Saturday, February 25, 2012
One of the most important figures on an excavation in Egypt is the “reis,” which is loosely translated as ‘foreman,’ but is much more than that. The reis is a respected figure that selects and organizes the workmen on a dig and makes sure everything is running smoothly. It is a long tradition in Egyptian archaeology and dates back more than a century and many men who become a reis have been involved in archaeological work their whole lives.
You can usually spot a reis watching over the site work as he is usually a dignified, older gentleman with a long robe and a big stick to convey his authority. Our reis, Hassan, however, is different. He is a reis for the 21st century. Rather than a stick, he carries a cell phone and usually wears jeans and a t-shirt. Hassan’s father has worked as a reis for German and American excavations for 42 years now and has worked everywhere in Egypt, from the Delta to Aswan. Hassan not only grew up around excavations, but his family home was built over a tomb! (His family now lives in a house near the colossi of Memnon) As a child, temples and tombs were his playground and he formed a life long interest in his ancient ancestors.
Hassan’s uncle was an Inspector with the Department of Antiquities and as a young man Hassan accompanied him on his research trips to the oases. Hassan also enrolled in the Egyptology program at Sohag University , which he recently completed, and hopes to get his PhD in Egyptology.
Hassan makes every aspect of our work easier and is always ready with help and advice, along with a joke and a surprise treat at lunchtime. We would never be able to accomplish all that we do without him, and it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, either.
Diana Craig Patch