Posted by: iMalqata Blog | March 3, 2017

A Stamp of Approval

Diana Craig Patch

Sadly, this is the last day of the 2017 Joint Expedition to Malqata. The equipment is packed and ready to store and we are putting things into our suitcases for a midday flight out of Luxor tomorrow. As always, it is a bit sad to leave our site and our friends in Egypt.

I do not want to end on a gloomy note, so I offer here another interesting observation about the molds coming from the Industrial Site. With the first trowel scrape in 2015, we discovered a small pottery mold used to make a faience decoration. We have found quite a few molds since then, several of which I shared with you last season. This year was no exception and we found numerous molds for rosette, petal, and leaf shapes. The most common by far, however, are molds for openwork beads.

In the last level of N155/E180, two of the molds that were found raised an interesting question. What is used to make the impressions in the pottery that ultimately creates the mold? I had not thought about this question until I found two little rosette molds that must have been made with the same stamp. They look identical in size and style and each seems to have the same small tick on one petal.


So how were the designs in molds created? There must have been master stamps made from a hard substance that could have survived repeated use, especially for the forms that are so repetitive: rosettes, leaves, petals, mandrakes, and openwork beads. Possibly a master stamp would have been carved in a soft stone, like steatite, which allows for the addition of fine details. Steatite also could be baked to make the completed design harder. Then this design could be attached to a handle. I do not see any fingerprints in the pottery surface, which you would expect to see if you used the stamp with your hand.

I have never heard of a piece, however, that has been identified as a master stamp. Perhaps we haven’t recognized it yet, but these two small rosettes suggest one did exist, at least for one pair of rosette molds at Malqata.

ADDENDUM: In a few hours, we leave for Cairo and the United States, and we just wanted to say goodbye to our dedicated followers. We had a great season, and we look forward to sharing our next one with you. Here are a few pictures from our last dinner at the New Memnon. We want to thank Sayed and his wonderful team for making our stay so much fun.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | March 1, 2017

Sherd Yards

Janice Kamrin and Peter Lacovara

We are fortunate this season to have with us two talented trainees from the Ministry of State of Antiquities to help us work on the pottery from the site, Aisha Mohamed Montaser and Hussein Fawzi Zaki.  Aisha has trained in ceramic analysis at the American Research Center in Egypt’s Field School at Giza; Hussein is  Chief Inspector in the Valley of the Kings and is interested in the ceramics from the royal tombs of the New Kingdom.


Aisha and Hussein at work

Together, Aisha and Hussein have been helping us sort and record the pottery from both the King’s Palace and the West Settlement. One of their tasks has been to help develop a corpus of the ceramics found at the site to compare with that known from Tell el-Amarna. An exhaustive compendium of the pottery from that site has been published by Pamela J. Rose, and this will serve as a useful comparison to the material from Malqata.  It will not only be important to compare the Malqata ceramics with the Amarna corpus but also to analyze the similarities and differences among the various components of the site, such as the King’s Palace, the North Village, and the West Settlement, to see what they tell us about usage and function.


The cover of Pamela Rose’s Pottery Corpus from Amarna


In the King’s Palace, we have laid out what is known as a ‘sherd yard,’ which is a common feature of many archaeological sites. We have gathered diagnostic fragments, usually pieces of necks and rims, that can tell us what type of vessel the sherds originally came from. We chose an empty area in the palace to lay out the sherd yard and collected sherds from one of the ancient trash pits that the original Metropolitan expedition found chock full of pottery over a century ago.

Photograph and diagram of the sherd yard at the King’s Palace


Aisha and Hussein work with Pam Rose at the King’s Palace

We then sorted the pottery into rough categories based on shape and ware- the type of clay used to make the vessel. These broadly correspond to the classifications developed for the Amarna corpus. Aisha and Hussein began making technical drawings of the examples that show how both the interior and exterior of the vessel would have appeared.  This along with detailed descriptions of each piece will help us create a corpus for the site.



