Posted by: imalqata | March 3, 2014

Last Day at the Site

Monday, March 3, 2014

Today we went to Malqata for the last time. Over the past couple of days, the North Village has been covered with sand to protect the fargile mud brick from the elements.

North Village looking toward the cliffs of Western Thebes

North Village looking toward the cliffs of Western Thebes


The weather has been odd this week, with lots of dust in the air and quite a bit of wind, which made working outdoors challenging.
A few days ago, it was decided that the pots from pit 21 that Azib and Ali were gluing
Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim, Azib, and Ali reconstructing pottery

Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim, Azib, and Ali reconstructing pottery


together should go to the storeroom along with our small finds (including the mud seal impression and the jar label). We had two boxes made and spent the early morning today packing them with the pottery, and at 11:00 we took them to the Carter Storeroom (named for Howard Carter and located just north of the house he lived in during his years working on the west bank in the early 20th century). Next season, we will ask to bring them back to the site to see if more frogments from pit 21 can be attached.
Malqata storage box at teh site

Malqata storage box at teh site


We hope you have enjoyed the season as much as we have.
Goodbye until for now.
Catharine Roehrig and Diana Craig Patch at Malqaata, 3-3-2014

Catharine Roehrig and Diana Craig Patch at Malqata, 3-3-2014

Catharine Roehrig
Diana Craig Patch

Posted by: imalqata | March 2, 2014

Drink and Be Merry

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beer Jar and Saucer in situ

Beer Jar and Saucer in situ

While working along the east side of the North Village, we came across a small pit sunk into the earliest mud plaster floor in the room. The pit had been sealed over with fill and a second mud plaster floor when the set of rooms had undergone renovation. The pit wasn’t very large and after clearing the remains of floors and walls, we opened up the pit.
It turned out not to be a pit, but a large jar that was only partially complete because the upper part of the jar had most likely been removed during the room’s renovation. Although no rim remained, one could see it was a large, straight walled jar of Nile silt with a slightly pointed base, a form that is quite common in Dynasty 18.
Inside the jar was a nice find – two vessels completely preserved although well worn.

Saucer and Beer Jar

Saucer and Beer Jar

The two pieces comprised a set: a red-coated Nile silt drinking jar and a little saucer. Such sets are well known from ancient Egyptian banqueting scenes where a servant pours liquid from the small cylindrical jar into a little saucer, often for a woman. The

Drawing of a Scene showing a Servant pouring liquid into a dish. Tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100)

Drawing of a Scene showing a Servant pouring liquid into a dish. Tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100)

saucer can also function as a cover for the jar when it rests in a jar stand, so that insects and dirt don’t fall into its contents. Men taking part in harvesting scenes are shown stopping to drink out of a larger version of this jar type.
That brings us to the type of liquid that this jar once held. It was most likely beer, a staple in an ancient Egyptian’s life. Beer was made from cereal grains, generally emmer wheat or barley, which were soaked to break down the starch. After that stage was completed, yeast and lactic bacteria were added to ferment the liquid brewing the beer. This description is an extremely simple version of a process that has been given much attention and we suggest that anyone who wants to learn more consider reading Delwen Samuel’s chapter on “Brewing and Baking” in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology edited by Paul T Nicholson and Ian Shaw.
Ancient Egyptian beer as many of you probably know is unlike the brew we drink today and instead was probably similar to a number local African beers, thick, and nutritious. Samuel suggests that dates may have been used to flavor beer occasionally, although they were not apparently common. Interestingly, the most consistent botanical material we have recovered at the North Village has been date pits, although we don’t have many.

Modified Beer Jar

Modified Beer Jar

Nearby in this upper fill, we found another of these drinking jars, but this one, which was also quite worn, had been modified. The upper half had been knocked off and the sharp edge smoothed to create a “rim” so that the jar became a cup or scoop.

Diana Craig Patch

Posted by: imalqata | March 1, 2014

Pharaonic Dates

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, was as prized for its sweet fruit in antiquity as it is today. It was a fruit to be eaten fresh or dried, baked in cakes, and used as a sweetener in beer and wine. The Egyptian word for date, bnr, also means sweet.

Date palm, dom palms and sycamore figs. Tomb of Sennedjem. Facsimile detail, Rogers Fund, 1930 (30.4.2)

Date palm, dom palms and sycamore figs. Tomb of Sennedjem. Facsimile detail, Rogers Fund, 1930 (30.4.2)

The date also figured in Egyptian mythology. One of the epithets of the goddess Hathor was Lady of the Date Palm. The date palm tree was also associated with the sun god because of its tall stem and ray-like leaves reaching to heaven.

