Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 20, 2017

Sitting Pretty II

Peter Lacovara

In an earlier blog, from Sunday, February 3, 2013 (Sitting Pretty), we talked about the royal throne platforms and the canopies they supported, and in the blog for Saturday, March 1, 2014 (Pharaonic Dates), we reported on the wooden model dates used to decorate these structures. At the close of last season, mixed in with a large amount of painting fragments piled in a corner of one of the suites of rooms off the central columned hall, we found pieces of painted wood which came from one of these canopies. And this season in another spot we found a fragment that may also have come from this type of structure.


Amenhotep III seated under a canopy (from the tomb of Kheruef)

Painted wood fragments of a canopy found in the 2016 and 2017 seasons: 1. pole; 2. Block border; 3. Roof support with cut outs for crossbars.]

The fragments found last season included a striped pole about 10 centimeters in diameter and about a meter long and a flat crosspiece with vertical stripes of color.  These would have come from one of the poles that held up the canopy and from the flat cross member that attached them to one another.

A few days ago we came across another long piece with regularly squared cut-outs which could have come from the roof of a canopy made of flat boards like a modern gazebo. Unfortunately, these fragments had all been tossed aside by earlier excavators so we cannot tell where they were originally from. Since the palace was dotted with at least 13 throne platforms, that doesn’t help narrow it down!


Reconstruction of the kiosk fragments by Piet Collet

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 19, 2017

Someone’s Trash is another’s Treasure

Diana Craig Patch

My goal this season at the Industrial Site is the identification of an area at Malqata where glass and faience were manufactured. As you may remember from previous blogs, I started working in 2015 in an area west of the Audience Pavilion because I noted that many sizable pieces of slag were scattered on the surface of old spoil heaps from The Met’s earlier excavations. This waste is associated with furnaces, but none of the earlier excavators noted that they had found either slag or kilns in this area.


The spoil heaps west of the Audience Pavilion at the start of the excavations of the Industrial Site


Slag from the Industrial Site. Similar pieces suggested that this was the place to look for kilns or furnaces.

I was not disappointed when, during the 2015 season, the first square I worked in produced not only slag but sherds from crucibles used to melt the glass ingots, tiny fragments of which were scattered among the modern radim (spoil heap). Last year I continued to clear this radim bit by bit in arbitrary levels; there is no observable stratigraphy in these heaps. At the base of last year’s square, I found some intriguing architectural remains, parts of which ran under its north baulk. Having finished the square begun in 2015 and put on hiatus after I broke my arm that season, I excavated to the desert or gebel surface with no clear indications of any burning or kiln structure. So, now I am tackling another portion of the large spoil heap started last season on my hunt for the manufacturing site.

Although excavating spoil heaps may sound a bit unconventional, I find it a challenge. For the early excavators of Malqata, everything at the site was an unknown. As a result, they focused their attention on exploring and recording the large architectural structures: the King’s Palace, the Audience Pavilion, and the Amun Temple. In excavating these large structures, they did not always collect the little broken bits, although it appears they did more of that in the King’s Palace than elsewhere at Malqata.

Our daily work is not without interest because we are finding many little but captivating objects that were overlooked a hundred years ago. These may assist us in developing a clearer picture of what was made at the Industrial Site and how it was done. Many finds are objects broken during manufacture or tools that had worn out, but occasionally the workmen find an interesting bit of raw material.

Two days ago I found a small chunk of obsidian. Its concoidal fracturing –the circular way in which this natural silica glass created during volcanic activity breaks−is quite distinctive and cannot be mistaken for another material. This find is exciting because obsidian does not occur naturally in Egypt. Most people who have studied the sources believe that the Red Sea coast is the most likely source for obsidian used in Egypt.


