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


  1. feel as if I’d had a personal tour, thank you Jan! good luck for a happy season.

    • You’re welcome, Pat. Always delighted to share Malqata!

      • Jan, talking of sharing Malqata(!), 2 friends of mine are in Luxor right at this minute and you might know of them – Ro Baker (was Sellors) and her son Blake, and they were wondering if there would be any way they could view Malqata if at all possible? I think you might know of them. Ro did the Manchester Cert. at the same time as me and Blake is now doing it. They visit Egypt frequently but I don’t think they ever made it to the Malqata site yet, and wouldn’t want to go there without permission anyway. Any chance?

  2. Thank you so much for sharing Jan. Last time I saw Malqata was more than 10 years ago, and there wasn’t much to see. Lovely to see it emerging from the sands. How exciting. (Very jealous!)

  3. Hi Julie, I haven’t seen you in ages! I love this place and it’s really worth the effort. After 12 years at Gurob trying to make sense of no walls, I now have walls everywhere!

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