Posted by: zwangdm | February 18, 2019

Bag It and Tag It

Bag It and Tag It

Danielle Zwang

Archaeology requires the systematic collection of objects that were either made, modified, or used by people. By studying these material remains in relation to the environment in which they were produced, archaeologists attempt to understand the lives of those who used them. The process of collecting artifacts may appear somewhat tedious, but it is anything but that. Processing is a crucial part of an archaeological excavation.

This season as the archaeological assistant for the Industrial Site, I am working alongside Diana and Jan to help process all of the objects that are uncovered. As we continue to look for the production center of the glass and faience industry, we are finding manufacturing byproducts including molds, crucible fragments, and vitreous material, which are fragments of glass and faience. Our team follows a very specific method for processing these discoveries.

Senior excavator, Azib, working in the Industrial Site

As our workmen excavate methodically by layer or level depending on the context, they set aside all of the finds onto a tray. These artifacts are then sorted by type. At the Industrial Site, all of the material can be divided into two major categories, manufacturing debris and objects. All of the material that has been worked or used by ancient craftsmen gets bagged. However, the process for the two types of finds varies slightly.

Left: An unsorted tray of finds from the Industrial Site.
Right: The same tray from the left, after being sorted by object type.

The manufacturing debris, or the excess raw material and product from production, is further divided by type. Remains of the same kind are put together in one bag with its contextual data written on the exterior. Every bag lists the site name; the year; the square number; the level, feature or locus number; the object type, and finally the date found. This process is duplicated for the objects, like beads, molds, and tools. These objects are also assigned a unique number. This number is very similar to the accession numbering system that is used at a museum like The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These artifacts are tracked separately from the manufacturing debris because they are recorded differently as they often tell us a lot more information.

Left: An example of a bag for diagnostic pottery along with its matching tag.
Right: Fragment of a mold found during the 2019 season with its bag and tag.

Afterwards, a tag is created with the same data found the bags. These cards are then placed inside with the sorted material. Creating a tag may seem like an unnecessary and repetitive step, however, it is crucial. The material remains that are found during the excavation are only one aspect of the archaeological record. In order to properly interpret our finds, we need to evaluate them within the context in which they were found. It is therefore extremely important that we keep the findspot information with objects, as well as in our notes. Writing the information on the tag provides insurance that the provenance information will stay with the material in perpetuity. This is essential not only for the JEM’s research, but also for any future scholars who may work at Malqata.

Once the objects are bagged and tagged, they are sent to Diana and Jan for processing. At this stage, they write initial descriptions about each find, as well as their thoughts about any correlation to glass and faience production. In addition, they record the weight of carnelian debris and take record photographs of the manufacturing waste. Subsequently, all of the objects are sent to Ivor for photography.

Right: Diana and Jan writing descriptions of the objects from the Industrial Site.
Left: Ivor photographing objects.

Processing archaeological finds does not stop there. At the end of the season, we will continue to analyze and record information about each piece. In the secondary phase, Diana, Jan and I will draw objects in preparation for the final report and for future publications. Furthermore, all of the data collected will be transferred into a FileMaker database that was designed by Janice specifically for the work at JEM. Having a digital record of this data preserves an additional copy of our work for the season. It will also allow Diana and Jan to continue working on the material for publication outside of Egypt.

Diana and Danielle processing finds at the Industrial Site
Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 16, 2019

What Kind of Bowl Is This?

What Kind of Bowl Is This?

Susan Allen

Last year was my first at the West Settlement site of Malqata.  I focused on developing record forms for the registration of each group of sherds found and another form to record the diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles, etc.).  The purpose of both forms is to enable Janice to upload the pottery data collected into her database where it can be combined with other information from each square. 

Our pottery notebook, with some of the tools of the trade

Having completed the initial sorting and recording of the pottery bags from 2016 last year, this year we began with the analysis of the diagnostic sherds. This is what ceramicists often call “typing” –that is comparing each rim or base to an established reference type; in our case we are comparing them to the pottery illustrated in The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna by Pamela Rose. This pottery is very close in date and purpose to that found at Malqata.

Gluing sherds in preparation for drawing their profiles

Each diagnostic sherd is then recorded on our new form, which includes additional information such as size and surface treatment. Sometimes they require a bit of sticking together and then being left to dry in our makeshift sandbox. Complete or nearly complete examples are set aside for drawing and photography so that we will be able to illustrate from our own material the kinds of pottery found in the West Settlement.  

Aisha and I fill out ceramic forms
Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 15, 2019

Red Sky At Night . . .

Red Sky At Night . . .

Here is the beautiful red sunset that we saw from our hotel on Wednesday night:

But this did not herald “excavators’ delight. On Thursday morning, we arrived at the site to find gale-force winds blowing!

