Neal Spencer, British Museum
The latest excavation season at Amara West in Sudan began three weeks ago, with a wide range of excavations and associated research excavations taking place in this 3,000-year old ancient Egyptian town on the banks of the Nile.
Amidst the chilly 6.30am starts, logistical challenges, strong winds, plagues of biting nimiti-flies (and one crocodile sighting), we’ve been posting daily updates on our work – in the town, cemetery and research at the expedition house – on the project blog with more updates on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM.
A desirable residence?
The full plan of house E13.5 was revealed in a matter of days, but the real surprise was the presence of stone doorways throughout the house, three of which were built re-using inscribed architecture from an earlier phase, including one doorjamb naming an official, Horhotep.
A five-chambered tomb discovered
Earlier this week, Michaela Binder had one of those moments that, as she put it, reminded her “that this can be the best occupation in the world”.
Removing sand from the top of a grave shaft, discovering a small opening, then another and more digging until the flash of a torch reveals five chambers in the largest tomb yet to be found at Amara West.
Read more about the discovery of a five-chambered tomb, by Michaela Binder, physical anthropologist.
Initial discoveries in the eastern burial chamber of G243
Having discovered a new chamber tomb, Barbara Chauvet set about the task of excavating it to reveal, and record its contents. Read about initial discoveries in the eastern burial chamber of G243.
Fertility figurines and ancient architecture re-used
Among the hundreds of objects revealed in excavation (and thousands and thousands of pottery sherds), a fragment of a female figurine offers a glimpse into the beliefs and concerns of the town’s inhabitants. Modelled in clay, and sometimes referred to as “concubines of the dead”, fertility figures are thought to relate to conception, rebirth or sexuality, as explained by Marie Vandenbeusch, our finds registrar.
The discovery of a door lintel inscribed for Ramses II, re-used as a shelf in a modern Nubian house, was one of the more unusual ways an object comes to light.
Ash, ovens … and faience?
While villa D12.5 is slow to reveal its secrets, outside house E13.5 we have discovered a room provided with six large bread ovens and grinding emplacements, now being excavated by Shadia Abdu Rabo from the Sudan National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums.
Further north, in an area we did not plan to excavate, Sarah Doherty is excavating a building (E13.16) that might be a house or a bakery, along with interesting finds, from hieratic ostraca to a well-preserved necklace. The last few days have seen an earlier phase emerge, with large ceramic ovens surrounded by waste that might relate to faience production.
It already feels like the end of the season is approaching too fast. With so much more work to be done, our days will become longer and longer: we’re re-organising our object storeroom, hoping to reveal the full plan of villa D12.5, wondering if the five-chamber tomb can be fully excavated this season, and about to commence detailed micromorphological sampling of floor layers.
Two new programmes of research will also start: Susie Green (UCL) will be joining us to capture 3D visualisations of the housing neighbourhood (E13.3), while Alexandra Winkels (University of Fribourg) will be investigating the technology of ancient wall-plastering in the houses.
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