Chunk of obsidian from the Industrial Site

We know that obsidian was a desirable, although rare, stone in ancient Egypt, because almost all the pieces are small. An example is obsidian’s use for the pupils in pairs of inlaid eyes of elite coffins, for example the inner coffin of Tutankhamun. However, rarely do we have any examples of larger objects in obsidian. The face from a small statue of Amenhotep III in the Egyptian Museum Cairo (CG42101) recovered from the courtyard where the Karnak Cachette was found is impressive in its use of obsidian. An ear (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 04.1941) and fist in two other collections probably belong to the same statue according to Peter. Robert F. Tylecote, then at University College, London, analyzed the ear’s obsidian and found that it was from an Ethiopian source.


A face of Amenhotep III made from obsidian

This last point brings me back to my little chunk of obsidian. This” exotic” material is only one of a variety of stones, including red and yellow quartzite, granodiorite, and Egyptian alabaster, that I find in the spoil heaps. All the pieces are quite small but none is locally sourced. In addition, some pieces have worked edges indicating that they once were part of a larger object. It appears that these chips, flakes and small chunks were discarded from the manufacture of larger pieces elsewhere. The glass and faience manufacture at the Industrial Site indicates the production of only small vessels, beads, and other decorative objects. Thus these scraps of “exotic” stone were probably delivered to this workshop to be reused in creating small decorative elements. Therefore the Industrial Site, like other manufacturing sites in ancient Egypt, was producing objects made from a variety of materials, not all of which required a kiln or furnace.


Two small pieces of stone — yellow quartzite and red granite — that are not sourced locally so were brought to the Industrial Site. All the non-local stones are very small pieces.

Postscript: Yesterday I found a large ball bead, which may have split when the craftsman drilled a stringing hole. The bead’s shiny black color and fine texture immediately identified its material as obsidian. The bead had been roughly shaped and manufacturing scars are still visible as faint facets; polishing would have come after a successful hole was drilled. Discarded, the preform was rediscovered by the workmen, explaining one way in which the ancient Egyptians intended to use the chunk of obsidian we found earlier.


A broken bead made of obsidian

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 18, 2017

100 Years Ago at Malqata

Catharine Roehrig

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Museum’s excavations at Malqata’s Temple of Amun. This mud brick building is at the north end of the site, a fifteen minute walk from the King’s Palace where Peter is working, and ten minutes from the Western Settlement and the Industrial Site where Janice and Diana are excavating. We worked there during the 2010 season and learned some interesting details just by carefully cleaning some of the walls and floors.


Stairways leading to the three sanctuaries at the back of Malqata’s Temple of Amun after excavation in 1917

For those readers who don’t already know, the festival city of Malqata was established for the first heb sed, or rejuvenation festival, of Amenhotep III, who celebrated three heb seds during the last seven years or so of his reign. Stamped mud bricks tell us that the temple was called The House of Amun in the House of Rejoicing. The second phrase (house of rejoicing) probably refers to the festival city itself. The Temple was built for the second heb sed, and we found evidence that it was refurbished for the third.


Layers of flooring in the small hypostyle hall of the Temple of Amun

One way they spruced up the temple was by resurfacing the floors, which were paved with mud brick. We discovered this when we were cleaning the small hypostyle (pillared) hall that leads to three sanctuaries; the central one dedicated to Amun, and the others very likely to his wife Mut and their son Khonsu. At the edge of the floor near the entrance, you can see the mud brick flooring (1), the first thin coat of hard white plaster (2), the thicker layer of mud plaster above it (3), and the second thin layer of hard white plaster that joins with the plaster on the wall (4).


North wall of the vestibule where it abuts the east wall (front) of the temple building

Something else they seem to have done for the third heb sed was to add a small vestibule at the entrance to the temple building. This is suggested by the construction of the vestibule which abuts the front wall of the temple rather than being an integral part of the structure. It was also built on top of the bricks that pave the terrace in front of the temple. The types of bricks used in the vestibule walls are also different from others used in the temple. In the photo above, you can see that the paving bricks are quite large (40 cm in length); the temple wall is made of standard size bricks (30 cm in length); and the vestibule bricks are the smallest (27 cm in length). The vestibule bricks are also greyish in color and have a finer texture.