Dates were popular with all classes of Egyptians and we found date pits this season in the North Village as well as wooden model dates in the King’s Palace. These model

Model dates from the King's Palace

Model dates from the King’s Palace

dates were painted yellow and probably would have decorated a throne kiosk similar to one from Theban Tomb 226 that is now in the Luxor Museum. In the facsimile below, you can see grapes as a motif on the part of the kiosk above the king’s head. On other kiosks, the decoration would have been dates or other plant motifs.

Facsimile painting of a scene depicting Amenhotep III and his mother, Mutemwia. Rogers Fund, 1915 (15.5.1)

Facsimile painting of a scene depicting Amenhotep III and his mother, Mutemwia. Rogers Fund, 1915 (15.5.1)

Earlier expeditions to Malqata (those led by Tytus and later by Waseda University) also found these model dates, which appear to have been arranged in horizontal rows. This decorative motif may have evolved into the “egg and dart” molding found in Classical architecture and still popular today.

Peter Lacovara

Posted by: imalqata | February 28, 2014

Our Friends the Dogs

Friday, February 28, 2014

dogs

Last week we got to the site at 7:00 am and I noticed something very odd. We have been storing our pottery at the southwest corner of the village in one of the large pits that was excavated a century ago. We’ve never had any problem doing this in the past, but as I walked over to the pit to retrieve some unsorted bags of sherds, I saw that a number of the bags were not where I had left them the day before. A dozen or so had somehow managed escaped the pit and were lying on the ground to the east. A couple had been pushed under the edge of of the hill where our sun shelter is located. A few were on clean sand that had been used to cover areas excavated last year. A couple had been ripped open and the sherds were lying on the ground.

sherds on sand

It took me a moment to figure out what had happened. It seems that our friendly neighborhood dogs had gotten curious about the bags. We collect the sherds in the same type of yellow plastic bags that are used in the local markets, and the dogs probably though they might contain something to eat. They must have been very disappointed once they had opened one or two and found just a bunch of very old pot sherds.
Luckily, the opened bags were on clean sand, and on an area that had been used for sorting pottery last year, so, with a few exceptions (which we discarded), it was easy to reconstitute the bags. The had also taken only the bags of pottery that had already been sorted and recorded, so we didn’t lose much information.
Catharine Roehrig

Posted by: imalqata | February 27, 2014

It’s All Hieratic to Me

Thursday, February 27, 2014
During the first season of excavation, we eagerly kept an eye out for jar labels. These are the dockets written on large storage jars and amphorae that identify their contents and the place delivering the provision. In the 1916-17 season, Ambrose Lansing uncovered a very important deposit of them just outside the south wall of the Amun temple among hundreds of sherds from vessels that had been opened and then thrown away. Many of the sherds bore inscriptions and those jar labels made their way to MMA at the end of the excavation in a division of finds undertaken by the Egyptian Antiquities Service in 1917. (see blog post “Food for the Fiest, February 10, 2013)

Jar label found on Feb. 26, 2014

Jar label found on Feb. 26, 2014

We looked in vain in 2010 and 2012 for a sherd bearing a docket. By 2013, I no longer expected to find one, although the workmen continued to check both sides of each sherd. We have analyzed many bags of pottery without a single jar label surfacing. However, our luck changed two days ago. Mahmoud was brushing over the top

Jar label as found

Jar label as found

of radim, that is, material made from a mix of mud, mud-brick, pottery sherds, and sometimes little stones from the desert that is all swept together and packed into large spaces as support for flooring or walls. It is not dissimilar in concept to leveling fill, but is used in much bigger spaces and can be created from material taken from a number of different sources. The thin levelling fill we see under house floors comes from debris generated in the village.

After Mahmoud called to me, he showed me this lovely little sherd lying there in situ with its inscription up and clear (well fairly clear). It is amazing that it was found just like that. Those of you who know me, know that I am definitely a field archaeologist and not an ancient language specialist. However Catharine and Joel, who arrived Sunday night to carry out mapping, both dredged up their rusty hieratic and made a stab and definitely ended up in the right direction. We did all agree though to send it off to several colleagues for comment and the general concensus was that the readable inscription (a small section at the top is too abbreviated and unclear to translate), says “king’s wife,” may she live. According to William Hayes, who published the earlier MMA cache, the phrase is often part of the phrase “the domain of the king’s wife” from which fat, wine, ale and other things were supplied to Malqata. The king’s wife mentioned may well have been Tiye.
Niv Allon, a research scholar at the MMA, kindly assisted us and found two parallels from the dockets on display at the MMA which we include here.

