British Museum blog

Amara West 2012: a first Kerma period burial discovered


Åshild Vågene, physical anthropologist, Institute of Bioarchaeology Amara West Field School

Excavation of tumulus G308 in cemetery D at Amara West revealed a grave roughly three metres in diameter, with an interior structure of a type typical of the Kerma period. The interior of the grave is circular, consisting of two steps leading down towards a smaller circular grave pit in the southwest corner.

Tumulus G308 prior to excavation

Tumulus G308 prior to excavation

These features set the grave apart from the other tumuli dug here – yet another grave type found in cemeteries C and D.

The remains of a single individual were found within the grave, heavily disturbed, but with enough skeletal elements to suggest that the individual was buried in a flexed position: another difference with most burials at Amara West.

The interior structure of G308

The interior structure of G308

The presence of a few beads and sherds indicates there were originally grave goods placed with the deceased. However, the disarticulated state in which the skeleton was found, coupled with the sparse number of finds, suggests that this grave had been looted.

Planning of G308 during excavation, with Åshild and fellow Field School participant Mohamed Saad

Planning of G308 during excavation, with Åshild and fellow Field School participant Mohamed Saad

Despite this, some notable pottery was found close to the surface on the outer edges of the interior grave. Two complete ceramic vessels were uncovered and their position far from the body itself might indicate they are the remains of funerary offerings, not grave goods.

Kerma pottery, awaiting transport back to the expedition house....

Kerma pottery, awaiting transport back to the expedition house....

Being typical examples of Kerma pottery, with trademark red exterior and black rim, they suggest the burial is of the Kerma period (2500-1500 BC). This would be much earlier than the other burials – and indeed the occupation of the town.

Study of the ceramics – drawing, analysing the fabric, and comparing to published examples from other sites – should allow the date range to be narrowed down.

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