In the next year or two, we plan to begin doing some conservation work at the temple similar to what is being done at the Palace. In this way we hope to assure that it will still be here one hundred years from now.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 17, 2017

A Day Out

Janice Kamrin

Friday is our “day off,” which means that we don’t go out to the field. We usually spend part of the day catching up on notes and emails, and then perhaps go sightseeing or spend time with our friends here. Today has been an especially full day.

Right after breakfast some of us went to Medinet Habu, the huge mortuary temple of Ramesses III (r. ca. 1180-1150 B.C.), where we were treated to tours of three separate projects run by Chicago House of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Along the south side of the temple, Frank Helmholz and Johannes Weninger are supervising a large team of stone masons and mud brick experts as they conserve and reconstruct the stone walkway along the temple’s southern wall and some of the mud-brick structures that lay alongside.


The Eastern High Gate at Medinet Habu, seen from in front of the main temple of Ramesses III. To the left is a small Temple of Amun.

Farther west, nearer the great enclosure wall, master conservator Lotfi Hassan is working on the late Ramesside (ca. 1100 B.C.) house of the Necropolis Scribe Butehamun. He showed us how he and his team are carefully distinguishing between the ancient mud brick, the early 20th century reconstructions done by the site’s early excavator, Uvo Hölscher, and the new sections that they are adding now.

Finally, we went to see Jen Kimpton and Keli Alberts at the destroyed Western High Gate. This was once similar to the still-standing Eastern Gate, but was totally destroyed in antiquity. All that remains today are mudbrick structures and scattered blocks of stone. But many of these blocks still bear beautifully carved decoration and traces of their architectural contexts, and Jen and Keli are starting to put this ancient jigsaw puzzle back together on paper and reconstruct some of the original decorative program.


The Malqata team (minus Peter) in front of Stoppelaere House. From left to right: Serenela, Catharine, Diana, Salima, Piet, and Janice

Our next event was the opening of Stoppelaere House, attended by the Minister, Khaled El-Enany, and many of our friends in the antiquities service, This house, which was built in 1951 by the great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, has just been restored by Factum Arte / Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation in collaboration with the University of Basel under the supervision of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to use as a training center for the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative Training Centre. This is the group that has, using advanced 3D scanning techniques, made a full-scale replica of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. They have now started their second major project – a complete scan of the Tomb of Seti I, which they will again use to make a replica of the tomb. This copy will be buried underground next to the replicated Tomb of Tutankhamun, so that the original sepulcher will be kept closed and not subjected to the damage created by even the most well-meaning of tourists.

West Bank, Luxor

A view of the excavations at Kom el-Hettan, as seen from the road we travel every day.

We are off now to the East Bank, where we will enjoy some shopping at the souk, and then attend an event celebrating the work of Hourig Sourouzian and her team at Kom el-Hettan, the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. We pass this impressive site every day on our way to Malqata, as it lies just across the road from our hotel. Greeting more friends and colleagues here in Luxor will will be a wonderful conclusion to a full day off.

Niv Allon

First, an apology is due. Not for the nerves frayed by suspense from waiting for yesterday’s mystery to be resolved, but rather, if in yesterday’s blog I gave the impression that interpreting an inscription is a straightforward, linear process, I misled you. .



Diana’s field photo again, to remind you . . .


. . .and Diana’s field drawing

Instead, every step brings new questions and possibilities that requires one to revisit previous assumptions and interpretations. As I mentioned yesterday, at first glance, the first sign seemed to be a quite convincing writing of the sound “a” and the second that of an “r.” When I consulted ancient Egyptian dictionaries, however, they offered very few words starting with this combination that would fit this context. A text on shrewmice (arar) would have been greatly appreciated, but seemed unlikely here. This failed attempt at finding a suitable meaning sent me back to the fragment and to a reinterpretation of the first sign as an “s,” as discussed in Part I. Together, the two signs begin a word quite commonly found in Malqata: srmt, “ale;” one of the most common offerings sent to the celebration of Amenhotep III’s Sed-festival.