Jar Lable 17.10.400. Rogers Fund, 1917

Jar Lable 17.10.400. Rogers Fund, 1917

One reads: “[ale] (for) offerings of the domain of the king’s wife, may she live…for the first Sed-festival of his majesty, life, prosperity, and health.”

Jar label 17.10.23. Rogers Fund, 1917

Jar label 17.10.23. Rogers Fund, 1917

The second says: “ [Year X]+1, wine of …[the domain] of the king’s wife.”

Diana Craig Patch

Posted by: imalqata | February 26, 2014

A Bowl of Plaster

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Archaeologists love a good garbage pit and I am no exception. Last week we found a small one, by garbage pit standards. It was about the size of a container we would use in a kitchen today. However, it was packed with pottery sherds, animal bone, and a few other bits and pieces. Our chief excavator, Azib, also works for the Museum’s excavation at Dahshur, just south of Cairo. For years he has helped that expedition’s ceramic specialist, Susan Allen, with reconstructing pottery vessels from broken fragments. So, I set him to work on the impressive pile of sherds he had just

Azib reconstruction pottery

Azib reconstruction pottery

excavated. He has done an amazing job and, finally, after seasons of drawing only small pieces of rims and the occasional base, I now have some largely complete jars and bowls with which to work. To be honest, only one bowl is actually complete, but the rest are close enough that you can easily understand what the original jar or bowl looked like.
There are many interesting clues developing from this find, but one particular bowl unequivocally tells you its purpose, or at least its last use. The shape, a deep, sharp

The "carinated" bowl from the pit

The “carinated” bowl from the pit

shouldered (carinated) bowl, is a well-known type among our sherds, although it’s not the most common type of bowl in the village repertoire. That award goes to shallow bowls with everted rims.
The carinated bowls are most often made from Nile silt that generally produces a red, red-brown, or brown vessel as is the case here. This example is one of the largest we have recorded, with a thick wall that makes it a very sturdy example. Initially, when I was looking at the first sherds of this bowl when they came out of the pit, I thought it had a white “slip” – a liquid-like clay that is applied after a vessel is finished. A slip can be of the same color clay or it can be a completely different color. We do get some white slipped Nile silts. However, a closer examination showed that the bowl had a

Interior of "carinated" bowl with remains of plaster

Interior of “carinated” bowl with remains of plaster

lightly burnished red slip and the white was had an entirely different cause. After Azib skillfully reconstructed the bowl, it was clear that it had been used to mix a batch of gypsum plaster.

Detail of plaster in the bowl

Detail of plaster in the bowl

We have found a few places in the village where a scrap of remaining mud brick wall in

Plaster on a mud brick wall

Gypsum plaster on a mud brick wall

a room still had the remnants of gypsum plaster white wash. I also mentioned in yesterday’s blog that gypsum plaster had been used in creating a sloping surface to the mouth of a buried jar. Today I found the interior walls of a room that had been white washed. All that remains are a few inches of wall above the floor. This is enough, however, to make it clear that the room probably was once entirely white.

Remains of white washed walls in the corner of a room

Remains of white gypsum plaster in the corner of a room

Diana Craig Patch

Posted by: imalqata | February 25, 2014

Rebuilding in the North Village

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Dockets from Malqata indicate that the site was used for three sed-festivals, but documenting that the North Village was occupied more than once is not easy. It is especially difficult because the small structures are constructed on uneven ground. Such terrain rarely produces strata that clearly communicate a progression of time. During the 2010 season, we did note that, in the middle of one room, there was a

Traces of an earlier wall are just visible in the foreground

Traces of an earlier wall are just visible in the foreground

slight trace of marl brick. [Actually with two more seasons at the site, I know now that I observed the remnants of the marl plaster laid down on the desert or gebel surface prior to the laying of any wall’s foundation brick and not the brick itself.] Regardless, there was a trace of wall in the middle of an open space providing a clear indication that there was a second period of rebuilding in a room on the highest part of the North Village.

In the 2013 season, we uncovered a large pit full of sherds from large pottery vessels with fresh breaks. This indicates that they had been rapidly buried. The material seemed to reflect what one would expect in palace garbage which is not surprising since the Queen’s Palace was only meters away. On top of this pit, we found the remains of a wall belonging to a village structure. The contents of the dump must have been created during the sed-festival prior to the construction of this wall.