We ran around and made sure everything was battened down, and then we came home.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 11, 2019

Tracking Pot Designs

Tracking Pot Designs

Jan Picton

Who doesn’t love blue painted pottery? I certainly do, so it’s hard to discard non-diagnostic sherds to the spoil heap. When I found a large sherd with a pattern that I didn’t recognise I kept it with the diagnostics to check with Diana. Although produced from the mid-18th Dynasty through to the 20th Dynasty it’s difficult not to think of these vessels as ‘Amarna blue’ pottery. We all know the traditional repetitive lily petal motif because that pattern, with the decorative banded lines above and below, is the most common decorative scheme. Occasionally, you get the wonderful reliefs of Hathor or Bes on a vessel, or a freehand naturalistic scene of great artistry, but the lily petal motif is almost like a production line of limited variation. So when I saw the row of flattened oval circles it caught my attention. Diana agreed that it was a rare motif so I searched for comparisons both online and in the literature.

Blue painted sherd (JEMIS.2019.64)

Decorating cream slipped ware followed a step-by-step process: first the ‘Amarna blue’ thick bands are applied, these can be haphazard but our sherd is reasonably good. The four blue ‘leaves’ arranged in a loose oval shape which form our basic design were probably done at the same time while the blue paint was on the brush. Then black and red stripes were applied. The four ovoids were probably outlined in black at the same time as the blue bands were. It’s the black outline to each oval leaf that gives it its definition and the four ovoids then make a distinctive flattened circle. The red dots were probably added last (Rose 2007). The number of bands of decoration depend on the size of the vessel. Only one band survives fully on our sherd but there is an indication of another, different, decorative element above the top stripes. Of course, we can’t tell for certain what shape the vessel was but it seems possible that it was the traditional straight necked, full bodied jar so familiar in these designs.

Even on our small sherd with only one complete decorative motif, and a partial motif on either side with the stripes above and below, it is possible to see how carelessly the preliminary blue stripe and leaf pattern was applied before the black and red stripes and outline were added to give coherence to the design.

This design does not appear in the Amarna corpus (Rose 2007) and the only similar motif I found after extensive searching was on Plate 8 of Colin Hope’s ‘Malkata’ corpus in his Pottery of the New Kingdom, so perhaps this is a design specific to the heb-sed festival site of Amenhotep III.

Blue painted amphora from Malqata, back view (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1911, 11.215.460)

Hope has suggested (1989) that the manufacture of blue-painted pottery may well have been a specialised activity and the work of only a few potters, indicated by the standardisation of the designs and motifs which were applied to particular shapes. The use of the blue pigment (cobalt aluminate spinel, probably sourced in the Dakhla oasis) in the colour scheme may further support the idea of a restricted manufacture, as the raw ingredients would not have been widely available.

Close-up of the decoration on a blue-painted jar from Malqata (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1912, 12.180.39)

The distribution of blue-painted ware is found in large quantities only at Thebes and Amarna, and later at Memphis with some found at Gurob and Saqqara. However, it must be remembered that these vessels are containers for desired contents that are shipped from one centre to another, so the find location does not necessary indicate the place of manufacture.

However illustrious the context of our sherd it still seems to agree with the rule that blue painted vessels were mass produced and decorated by rote on a wheel or turntable. This may come as a shock to lovers of ‘Amarna blue’ pottery.

Hope, C. A. 1989. Pottery of the Egyptian New KingdomThree Studies. Burwood.

Rose, P. J. 2007. The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna. Egypt Exploration Society Excavation Memoir, 83. London.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 9, 2019

Where Do We Go From here?

Where Do We Go From Here?

Janice Kamrin

In the West Settlement, my first task at the beginning of the season is to decide where to excavate next. We talk about it at the end of the previous season, and make some tentative plans, but I continue to think about it as I finish processing my notes and photographs. And then I always try to arrive back at Malqata with fresh eyes.

Consulting with Diana (left) and Jan (right)

Some of my priorities for this season are to continue to clarify the footprint of the site, and to see how it relates to other areas. On the east (local north), we are interested in seeing how the West Settlement connects to the Industrial Site where Diana is working. In order to explore the latter question, I am moving in that direction, but in 2.5 meter trenches rather than full 5 meter squares, since it is possible (in fact, likely) that we will be going through the wadi that has washed out any traces of the settlement to the north (see What Lies Beneath). We can’t go too far to the east or we will hit the old Met spoil heaps, but we will go as far as we can.

Looking southeast down Trench P (backfilled) toward the current West Settlement excavations

To the west, we are interested in seeing if we can connect the current excavations to a series of partial foundations uncovered in “Trench P” by Barry Kemp a number of years ago. Dr. Kemp has been so kind as to share information from his forthcoming publication of this work, so we know that his walls line up with ours, and that that one of them continues the thicker wall (laid in headers rather than stretchers) that seems to serve as the boundary of the settlement.