A similar assumption relates to the relationships between the signs. Seeing the three signs together on one piece of pottery, it is hard not to assume they belong together. Stranded on this small and broken sherd, they almost beg to be read together, either following each other from top to bottom or perhaps even forming one word. Hieratic, however, is mostly written in this period—with the exception of religious texts and a few other genres—in rows and not in columns. The gap dividing the first two signs from the third suggests that the first two are to be read together, while the third is part of its own word. This would mean that more than just one space separates the two signs from the third. A whole line of text ran to the left of the two signs, all of which is now lost, like the rest of the second line of text which followed the third sign.

The third sign itself appears to be partially broken. Its general shape calls to mind a number of signs. Many of these hieratic signs relate to bird hieroglyphs and elaborate on a basic shape.



Bird signs from Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

Unlike the slight curve at the bottom of many of these signs, our third sign ends with a straight descending line, which continues until the break. Most writers pull their reed-pen at the end of signs, creating these small curves, but the writer of this ostracon seems to have done something quite different here. He was probably writing two signs together without raising his pen — like the ligatures, that is two joined letters — found in Möller’s book:



Ligatures from Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)


Unfortunately, none of these offers a happy match. The first, the third, and the fourth ligatures don’t have the upper curve, and the second has almost too many curves. In some examples, its upper part even forms the shape of half a circle. With the lower part of our sign broken, we are left in a difficult position.

The answer comes again from The Met’s jar labels. Looking for possible comparisons to our ligatured sign, I came across a sign in the following jar label:


Jar label from Malqata (Rogers Fund 1917, 17.10.1516)


Detail from MMA 17.10.1516

With its upper curve and its descending line, this sign resembles our ligature. The sign is in fact a combination of two signs “m” and “r” (m, and r) that write the ancient Egyptian title jm.j-r’ “Overseer,” and the ligature in our pottery fragmentary seems to indicate a similar combination of sounds.

A closer look at our pottery fragment and this jar label (17.10.1516) reveals more than one point of resemblance. Both open with the signs “s” and “r,” writing the word for ale, and both begin their second line with the ligatured signs of “m” and “r.” A second and even a third example from the corpus of jar labels at The Met seem to show a similar inscription:


Jar label from Malqata (Rogers Fund 1917, 17.10.418)

With these similarities in mind, it is possible to suggest that our pottery fragment once bore a similar inscription, which would have read:

sr[m.t dbH.w]…jm.j-r’

“Ale [(for) offerings] …(by) the Overseer…”

Now, Overseer is hardly a rare title in ancient Egypt and even in Malqata it is well attested in conjunction with various names. Only one Overseer that we know of, however, sent ale to the royal celebrations: an Overseer of a Garrison by the name of Ineni, to whom the abovementioned jar labels belong. Our pottery fragment might very well be a piece of a fourth contribution by Ineni of ale to his king’s festival. This is a particularly exciting identification.

Our inscription would then read:

sr[m.t dbH.w]…jm.j-r’-[jwaa jnnj].

“Ale [(for) offerings] …the Overseer [of the Garrison, Ineni]”

Not much is known about Ineni, except for his evident appreciation of ale. The inscription might suggest, however, one final scrap of information: a date. As William C. Hayes notes in his article dedicated to the jar labels of Malqata, (see Journal of Near Eastern Studies 10, no. 2, 1951, pp. 82-112) more than eighty percent of the jars of ale are associated with Amenhotep III’s first Sed-festival, which he celebrated in the thirtieth year of his reign. None of the jars containing this beverage is associated with the second or third time he celebrated this ritual. If indeed this fragmentary ostracon is to be read as suggested above, then the ostracon recovered two days ago from ancient fill in the Industrial Site, is, in fact not an ostracon but a jar label! Written on the vessel’s exterior, this fragment of inscription indicates it once contained ale, sent by the Overseer of the Garrison, Ineni, in regnal year 30 to his king, Amenhotep III, for the celebration of his first Sed-festival at Malqata.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 15, 2017

Another Bottle of Beer on the Wall (Part I)

Niv Allon

Over the weekend, Diana sent me a picture of ink marks on a small pottery fragment. Everyone was very excited since this is only the second piece of pottery with an ink inscription that we have found at Malqata.