Sample drawing (from Rose, Pottery Corpus from Amarna)

In the West Settlement, we had a different sort of Sherd Yard – in this case a very large rectangle full of clean sand that we used to begin the process of laying out and sorting the sherds that we have collected so far. We were very fortunate to have Pam Rose herself come to Malqata for several days to work with us. She spent time with Aisha and Hussein in the King’s Palace, organizing the corpus there and supervising some of the drawing. She then came over the West Settlement, where she gave me some very useful hands-on training in ware identification, and helped us refine our collection forms.


Overview of part of the West Settlement sherd yard

Aisha, Hussein, and I spent the last few days of the season, while my excavation team was backfilling the site with clean sand, sorting some of the pottery from 2016. We made a great deal of progress, and are looking forward to continuing the process of analyzing this material and building our corpus next year.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 28, 2017

Under the Halfa Grass

Joel Paulson

One of the various site management activities that the Joint Expedition to Malqata (JEM) undertakes is clearing vegetation to protect the archaeological remains. Vegetation can be extremely damaging to mud brick both by retaining water in the soil and by putting roots into the brick and softer stone, causing them to break apart. This year, the JEM undertook the daunting task of removing the vegetation from the area of the North Palace. Like most of Malqata, the Metropolitan Museum excavated this palace in the early 20th century (1915-1916). But unlike most of the rest of Malqata, the North Palace is surrounded by agriculture on three sides and had become overgrown with halfa grass. During the few weeks we have been here this year, the Egyptian crew has been busy, removing a tremendous amount of halfa grass from this portion of the site, revealing the ground in this area to us for the first time since we started in 2008.


But there has been another benefit to removing the vegetation. When the JEM started its survey work, we could only find a few column bases from the North Palace for aligning and plotting the architectural plans from the original excavations onto the overall map of the site. With the new clearing, though, we are able to establish the pattern of the column bases in the first court of the palace and, from this pattern and with a little scraping and sweeping of the dirt, we relocated four additional limestone column bases. In addition, we can now see another column base in the second court, though it has been heavily disturbed. With seven of the twelve original column bases that existed in the first courtyard, we can now refine our location of the original plans. The fact that we were able to find features of this palace under the former heavy vegetation cover gives us hope that much more of this little-known feature of Malqata still survives, awaiting further investigation.


Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 27, 2017

Go Fish!

Salima Ikram

Malqata is a particularly amazing site as it is a settlement—and not just any settlement, but one that contains palaces, temples, workshops, and dwellings for the elite as well as for workers. Such sites are rare to excavate as most places that were convenient to live in during ancient times are still considered desirable dwelling places, and therefore are inhabited continuously and unavailable to archaeologists. Luckily, Amenhotep III’s festival palace complex now lies in the desert margins, so, for the most part, no new buildings have been built on it and we can easily reach the levels of Amenhotep’s time.


Working with the bones from the West Settlement in the shelter of the new guard house built by The Met at Malqata

I am delighted to continue my work at Malqata. For my Ph.D. I worked on bones that had been excavated in the 1970s, and since then have been adding to that material with what the JEM has been digging up in different areas, which is expanding our knowledge not only of the site, but also of what different groups of people were eating there.

This year I worked on the animal bones coming from a series of mud brick structures in the West Settlement, excavated by Janice Kamrin. The bones were found in corners of rooms or courtyards, or along walls, often mixed in with broken pottery. These were meticulously collected by hand—even very tiny fish bones have made it into the sample.

