due to the strong wind the graves had to be covered with tarpaulin for most of the season

The preservation of organic remains allows for more refined insights into funerary customs during the New Kingdom and post-New Kingdom period. As an example, we can differentiate different types of funerary containers such as coffins, different mats, textiles and burial beds.

Abdu Yassin, Hassan Awad and Milena Grybowska excavating in G309

Abdu Yassin, Hassan Awad and Milena Grybowska excavating in G309

The coming months will see work on the large amount of drawings, notes and context sheets, while the human remains excavated this season are already on their way to London where I will again spend a few months studying them. This time I will be joined by Åshild and Mohamed for two weeks as part of the field school project.

Many thanks to the excavators, workmen and everyone else who helped make 2012 a very successful season.

Leave a comment or tweet using #amarawest

Find out more about the Amara West research project

Filed under: Amara West, Archaeology, Research

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. ritaroberts says:

    This excavation is extremely interesting.I will look forward to further news about the burials and archaeological finds. Thankyou for sharing. Good luck in London on your post excavation work.

    Like

  2. reindeer00 says:

    I have really enjoyed following the blog about this excavation. Good luck with the post ex. Thank you for your outreach.

    Like

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It's time for our next #MuseumOfTheFuture gallery space. This is Room 61, the Michael Cohen Gallery of Egyptian life and death (the tomb-chapel of Nebamun). The British Museum acquired 11 wall-paintings from the tomb-chapel of a wealthy Egyptian official called Nebamun in the 1820s. Dating from about 1350 BC, they are some of the most famous works of art from ancient Egypt.
Following a 10-year period of conservation and research, the paintings were put on display together for the first time in 2009. They give the impression of the walls of colour that would have been experienced by the ancient visitors to the tomb-chapel.
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Objects on display illustrate the continuity of the Canaanite culture of the southern Levant throughout this period. They highlight the indigenous origins of both the Israelites and the Phoenicians.
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Objects on display illustrate the continuity of the Canaanite culture of the southern Levant throughout this period. They highlight the indigenous origins of both the Israelites and the Phoenicians.
The display compares this culture with that of the peoples of central inland Syria, the Amorites and the Aramaeans. To start the week, here's the next three gallery spaces in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series. Rooms 57–59 are the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Galleries of the Ancient Levant. This pic is of Room 57. The Ancient Levant corresponds to the modern states of Syria (western part), Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Rooms 57–59 present the material culture of the region from the Neolithic farmers of the 8th millennium BC to the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC, within the context of major historical events.
Objects on display illustrate the continuity of the Canaanite culture of the southern Levant throughout this period. They highlight the indigenous origins of both the Israelites and the Phoenicians.
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