Diana’s field photo of the ostracon

Although this ostracon might appear too broken and faded to decode, the few fragmentary signs that can be discerned give a clue regarding the vessel to which it once belonged, the contents it once held, and the person who might have sent it. It also provides us with an opportunity to share a bit of the process by which inscriptions of this kind are deciphered.


Diana’s field sketch of the ostracon

Like handwritten inscriptions everywhere, the writing of hieratic signs may vary from one hand to another and from one period to another, depending on styles and trends, as well as the surface on which it is written and the sign’s place in the word. Finding comparable writings from a similar timeframe is therefore essential. These can be found in a book by Georg Möller (Hieratische Paläographie: Die aegyptische Buchschrift in ihrer Entwicklung von der fünften Dynastie), who collected numerous examples of signs and organized them chronologically. Though first published in 1909, this book remains irreplaceable. It only has a limited number of examples from Amenhotep III’s time, but fortunately, the extensive collection of jar labels from Malqata in The Met’s collection provides us with a wealth of handwritten inscriptions contemporaneous with our fragment.

At first it is useful to observe the signs closely and study the manner in which they are produced. Hieratic is always written from right to left, and the first sign (on the top) begins in a curve at the left, turning into long and flat line, and ending with a bigger curve down. Only a few signs carry these characteristics, among which “a” (its hieroglyphic equivalent is ayin) seems very likely.


Sign no. 99 in Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

The sign on our ostracon starts, however, quite awkwardly above the middle of the sign below it. A similar writing appears, in fact, in an inscription on one of the jar labels from our collection (17.10.395), but rather than an “a,” the sign is an s. The sign “s” (bolt) is usually written in a continuous line with two strokes added to the middle of the line:


Sign no. 366 in Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

But the writer of the inscription on the jar seems to have done it differently:


Jar Label from Malqata (Rogers Fund 1917, 17.10.395)


Detail of 17.10.395

Instead of a continuous line, he divided it into two. It is thus, possible that the writer of our ostracon wrote the sign s (bolt) in a similar manner, but the left part of it was lost along with the rest of the inscription.

The jar label and our ostracon also share the second sign of the inscription. Some hieratic signs closely resemble their equivalent hieroglyphs, but for most part, hieratic developed along its own course, and signs that look very different in hieroglyphs can closely resemble each other in hieratic, and vice versa. The hieroglyphic counterparts of the second sign here might be a mouth (mouth) a hand (hand) or a rope (hobble), whose hieroglyphs are each drawn very differently, but closely resemble each other in hieratic.



Signs nos. 91, 115, 528 in Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

Of the three, the first choice seems unlikely, but here again our collection of jar labels from Malqata is very useful in providing close comparisons and it is an “r.”



Two examples of “r” from The Met’s collection of jar labels

The final sign is …tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion . . .!

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 14, 2017

A Picture of the Palace?

Peter Lacovara

One of the most interesting places in Luxor is the “Open Air Museum” at Karnak. This is where a number of blocks and even whole temples that were reused in the fill of later structures have been put on display. A recent addition is a famous block that may be a representation of Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata. This block was found, along with a number of others depicting structures in a desert landscape, underneath the large statue inscribed for the Priest-king Painedjem I in the first court of the Temple of Amun at Karnak. It is thought that these blocks may have come originally from Kom el-Hettan, the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III in Western Thebes.


Block from Karnak possibly depicting Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata

The block has recently been studied by Aude Gräzer Ohara, who has identified it as a palace at Malqata with a series of paired hills, which she has suggested represent the mounds of the Birket Habu.


Drawing of the block depicting a palace and the Birket Habu mounds

Shown in front of the palace are a corral with cattle, a zoo with antelope, a garden with a square pond, and a vineyard. The palace is shown with a “Window of Appearance,” where the king and queen would appear to a select audience, not unlike the balcony at Buckingham Palace. The window is shown in the upper story of the palace, with columned rooms and storerooms below. Outside stands a buttressed wall and beyond, pens with lions and possibly a food storage facility.