Piet shoots in some new points on our North-South grid

Our surveyor, Piet Collet, has helped to lay out new squares to both the east and the west. We are stringing them up and getting to work, so stay tuned!

The West Settlement Team: (L to R) Ali Mohamed Ja’allan; Hassan Horagi Mohamed; Mohamed Abu-ez Mohamed; Sa’ad Tagi Ahmed (senior excavator); Ossama Mishra’i Megala; Ja’allan Mohamed Said (senior excavator); Khaled Hassan Khodari; Janice Kamrin; Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan (senior excavator)
Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 6, 2019

Our Colleague, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz

Our Colleague, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz

Diana Craig Patch

When you work in Egypt, part of the process of getting into the field is signing the contract that allows you to work at your site.  This step is carried out in the office of the Head of Foreign Missions of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in Cairo.  For me, signing the contract is very serious business because when my signature as expedition director is added to the paper I accept the responsibility of an important site, Malqata, for the period of time I am working there. 

After receiving the contract, I take this agreement to be approved at the local level, which for Malqata requires signatures from the Luxor and West Bank inspectorates of the SCA.  This season I was the last mission to have its contract approved in Luxor by the former General Director of Upper Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz, who retired last Monday.  I have known Dr. Abdelaziz for many years because he served as the General Director of the West Bank inspectorate for three of the seasons (2012-2014) we have worked at Malqata. In this position, Dr. Abdelaziz was in charge of what could take place at Malqata during the excavation, so we were in regularly contact each year.  I always found him welcoming and helpful in supporting the work at our site.  By 2015, he had been promoted and we no longer saw him on the West Bank, but instead greeted him in the East Bank office, although we saw him much less often. 

Diana Craig Patch and Mohamed Abdel Aziz in the East Bank office.

Now that he has retired, the team working at Malqata will miss a good friend, but we wish him all the very best in the coming years and hope he will come to visit us.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 4, 2019

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

We were greatly saddened today to hear of the sudden passing of our wonderful inspector during our 2017 season, Walla Abd el Moged Hussein. We remember her very fondly, and wish to express our heartfelt condolences to her family and colleagues. Walla was extremely kind and helpful, and especially loved to work with Diana to sort and identify the material coming from the excavations at the Industrial Site.

We thank Walla for all of her assistance and friendship. We will never forget her, and she will be greatly missed.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 2, 2019

Life’s Little Rituals

Life’s Little Rituals

Jan Picton

I suppose that it is unsurprising that archaeologists have rituals since we study so many. One of my favourites is the first return to the site, retracing the well-beaten paths of previous years to sites which greet you like an old friend. Here I am! I’m the first wall that you drew; I’m the tiny patch of shade that gave you refuge; I’m the marker peg you fell over! I’m back in my palace. Well, it’s Amenhotep III’s palace really, and I hope that he’d be pleased with what we’ve done with it. We’ll be missing our lovely brick conservator, Tony Crosby, this season so there won’t be the same pressure to complete wall drawings so that his team can cap the walls, and we just may build up enough of a reservoir of drawings to put us ahead of the game next season.

View of the king’s suite of rooms in the palace

With two new team members, Ivor and Danielle, we did a broader familiarisation tour of the site. It always gives me a kick to see the extent of the infrastructure necessary just for the king to celebrate his heb-sed festival, and how poor the accommodation was for his servants. There is a definite sense of the temporary nature of the structures not quite so apparent in the king’s apartments!

Our walk continued to the ‘industrial area’, all the evidence is there except the area itself which may either have been lost during the clearances of the royal viewing pavilion by the 1907 Met team, or may still to be found… Of course, the kilns could be under the spoil-heaps – that’s an archaeological truism – there’s always something good under the spoil heap. One of this season’s objectives is to excavate part of the spoil heaps to understand more about the industrial processes and the relationship between the different crafts. Just in a few square metres we find evidence for faience and glass manufacture, and carnelian working in huge quantities, pieces of worked pink granite – perhaps fragments of statuary. If we excavate a new square towards the West Settlement area where Janice is working we may discover if there is any relationship between the two areas, and perhaps that elusive industrial base.

The viewing pavilion, ramped on three sides, is still impressive with its niche and buttress façade, faced by a huge open court on its fourth ‘flat’ side. I wonder how many people stood in the courtyard staring in awe at the king sitting in splendour? Hundreds, or thousands?  The heb-sed was the ritual that celebrated the renewal of kingship on which hung the prosperity of the land and its people, and the king’s relationship with the gods. Not an event to be taken lightly!