West Settlement: N145/E135

Deposit of bones, sherds, and charcoal along one of the walls in the West Settlement

The bones from this year’s work showed that the people who lived here were eating cattle, probably quite young and tender as they were under two years of age when they were butchered. Clearly, the king’s herds were providing food for the people here. They were also eating sheep, goats, and large quantities of poultry and fish. The poultry consisted mainly of ducks and some geese, all of which are pictured on the pavements and walls of the palace, and were either brought from near the Nile or were maybe even bred along the edges of the Birket Habu, the huge ceremonial lake just east of Malqata. The fish, mainly Tilapia and Nile Perch, might also have come from the same place. But not all the fish were Nilotic—this year there was a fabulous surprise. One of the fish bones that was identified came from a Gilt Headed Seabream (Sparus aurata), which thrives in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. These fish also venture into brackish water, and thus might have been acquired from the Delta rather than from the sea. This would suggest that some of the fish that was being eaten at Malqata was imported from the Delta, probably coming in as salted fish.


Two fragments from the jaw of a Gilt Headed Seabream from the West Settlement

As there was no refrigeration in ancient Egypt, the Egyptians depended on salt to preserve meat, poultry, and fish. In fact, their salted fish was so famous that it was exported all over the Mediterranean! Once the fish had been caught, it was gutted, washed out, and then packed in salt for a week or two. After that, it would be hung out to dry a bit more, and then packed in jars, and sent wherever it needed to go. Some of the jar labels found at Malqata list Tilapia as their contents—maybe the Seabream was caught, along with the Tilapia, in the Delta, salted, packed into jars, and sent south to be eaten at the royal palace.


Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 26, 2017

Our Two Inspectors

Catharine Roehrig

All foreign archaeological missions in Egypt work in co-operation with the Ministry of Antiquities and each year the local inspectorate assigns us an inspector who is responsible for making sure that we are all registered with the proper authorities, that we follow the contract that we signed with the Ministry, and to facilitate our work if we run into problems. We have been very fortunate in the inspectors we have been assigned over the past seven seasons, and this year is no exception.


Megahed, Diana, and Walla at the Industrial Site.

Because of new regulations, we now have two inspectors, one senior inspector with more experience, and one junior inspector. Our senior inspector is Megahed Abd El Mougod Mohamed, who received his degree in Egyptology from the University of Sohag. After working at Sharm es-Sheikh on the coast of Sinai for a number of years, he joined the inspectorate of Luxor and is currently assigned to Luxor Temple. In 2010 he participated in the ARCE Field School conducted at Luxor Temple by Mark Lehner, Mohsen Kamel and Ana Tavares, and in 2016 he was a supervisor for a Ministry of Antiquities Field School conducted at Karnak by Yaser Mahmoud Hussein. He has worked with numerous foreign missions including (but not only) the Polish Mission working in tombs on Sheikh Abd el-Qurna cemetery, with Chicago House working at Luxor Temple, with the ARCE Epigraphic Field School in TT 110. He also worked with Angus Graham, who studies harbors and waterways and who introduced Megahed to the Birket Habu, so this is not his first experience at Malqata.


Our junior inspector is Walla Abd el Moged Hussein, who usually works at the Abu Jud Magazine near Karnak. She received her degree from the University of Qena and has been working with the Luxor Inspectorate for nine years. Joining our team brought Walla to Malqata for the first time, but this is not the first excavation she has worked on. Both Walla and Megahed had the good fortune to work on the excavation of the Avenue of Sphinxes that was carried out by Mansour Boraik, former Director of Antiquities in Luxor (and an old friend of Diana’s). Each of them, at different times, had the experience of uncovering a complete sphinx on the avenue, one of which had original paint.


As it happens, both of our inspectors come from the village of Old Karnak, just south of Karnak Temple. This is the first time they have worked together, but Megahed is a friend of Walla’s brother and remembers her when she was a child. Like many Egyptologists, including me, Megahed and Walla developed a love for the culture of ancient Egypt as children and carried it into their adult lives.

Megahed and Walla have both been very involved with our work this season, and we are delighted to have them as part of the team.


Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 25, 2017

A Touch of Glass

Diana Craig Patch

A hundred years ago when The Met excavated the King’s Palace, the archaeologists found many pieces of glass, some of which conservators reconstructed into recognizable vessels. These early glass vessels remain quite rare, especially when they survive the past thirty three hundred years in one piece. The ones found at Malqata were not so lucky but still what is in The Met collection speaks to what was in use at Malqata.

A perfectly preserved spindle jar and a bag-shaped jar from the time of Akhenaten, Amenhotep III’s son.   (Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (26.7.1176); Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.1365)



A fragment from a goblet from the early Met excavations at Malqata. Museum Accession (X.204.2)

We continue to hunt at the Industrial Site for a glass production or processing area. We still have not been successful, but the clues that it was in the area are numerous.


Fragments of unworked glass from a level in N155/E180


The best clue however was a lovely fragment in pale turquoise festooned with white, yellow and dark blue glass rods or canes.


Fragment of decorated glass from a vessel (JEMIS.2017.3)

Although this style of decoration is well known, there are many variations on the theme, perhaps as many as there were creative artists making the glass vessels. Our fragment mostly likely belonged to a wide-mouth, necked goblet, such as this reconstructed example from earlier archaeology. Although no rim is preserved, one edge is cleanly broken retaining a slight curve, this point and the lack of curve over the shard’s surface suggests it was from neck of a wide-mouthed jar, such as a goblet.


A goblet from the early Met excavations at Malqata. Rogers Fund (12.180.161)





Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 24, 2017

A V.I.P. Tour of Karnak

Diana Craig Patch and Janice Kamrin

On Wednesday afternoon, our team was treated to a spectacular tour of new work in the precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak. Our guide was Dr. Mustafa Waziri, Director General of Luxor, whose energy, enthusiasm, and ability to get things done is truly remarkable. We have known Dr. Mustafa for many years now. In 2008,when Zahi Hawass, then head of the antiquities department, agreed that building a wall to protect Malqata was an essential task, Dr. Mustafa supervised and directed the work. As we have said before, this wall saved Malqata!


General view of Karnak, looking west

Karnak is a wonderful site, with remains dating from the Middle Kingdom through to the end of the Pharaonic period and beyond. For more than a century, various institutions and missions from Egypt and abroad have carried out excavation, reconstruction, and conservation work at different monuments within this vast enclosure, but there is still much to be done. In recent years, Dr. Mustafa and his team have made enormous progress, accomplishing an incredible amount in a short time on a shoestring budget. The Governor of Luxor has been a great help, always forthcoming with materials, and Dr. Mustafa expressed his gratitude to the American Research Center in Egypt (especially the Luxor director, John Shearman), which has also provided some of the much-needed supplies.


Looking out over the Middle Kingdom court to the Festival Hall of Thutmose III

One important initiative, now well underway, is the replacement of old cement with new, good quality mortar in the columns and walls of the Festival Hall (Akh-menu) of Thutmose III. This project should be finished in the near future.


A relief scene showing exotic animals and plants, with the new conservation material visible (lower right)

We then walked down a newly created and paved path – excellent as a guide for visitors, both to help them know where to go and to keep them off the more vulnerable parts of the site—to the Eastern Gate, where some of the most impressive work has been done.


The east gate of the precinct, from the Temple of the Hearing Ear

There is a Temple of the Hearing Ear built by Ramesses II that has now been reconstructed and cleared of the halfa grass that made it inaccessible to visitors. This opens up a new vista to the west, and adds greatly to the visitor experience. This was not an easy task, and according to Dr. Mustafa’s description of the work, it seems there were many scorpions lurking among the fallen blocks that sent more than one workman to the hospital!