Modern interpretation of Akhenaten and Nefertiti at a Window of Appearance

It is a matter of debate as to whether this is the palace we are working in, an earlier structure, or one somewhere else at Malqata. In any event, it provides an interesting glimpse into how this palace looked in the eyes of contemporary Egyptians.


Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 13, 2017

The 2017 Malqata Team

Diana Craig Patch

A successful field season always takes place because a group of people with expertise in excavation, mapping, planning, recording and conserving an archaeological site or the skills to support them comes together as a team. We accomplish our work at Malqata because we support each other in the best way possible to get the job done.


Today we would like to introduce the principal members of the team, shown here. Mohamed, the person on the far left, is our driver. He is a very careful driver and an extremely patient man. Ready early each morning, he gets us to work on time and then drives team members and the SCA inspectors around on the West Bank to carry out different tasks.

Moving to the right, the next person is Janice Kamrin, a colleague of mine at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the excavator of the West Settlement. This is Janice’s third season at Malqata and she is happily excavating an extremely interesting settlement and plugging away at piles of pottery.  She is a whiz at FileMaker and produces all kinds of extremely useful databases to organize our finds.

Behind her is Peter.  He was part of the original team from 2008 when we started surveying Malqata. He has worked in Egypt for over 35 years at many important sites –Abydos, Giza, and Deir el-Ballas– and wrote his dissertation on royal cities, including Malqata. He is recording the architecture of the King’s Palace, which was never recorded in any detail, working with Tony (who unfortunately could not be here this season) on its mudbrick reconstruction, and figuring out the complicated decorative narrative of the palace from tiny pieces of painted mud brick.

I am in front of Peter and he and I are the co-directors of the Joint Expedition to Malqata. I too started with the initial team in 2008 and subsequently worked on rerecording the fragile North Village, the publication of which is underway. Currently I am clearing the Industrial Zone that appears to have been created for the production of glass and faience.

Behind me stands Piet, an architect, surveyor, and talented planner with an impressive career in Egyptian archaeology, although he has worked in many other counties too. This is Piet’s first season at Malqata and he is working with Peter on recording the mud brick architecture of the King’s Palace. He is helping to tie Peter’s line drawings of the mudbrick walls together to create a comprehensive plan.

Catharine stands to my left.  She is another colleague of mine from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who has been part of Malqata from the first season of work.  Catharine is critical to the expedition’s success.  Experienced in the local landscape of Western Thebes where she has worked off and on since 1989, she is interested in the immense causeway at the south end of the site and how it relates to Malqata. She led the team documenting the Amun Temple in 2010, and continues to be the site photographer. She also works with our surveyor, Joel, another original member of the team.

Serenela is new to JEM this year. She is a graduate student at the University of Florida and is here to gain experience in Egyptian archaeology. Serenela is critical to my survival as she is amazing at recording, drawing, and keeping track of all the bags, tags, and objects coming out of the Industrial Zone.

Last, but definitely not least, you see Hassan on the far right. He joined us for JEM’s first season of excavation in 2010. Hassan figures out how to make everything work: hiring workers, getting supplies, making sure people get where they are going and with the right papers or equipment. Just as important to our success is Hassan’s knowledge of excavation. He consults with all the archaeologists and conservators about the work. JEM could not function without Hassan!

Postscript: Tony, our mudbrick conservator, Joel, our surveyor, and Salima, our animal bones guru unfortunately are not in the picture  because their schedules did not allow us all to be together at once.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 12, 2017

The Sherd Yard

Janice Kamrin

Over the past two years, we have collected bags and bags of pottery from the West Settlement. Proper analysis of this material is essential to our understanding of the site – knowing what type of ceramics we have here, and how much, should tell us a great deal about how the area was used.