This year we have uncovered two great examples that demonstrate two periods of occupation. The first is in a small room to the north that was originally plastered with a mud floor on the desert surface. This floor is well preserved in the southwest corner of the room. Very close to this space, the original owner buried a huge storage jar in the

Jar buried beneath earlyier floor with sloping plaster connecting it with second floor level

Jar buried beneath earlier floor with sloping plaster connecting it with second floor level

floor. Sometime later, one assumes another sed-festival, a layer of what we call leveling fill was laid down and a second plaster floor was added. When this took place, the new owner wanted to continue using the jar in the floor, but the new floor was going to make the jar’s mouth too low. So he laid down a white (probably gypsum) plaster layer around the jar that slopes from the new mud floor level down to just under the jar’s mouth (the old floor level). Visible in the photo, this plaster was capped by a second plaster layer of the traditional mud. As you can see in the picture, although there is a steep slope to the mouth, the jar is still useful for storage.

The second example is on the east side of the village where we again found a mud plaster floor under leveling fill, which was subsequently capped by a second mud plaster floor. In this location, another jar installed below the floor was capped over by the new floor instead of being kept in use. The fill layer had been deposited over destroyed house walls to make a foundation layer for a new wall. The reason for this

Jar buried under original floor was later covered when a new floor was created

Jar buried under original floor was later covered when a new floor was created

restructuring was that the North Village’s eastern perimeter, which previously may not have been clearly defined, was now provided with an enclosure wall. This new wall created a corridor between the Queen’s Palace and the North Village. After the enclosure wall was built, new rooms in the village were created along the enclosure wall’s western face.

Village house with enclosure wall over fill

Village house with enclosure wall over fill

Diana Craig Patch

Posted by: imalqata | February 24, 2014

Mud, the Ancient Sealing Wax

Monday, February 24, 2014
About a week ago, Timsah, one of our excavators in the North Village, uncovered a small piece of mud ling on the floor of one of the rooms he was cleaning. It had the impression of an oval stamp with the throne name of Amenhotep III, Nebmaatre. The ancient Egyptians used mud to seal documents the way our ancestors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used sealing wax.

Nebmaatre written vertically

Nebmaatre written vertically

During the Metropolitan Museum’s excavations a century ago, dozens of mud sealings were uncovered. Many of them had one or another of the names of Amenhotep III, but none is of the impressions is exactly like the one Timsah found.

PA.7   PA.11  PA.22Nebmaatre written horizontally, vertically, and between two winged cobras

The Egyptians used mud to seal things besides documents. They would hold the tops of small jars in place by covering it with a piece of linen and tying the cloth in place around the neck of the jar. Then they would put a small piece of wet mud on the knot and press it with a stamp. They would also cover the mouths of large storage jars with mud that could be stamped with an official seal.

Sealed jar (detail). Gift of Theodore M. Davis, 1911 (11.155.7)

Sealed jar (detail). Gift of Theodore M. Davis, 1911 (11.155.7)

At the Museum we have a painted mud sealing stamped with the name of Amenhotep III. It had sealed a large jar that may have been used to transport some of the food used for Amenhotep’s Heb-Sed at Malqata. The two ovals on the top of the stopper enclose the words “house of Amenhotep,” which may refer to the palace at Malqata (the ancient name for the site was the “House of Rejoicing”). The stamp on the side repeats the name Amenhotep and identifies the contents, a type of liquid.

Painted jar sealing. Rogers Fund, 1936 (36.2.4)

Painted jar sealing. Rogers Fund, 1936 (36.2.4)

Catharine Roehrig

Posted by: imalqata | February 23, 2014

Our Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim and Diana Craig Patch

Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim and Diana Craig Patch

Each year the Ministry of State for Antiquities assigns the expedition an inspector. His or her job is to make sure we follow the rules of our concession and that no one interferes with the permission that we have been given for work. Our inspector this year is Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim, who is permanently assigned as an inspector in the great Karnak temple. He was appointed to this work in October of 2012.

Scene from the tomb of Nakht (TT 52)

Scene from the tomb of Nakht (TT 52)

In 2009, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim graduated from Minya University in the Faculty of Art, specializing in the Egyptian Section of the Department of Archaeology. Growing up in Qurnah among the noble’s tombs (Menna and Nakht were right next door), he has always had an interest in ancient Egypt. So, it is not surprising that he decided to pursue Egyptology as a career.