From left to right: Dr. Mustafa, Diana, Janice, and Joel, flanking a newly-installed offering table (photo by Serenela Pelier)


The Temple of the Hearing Ear, looking west. Note the head of a colossal statue of Ramesses II, which seems to peer over the walls

Dr. Mustafa then left us in the hands of his Chief Workman, Mr. Farouk, who is in charge of all the workmen on the East Bank; his brothers also hold important positions in the antiquities department. The Farouk family has done these jobs for several generations now, and are rightfully proud of their heritage. Mr. Farouk showed us his ongoing reconstruction of a colossal statue of Ramesses II that had been discovered first by his father in the area where the village east of the precinct once drew their water. Most of the statue had been buried for millennia, with the exposed parts used by the local population for a variety of purposes, including as a whetstone and as a pumice stone to soften their calloused feet.

Mr. Farouk with the colossal statue of Ramesses II

Dr. Mustafa is also supervising the reconstruction of a colossal statue of Amun at the Luxor Temple. We only have a few days left to finish our work here, but we are hoping we can find time to go and see this important initiative.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 23, 2017

The Sacred Beetle

Serenela Pelier

Last Saturday one of our workers made an exciting discovery. An Egyptian dung beetle, also known as a scarab beetle, was found within a spoil heap of the Industrial Site that Diana and I are currently excavating. The beetle was already dead when discovered, but that did not reduce our excitement one bit! The presence of the scarab was a wonderful surprise, especially for Catharine and Diana, because even as veteran archaeologists in Egypt they had never come across one before. Intrigued, we asked two of our Egyptian team members, Wallah and Hassan, if they had seen a scarab beetle before. Hassan had seen many of them; however, surprisingly, this was Wallah’s first time so this was an interesting experience for her too.

Scarab found in a spoil heap at the Industrial Site

Several species of the dung beetle, most notably the species Scarabaeus sacer, enjoyed a sacred status among the ancient Egyptians. The scarab beetle was one way the sun god Re could be represented. It was the sun god Re’s role in the daily cycle of renewal that the ancient Egyptians connected to the scarab beetle, whom they named Khepri. The god’s name is homophonous with a verb that means ‘to become’ and makes the connection to rebirth and resurrection. The link between a scarab beetle and the sun comes from the ancient Egyptians’ mistaken assumption that the young beetles hatching from dung balls were acts of self-creation. They also noticed that scarabs rolled their dung balls from east to west and understood this to be the explanation for how the sun moved across the sky: it was pushed by a giant scarab.

Colossal scarab of Amenhotep III, by the Sacred Lake in the temple precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak

Back and base of scarab inscribed with Amenhotep III’s prenomen
Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.6)

The scarab became so important that the ancient Egyptians fashioned amulets in its image; these were popular charms from the end of the third millennium B.C. until the Ptolemaic Period (ca. 300 B.C.). Thousands of these amulets have been found, not only in Egypt but in the Near East and other lands around the Mediterranean Sea as well. They range from naturalistic forms carved in full detail to simplified shapes reduced to a general outline. The bases can display a variety of designs, including hieroglyphic inscriptions, royal names, divine figures, geometric or floral designs, humans, and animals. The sizes of scarabs also vary and can range from small, that is, between 1 and 3 cm, to large, with some examples over 10 cm long. Scarabs have been found in variety of materials, most commonly glazed steatite, but also faience (a type of ceramic that is also glazed), hard stones, and precious metals.

Commemorative scarab inscribed with a text about a lion hunt
Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (26.7.264)

Although the majority of scarabs were amulets, during the reign of Amenhotep III, our king, and his son, Amenhotep IV−the latter more commonly known as Akhenaten− large scarabs were commissioned to glorify the king and commemorate his accomplishments. Such scarabs were made to be distributed throughout Egypt and Egyptian territories, spreading news through their inscriptions. Texts recorded on these historical scarabs concern marriages, wild bull hunts, lion hunts, jubilees, and the creation of an artificial lake.

Scarab with the name of Amenhotep III. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.4)

Surprisingly we have yet to find a scarab at Malqata. Perhaps one of these days we will get lucky!

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 22, 2017

Hot Air Balloons Over Malqata

Janice Kamrin

Going up in a hot-air balloon is a great way to see (and photograph) the landscape and monuments of Luxor, although it is not for the faint of heart. Members of our team have taken balloon rides in the past, and gotten some good aerial images of Malqata and its surroundings.


