Sunday, February 12, 2012
During our first week at Malqata, we had a team who were conducting a magnetic survey in various parts of the site. We wanted to see if this technology could help us relocate the exact position of the South Village (which we hope is buried beneath the current surface of the desert), and we wanted to see if there were building remains beneath the surface in places that are blank on the old plans in the Egyptian Department archives at the Metropolitan Museum.
Dr. Tomasz Herbich, of the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology, who heads the team, is an archaeologist who has also been trained in geophysics. He has conducted magnetic surveys of sites all over Egypt, and in Europe as well. At Malqata, he was assisted by Dawid Swiech and Wojciech Kasprzyk.
Dawid Swiech Conducting a Magnetic Survey in the South Village
Magnetometry is a technology that measures patterns of magnetism in the soil and, for archaeology, it is especially useful in detecting areas of burning that can identify hearths, ovens, and kilns. However, every material has magnetic properties, and even things you might not think of as magnetic – such as mud brick, have magnetic qualities. As it happens, the mud bricks in our area have a fairly high magnetism (for mud brick, that is). Pure sand, on the other hand, has a very low magnetism. In theory, because the mud brick structures at Malqata were built on the desert, the walls should be quite easy to detect with magnetometry – and this has proven to be the case in one area where there has been little modern excavation (and where there is a blank spot on the old plans of the site).
Unfortunately, most of the buildings that were excavated over the past century were left uncovered, and a great deal of deteriorated mud brick is mixed with the desert surface. This makes detecting what remains of the South Village, more difficult. So, we’re going to try to find one of the structures the old fashioned way, by running a couple of test pits. This year, what we want to do is find two or three identifiable features that will allow us to place the old plan of the South Village within the general plan of the site.
Clearing the Surface of a Test Area in the South Village.
– Catharine Roehrig