The royal viewing pavilion

We then walked to the Amun Temple with its huge sun courts that anticipate the better known courts at Amarna. The temple is in a sad state of decayed splendour. Although it would repay re-excavation the early excavators had to deal with a relatively unknown phenomenon – a mud-brick temple – and in trying to understand the structure in some places they cleared the casemate support walls down to their foundations and made understanding the structures that stood on the casemates a difficult prospect. The conservation and reconstruction work necessary here would be a huge burden to whoever took on the project. However, it would be immensely rewarding to reinterpret this Amun temple in the light of what we now know about the Amarna sun cult.

Amun temple
The Amun Temple

We worked our way back to our main site tracing the line of the raised royal road, now washed out by a wadi and vanishing under the monastery. I had no chance to explore in that direction last year and I don’t suppose there will be time this year, either. Arriving back at the West Settlement and industrial area we set up our first squares so that we can start work first thing on Saturday.

stringing the square
Jan and Danielle stringing out the square ready for a clean start on Saturday

Welcome in Egypt! Welcome in Malqata! It’s so good to be back.

small finds
Surface finds as we set the square
Posted by: iMalqata Blog | January 30, 2019

Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited

Diana Craig Patch, Janice Kamrin, Jan Picton, Ivor Pridden

We are very happy to announce our arrival back “home” on the West Bank. Our respective planes landed at the Luxor airport late on Monday night, and we spent most of Tuesday visiting the East Bank Taftish and our friend Ray Johnson at Chicago House, and organizing supplies back at our hotel. In the late afternoon, we decided to take a walk to reintroduce this season’s photographer, Ivor (also known as Jan’s husband) to the local landscape, which has changed a lot in the fifteen years since he was last here. We walked up past the Colossi of Memnon at Kom el-Hettan, then down the Qurna road to the Ramesseum. To start out our blog for the 2019 season, we thought we’d share some of the photos we took along the way.

Our Mudira Diana poses in front of the Colossi of Memnon, just down the road from our home away from home at the New Memnon
We are always amazed to see how much our good friend Hourig Sourouzian has accomplished at Kom el-Hettan, the memorial temple of Amenhotep III.*
Jan, Ivor, and Diana playing tourist in front of the back of the Ramesseum
Our pathetic attempt at a selfie
You only get skies like this in Egypt!
The Theban necropolis at dusk
Looking over the remains of Tawosret’s temple to colossi at the northern entrance of Kom el-Hettan
The remains of the Merneptah temple, with the magazine in the distance
Almost home, as we pass the colossal stelae at Kom el-Hettan

*We want to express our sorrow at the loss of Hourig’s beloved husband and our great colleague, Rainer Stadelmann.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 25, 2018

Broken Dishes

Broken Dishes

Susan Allen

While the pottery of the West Settlement has been buffeted by millennia of wind and water (from the wadi that runs through the site), much has been recovered from our recent excavations. This year, we were able to build on the progress made last year by Egyptian interns Aisha Mohamed Montaser and Hussein Fawzi Zaki, with the expert assistance of Pamela Rose. Using the corpus of pottery fabrics and forms developed by Pamela at Amarna, we are now tackling the substantial number of still-to-be-analyzed pottery groups.

A collection of sherds from the West Settlement

From each context (living surfaces, trash pits and other features) all pottery is collected and bagged. The first step is to lay out each group and divide the sherds into the two basic clay types: Nile silt and Marl clay (clay mined from desert sources). These are then divided between those from open forms (such as bowls), those from closed forms (jars, amphorae), and non-containers such as stands or lids. Each group is then sorted by surface treatment. Diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles, etc.) are counted and set aside for further analysis, comparison to the Amarna corpus, and in some cases for drawing. The body sherds, if they cannot be associated with a diagnostic form, are recorded and disposed of at a set location on site.

At this preliminary stage, it appears that the majority of the pottery is made of Nile silt and includes bowls and dishes of all sizes and medium-sized jars. Only a small percentage are Marl clay sherds, usually from large amphorae. Some of the bowls, especially the large ones, show indications of burning and were probably used as braziers, while smaller dishes were sometimes used as lamps. Each group collected usually includes a few pieces of the beautiful blue-painted decorated pottery that is characteristic of the late 18th Dynasty and particularly of the reigns of Amenhotep III and the Amarna period.

Left: Body and rim sherds from a blue-painted vessel found in the West Settlement. Right: Blue-painted vessel from The Met’s earlier excavations at Malqata (Rogers Fund, 1911, 11.215.462)

The shapes and wares analyzed so far support the interpretation of this site as a settlement area, where non-elite inhabitants of the complex were living. The predominance of dishes, bowls and jars may show that they were used for the consumption of food prepared elsewhere at Malqata. The large Marl clay sherds mixed with a few imported types from elsewhere in the Levant come from wine and oil amphorae which would have been stored and consumed in areas like the Palace. These large sturdy sherds may then have been reused in the West Settlement as leveling and filling material.

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