The balloons go out first thing in the morning, and have usually landed by 7:00 or 7:30. We see them out of our window when we wake up, and often watch them in the distance as we head out to the excavation site.


However, the balloons are to some extent at the mercy of the wind, and every once in a while, a balloon will actually land at Malqata, near or even on the ancient remains. This is of course terrible for the site.


We had two balloons pass right over Malqata today – one made it just past the King’s Palace to land outside the “French House,” but the second landed on the road between the West Villas and the West Settlement, with the balloon itself collapsing right on top of the ancient remains.


It is a difficult balancing act for the team. On the one hand we want to support an activity that tourists enjoy and brings much-needed income to the local population, but we are committed to protecting a unique and fragile archaeological site for future generations. We want people in the years to come to be able to marvel at Malqata’s survival and learn about its importance from the archaeological remains we are preserving, and to be able to continue to see Malqata from the air.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 21, 2017

Digging the West Settlement

Janice Kamrin

For those of our readers who know nothing about excavating in Egypt, this blog’s for you.

This is our third season in the West Settlement, which, as you may recall, is the area between the West Villas and Diana’s Industrial Site, west of the North Village. We began at the south end of the site, and as we move to the north, we continue to uncover traces of walls that follow the same alignment exposed in seasons 1 and 2. Last year, we found large quantities of pottery, bones, and charcoal. The squares that we have excavated so far this season have produced the same type of material, but far less of it, and we have hardly any small finds. As we move up the slope, the site seems to be petering out, perhaps because it was higher and more exposed to the elements, or maybe because we are reaching the northern boundary. We are excavating the adjacent squares to the north and west now, so hopefully we will know more by the end of the season.


View of the 2016 excavations, looking southwest. In the distance are the West Villas.

When I say we, I mean a whole team of people. I am the site supervisor for the West Settlement. Diana is the “mudira” (director) for the whole settlement area, while Peter is in charge of the palace. Both Diana and Peter are very experienced archaeologists, and I consult with them regularly to make sure I understand what we are uncovering and to decide where to go and what to do next.


Consulting with Diana as we work in the West Settlement

At the West Settlement, we work in 5-meter squares, laid out by our surveyor, Joel Paulson, on a grid aligned with the cardinal points. We put stakes in at each corner, and run strings from north to south and east to west. After we got tired of tripping over the stakes, we started putting empty water bottles over them so we could see them better, but the strings can still be a hazard! We name our squares according to their southwest corners, so, for example, I just finished working in N150/E135 and am now working one square directly north, in N155/E135. We started in the 2015 season at N120/E125, and have cleared fifteen squares so far.


Plan of the West Settlement, from the 2015-16 excavations

Within each square, we first remove the surface layer, which is generally full of large to medium pebbles in a silty matrix. There are usually sherds, but since these could come from anyplace on the site, we only keep the “diagnostic” ones (more on that later). We sometimes find interesting bits and pieces like beads, which we keep and record, but with the understanding that they may not be part of the original history of the area but may have been blown or washed in from someplace else.


Mahmoud (left) and Gahalan (right) working in the West Settlement

Most of the actual excavation is done by two skilled “trowel men,” Gahalan Mohamed Sayed Mahmoud and Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan Mohamed. These men have been with me since the first season, and have really gotten to know and understand the terrain. The West Settlement (like the North Village) is a difficult site, as we are tracing walls of which in most cases only a part of the lowest foundation brick remains. My team has to work very carefully so that they do not inadvertently remove important material. They use, as their unofficial title suggests, trowels and also large brushes.