Tony Crosby, Mohammed Ibrahim, Peter Lacovara

Tony Crosby, Mohammed Ibrahim, Peter Lacovara

Between graduation and the start of his career in antiquities, he served in the army for a little over a year and also in the tourist industry in the northern Egyptian cities of Marsa Allam and Taba. But his hard work in school paid off, and he was able to take up a position with the antiquities service rather quickly after the revolution. In 2012, he participated in a field school in the North Sinai on a New Kingdom site, searching for new information on the Way of Horus.
We are delighted that Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim is our inspector this season. He is such a willing participant in our work and has assisted in many ways, not the least of which is putting together many of the broken jars from a small garbage pit in the North Village. He is lovely to have around as his friendly nature makes us all smile every day.

Mohammed Ibrahim with a pot from pit 21

Mohammed Ibrahim with a pot from pit 21

Diana Craig Patch
Catharine Roehrig
Peter Lacovara

Posted by: imalqata | February 22, 2014

Conservation Never Ends, But This Season Does

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Today was the last day at Malqata for Peter and I, but some aspects of the conservation will continue through the remainder of this week, ending on Thursday, February 27th. During the past two weeks we have protected approximately 150 linear meters of mud brick walls and laid approximately 6000 bricks. During the next few days, under the able direction of Reiss Hassan, builders will add additional mud bricks to walls that have already been capped and we anticipate they will lay another 3000 bricks. The size and guidelines are well established for these walls and the output of the builders should more than double.

Time for a group shot of the Palace work crew.

Time for a group shot of the Palace work crew.

The 150 meters of mud brick walls we conserved this season varied considerably in size, scope and complexity. The largest walls are 2.4 meters thick and the thinnest are 0.5 meters wide, with the norm being 1.05 meters in breadth, which equals two ancient Egyptian royal cubits. We see this throughout the palace where features are laid out according to clear divisions of the ancient system of measurement.

Because of the different heights the walls were preserved to, some required only two courses of mud bricks as capping, while others required additional courses, both for conservation as well as for interpretation.

Gateway area capped with new brick.

Gateway area capped with new brick.

This season, we worked in three main areas, and the builders will continue in a fourth area. The three areas we worked on over the past two weeks are (1) the gateway area of the main palace, (2) the palace court area north of the kings throne, and (3) Ho. W. 1, immediately west of the existing road. The gateway is now clearly defined along with the adjoining walls. At the main court three main walls defining the west side were conserved and the ancient doorways protected and defined them clearly. In addition, two wall fragments on the south side of the court were conserved and the king’s throne platform was delineated with new mud bricks.

On the west side of the road at Ho. W. 1, four walls were conserved in an area where vehicular traffic had begun destroying the walls. In this case the walls were capped and stabilized and several additional courses were added to clearly define and identify this area as an important component of the overall site complex.

Protecting  Ho. W. 1

Protecting Ho. W. 1

Our basic approach to conserve the Palace has been to protect the ancient walls while affecting as little of the original fabric as possible. Prior to the conservation, all the walls were cleaned and carefully drawn, if they had not been documented previously, and before and after digital photographs were taken. Prior to actually laying new mud bricks and mortar, a clean layer of tan colored plastic grid material was placed over the original, ancient bricks to clearly differentiate the old from the new (see photo).

Here the plastic grid is being set with mud mortar over the ancient bricks in preparation for capping with new mud bricks

Here the plastic grid is being set with mud mortar over the ancient bricks in preparation for capping with new mud bricks

If there was not clear evidence of a corner or the termination of a wall, the wall was stepped down at its terminus to indicate that the wall continued. Of course, if there was clear evidence of an opening or a corner or a door, that feature was reflected in the new mud brick. If there was clear evidence of an alteration to a wall, such as the later closing of a previous opening, that was clearly shown in the new work. One example of the basic concept just described is evident in the photograph showing a section of one of the walls of HO.W. 1. This particular view shows the clear termination of a wall and just a meter away is an intersecting wall that was stepped down, indicating that it continued or the evidence was unclear.

Photograph showing a stepped down wall adjacent to a wall that clearly formed one side of a door

Photograph showing a stepped down wall adjacent to a wall that clearly formed one side of a door

During the project we also reattached a number of small sections of the original wall plaster. Several other sections of fragile plaster will be covered with sand to protect them until additional conservation can be undertaken. In stabilizing the plaster by reattaching it to the wall with new mud, we employed an approach that has been used elsewhere, such as at Abydos.

Re-attaching wall plaster

Re-attaching wall plaster

Tony Crosby

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers