Thursday, February 14, 2013
The North Village is a complicated site because so little of the original buildings is preserved beyond the foundation bricks of the walls. Often these bricks are not in good shape either, and the walls have gaps that leave one wondering whether the missing bricks indicate an entrance into the structure whose mud plastered sill is now gone or perhaps were simply eroded by the wind.
Occasionally however a room is discovered where the walls and floor are still relatively complete and have not been touched since the building was abandoned. In such a case the potential for finding a bit of information that might shed a little light on the habits of ancient inhabitants increases.
This was the case in an area we call T8. When our excavator began to remove the debris it was clearly hard-packed, an indication of an undisturbed stratum at this site. If it was dug by an earlier archaeologist, the dirt would be loose and sandy. As Azib removed the chunky material, I saw pieces with impressions of what looked like sticks and grass. He was digging the remains of the house’s roof that had collapsed onto the floor of the room.
Roofs in ancient Egyptian mud brick houses are made with several elements of architecture: wood poles, heavy reeds, rush cords, and mud. The thick reed-like material is bound together with the cords and then laid across the tops of the walls. The thicker poles are placed either over or under this material. Then the mud is slathered across this structure to make a solid surface. The mud from T8 showed impressions of such poles, thick reeds, and the ties of thin rushes that held them together.
Roofs of this sort are quite heavy and if not kept in good repair will collapse rapidly after the house is abandoned. This seems to have happened in T8. The mud plaster floor underneath was in perfect condition. You can still see, for example, how the owners had taken the mud floor right up onto the base of the walls. In one corner, we found sherds from a single red ware bowl, a common dish at this site. Katie, our conservator, was able to reconstruct about two thirds of the bowl, virtually all that was there. The bowl must have been left because it was already broken.
This same house had a stair case that lead to the roof. Because the walls are only one brick wide, the house’s owner could not have used the roof for storage, but it would have been a good place to sleep on a hot night.
Diana Craig Patch