Gahalan and Mahmoud work a few centimeters at a time, scraping away the surface with their trowels or sweeping with their brushes, paying close attention to features and fill. If the color or consistency changes significantly, they stop so we can decide what to do. They have gotten very good at identifying the different kinds of cultural remains – the walls, of course; tumbled mud brick from decayed walls, most of which is just little jumbled bits and pieces, but some of which we find just as it fell in ancient times; depositional layers of pebbly silt; desert surface, which can be quite hard and uneven, but can also be a little softer and more level; and every once in a while a bit of a level surface associated with the walls.

The fill that Gahalan and Mahmoud clear from the square is swept into a plastic dust pan by a young man with a mattock (a larger, rectangular trowel) and dumped into a “basket” – actually a rubber bucket with short handles. Our “in-betweener,” as I like to call him, is also named Gahalan, although we also sometimes have a younger Mahmoud. I think it’s just a coincidence that the West Settlement trowel men and in-betweeners have the same names! Gahalan the Younger helps our basket carriers, Mohamed Qenawi, Mohamed Ali, and Ehab Mishrigi load the buckets onto their shoulders so they can take the debris off to the dump, which is off to the west in an area that we think has no cultural remains underneath.


Gahalan Jr. helps Mohamed load a basket onto his shoulder

We work down, level by level, in 5 to 10 cm. strata. As we move to the north, the site slopes up, and it seems that the ancient builders terraced the walls that they built here. So we can’t work completely in consistent, level layers, but have to adjust somewhat to the natural contours of the site. As we go, we collect pottery sherds in yellow plastic bags labeled with the part of the square and the level in which we are working. Animal bones and plant remains such as charcoal go in smaller bags along with tags recording the same sort of information. We try to identify distinctive deposits and features so that we can assign feature numbers, which gives us a more exact location for the material (especially animal bones and plant remains) we find. We often leave features pedestalled so that I can map them properly onto our master plan. We also record the location within the square and level for our small finds. I takes notes about the work as we go, describing the matrices that we are digging through, recording feature numbers and descriptions, assigning object numbers to the small finds, and just generally trying to keep track of what’s going on.

As each level is completed, Gahalan and Mahmoud clean the exposed surfaces so that Catharine, our field photographer, can come and take a series of photographs. I also photograph the animal bones, and draw the small finds. Catharine has a field setup over near our lunch canopy, and, when the wind allows, she takes photos of the small finds.


Catharine in her field studio by the lunch canopy

As Gahalan and Mahmoud excavate, I create one or more plans of the square (assisted this season by our senior inspector, Migahid), depending on how complex the stratigraphy is. In this site, I rarely do more than two plans per square, if that: since everything is so close to the surface, we don’t usually have more than 3 strata, and there are rarely interesting features on top of one another. I plan at 1:20, and sometimes map more complex areas at 1:10. To make a plan, I lay a large meter tape along one of the sides of the square, making sure that it is taut so that it starts at the south or west at 0 and ends in the north or east at 5 meters, and take points from the string that marks the edge of the square with a smaller metal tape. When I have walls, I try to draw each brick that I can see, and plan everything as accurately as I can.


1:20 plan of Square N145/E130, excavated in 2016

Once we have exposed and planned all of the architecture, I am able to assign numbers to the walls and “locus” numbers to distinct areas bordered by walls. We don’t give these areas specific identifiers such as “room” or “courtyard” at this point because we are still working to understand their functions – locus is a nice, neutral term.

Once I get back to my office (my very comfortable room at our hotel), I transcribe my field notes into our Filemaker database. I download my photos and collect Catharine’s, add metadata, import the images into the database (where I cross-reference them so they will show up in the right places), and do various other clerical work.


The Object Register in our Filemaker database

You may notice that I haven’t said anything more about the pottery, although I promised. This year has not been so daunting, but in the 2015 and especially the 2016 seasons, we collected huge quantities of ceramics, including quite a few complete (but badly broken) vessels. We will be writing a blog later in the season about how we are dealing with this material, so stay tuned!


From left to right: Gahalan Jr., Mahmoud, Janice, Gahalan Sr., Ehab

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