West Settlement, pottery

Some of the sherds from 2015 and 2016 laid out for preliminary analysis, with a few more bags in the background

We have done some very preliminary study of the pottery, and the most interesting comes from the floor level, mostly lying along the walls as if it had been discarded there. In many cases, the sherds are mixed with animal bones, now being analyzed by Salima Ikram (see I Wonder What the King is Eating Tonight), sometimes plant remains, and charcoal.

West Settlement: N145/E135

A deposit of pottery and bones along one of the walls in the West Settlement

We don’t have a lot of the really nice blue-painted Palace Ware, as Peter has in the King’s Palace (see Upstairs, Downstairs), and as Diana and Catharine found in the North Village (see Pots). We do have some, and I have to admit that I get excited when we find a sherd of this ware, but we don’t seem to have any complete vessels, and most of it is probably intrusive.


Blue-Painted Ibex Amphora in palace ware from the King’s Palace, from MMA excavations, 1910–11; Rogers Fund, MMA 11.215.460

What we do have are lots of sherds from jars made out of clay from the Nile floodplain (“Nile silt”). These varied in quality and size, and were sometimes given a red or white slip (a type of coating). We also have pieces of many bowls, also of Nile silt and almost always covered inside and out with a red slip. We have already found several bowls that can be almost completely reconstructed, and I suspect we may have more.


Catharine at work sorting sherds in our new Sherd Yard. It looks big, but we will need even more space before we are done!

This year, we will begin the process of analyzing all of this material properly. Catharine and I have laid out a large “sherd yard,” and have started sorting the pottery according to the location in which it was found. We have a young Egyptian ceramicist joining us to help sort and record everything properly, and then 18th Dynasty ceramic expert Pamela Rose will join us toward the end of the season to provide another level of expertise. We are all looking forward to finding out what our pots have to say!

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 11, 2017

Traffic Patterns

Peter Lacovara

Working in the field at Malqata gives us a much better idea of how the community may have been planned and functioned. The published maps and plans do not convey how much the ancient Egyptians used and altered the topography of the site in constructing the Palace-City. For example, people have wondered how the massive harbor, the Birket Habu, was integrated into the site. Unlike the quays and ceremonial harbors at the temples of Medinet Habu and Karnak, the Birket is not centered on any architectural feature. The palaces are situated at the north end of the harbor and there appears to be little on line with what was the symmetrical entrance to the harbor from the Nile. Barry Kemp has suggested that the debris in Site K came from an earlier palace that may have been positioned to the west of mounds B10 and B11, which would have placed it at the median line of the Birket as it is now, but he also suggested this palace was destroyed in a later expansion of the harbor to its present form. In any case, the mounds are regularly spaced with no well-defined route of access to land.


Fig. 1: Route from the Birket Habu to the palace complexes

While this might be surprising when one is thinking of the grand approaches to Egyptian temple and mortuary architecture, it is not if we consider it in the context of domestic architecture. A common feature of both palaces and houses is an off–axis entry, and palaces in particular had long, turning entrance corridors for security. Given this design then, one can easily see the stretch running between the mounds heading north and connecting perpendicular to the wadi between the Palace of the King and the North Palace as an entrance corridor. Even in Amenhotep III’s peaceful reign it was still considered important to restrict access to the royal residence. The two rows of mounds then would have been deliberately designed to produce this feature and were not just simply landscaping, as has been suggested.

The wadi between the palaces directly lines up with the portal known as the West Gate and intersects the ancient road running north-south. This juncture has been remarked upon by David O’Connor as the axes mundi, a term coined by Paul Wheatley in his discussion of ancient Chinese cities, which represent the the cosmos in their layout. This pattern can also be seen at Tell el-Amarna, which may have been following the pattern established by Malqata.


Fig. 2: Route from the Palace complexes to the main road

Although the wadi runs along the north end of the palace, it does not appear to formally connect with it. The main entry would have been through House West 1 (Ho.W.1) that was appended to the entrance corridor at the northwest end of the palace enclosure; there may have been additional conduits to get food and goods to the kitchens and magazines on the east end of the palace complex, but so far, they are not evident.


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