Sunday, February 9, 2014
Catharine and I are continuing the work in the North Village. In 1917-18, Ambrose Lansing, a member of the Museum’s Egyptian Expedition, cleared this group of small mud brick houses so that the walls of the structures could be drawn to create a plan of the settlement. Now, almost one hundred years later, we are re-clearing these structures because they are rather sketchy on Lansing’s plan, which didn’t include detailed information about each house. For example: Lansing didn’t indicate how the house walls were constructed; whether there was debris on the floor; and details of the doors, staircases, and other household installations were not noted. We believed that careful recording would produce information that could clarify how these structures were used so we could better understand what went on at the site.
Last season was quite successful and we recorded detailed information on three groups of structures. It is still difficult to identify which group of rooms compose a single structure, but now it’s much easier to recognize the rooms individually. The areas last year were relatively well preserved, but this season we are working in more difficult zones: along the north edge of the village where there appears to be a lot of erosion; and along the east side which also shows only traces of mud brick, again probably due to extensive erosion. We want to finish studying the previously excavated area before moving on to sections of the village that Lansing seems not to have cleared.
As today’s work demonstrated, the ground surface often doesn’t tell you what lies a few centimeters below. At this site, often all that remains of the ancient occupation is a few centimeters. You can’t brush or scape too much or it all disappears. There isn’t much time left to record and then bury this site before it all is gone.
For the past two days we have been clearing part of the south wall of the so-called Audience Pavilion enclosure which is the northern boundary of the North Village. Work showed that the wall had been constructed over earlier small houses. Much of this area is heavily eroded so we are only finding about a one meter wide strip along the wall that is not completely down to the gebel (original desert surface before human settlement). Having finished the eastern-most section, we were moving west, and the next area looked like it was washed-out, modern dump: a slope running from the Audience Pavilion level down into the North Village, with piles of sherds on the surface. However after Azib, the senior excavator, had cleared only a few centimeters (largely sherds), it was clear that he was brushing old radim (ancient rubbish).
The matrix was well-packed with tumbled brick and lots of pottery sherds that were very mixed: large fragments belonging to vessels from the palace, but also smaller, plainer forms like those found in the village. Some sherds were fresh looking and others looked worn, as though they had been sitting around for a while. Clearly the material was collected from a variety of sources. As I stepped back to consider, I realized that the slope was deliberate, not accidental creation from modern back dirt. I was looking at what was probably a ramp used to carry building materials through the village for the construction of the Audience Pavilion over 3300 years ago.
Diana Craig Patch