Ancient Egypt Research Associates

By Ana Tavares – Joint Field Director

We are back at Giza excavating in the Complex of Queen Khentkawes. As much as I enjoy the hustle and bustle of a large team and the energy of the field-school, this small and quieter season seems perfect.  With only a small team of archaeologists and workers, I am able to get back to digging and surveying. A real treat especially given the first target of the season: the ‘kitchen and sand trench.’  This is one of three target areas we are investigating in the Silo Building Complex (SBC) to the east of the Khentkawes basin.


Since 2005 we have been recording and excavating the town and funerary complex of Queen Khentkawes. We discovered that this Queen, quite exceptionally, had a Valley Temple and a basin/harbour, which suggests that she reigned as a Pharaoh at the end of the 4th dynasty. In 2011 we were surprised to find to the east of the deep basin a large building with a series of rooms, corridors and four silos (circular mudbrick granaries).  This soon became known as the SBC – Silo Building Complex – in keeping with the project’s tradition of using acronyms.


During the last excavation season (2012) we were further surprised by the preservation and the height of the walls. We are used to finding buildings eroded down to one or two brick courses. But at the Silo Building Complex we had real elevation! Walls stood up to 50cm high. Dan Jones (senior AERA archaeologist) recalls walking into a narrow room, with its walls standing high, and various artefacts preserved on the floor and feeling as if he had step into a frozen moment in the past.

The silo building reveals its secrets
We have recorded the overall layout of the SBC but this complex still raises many questions. It seems to have functioned in the 5th dynasty but its west enclosure wall is built on an earlier wall. Was this building part of the 5th dynasty reoccupation at Giza or did it function earlier in the 4th dynasty? If earlier, was it part of the Khentkawes funerary complex or perhaps the pyramid town of Khafre, whose Valley Temple is just 60m to the northeast?

To answer these questions we are targeting three areas: the kitchen and basin; the silos and the northeast corner. The first trench will provide a profile through the basin to help us understand its depth, how it functioned and when it was built. By extending the ‘sand trench’ into the kitchen (room 11,246 in the plan above) we can investigate the building sequence and the relationship between the basin, the thick enclosure wall of the SBC and its internal rooms.

DSC_513703aIn the Kitchen
The other objective of the ‘Kitchen and Sand Trench’ is to clarify the construction and remodelling of the west enclosure wall of the SBC. The thick enclosure wall was built after the Khentkawes Valley Temple and basin, and yet at the north seems to have been built over an earlier wall. The enclosure wall has an entrance which was blocked. The room created was remodeled with a small bench and pilasters.

Here we revealed a lovely floor, and many objects in situ.  There are five beer jars nicely lined up along the base of a storage bench, a large stone quern (grinding stone), conical bread moulds and a large bread baking tray. Although we are calling it the ‘kitchen’ Dan notes that as we have not found traces of hearths, therefore the baking and cooking may have taken place in one of the small adjacent rooms. In 2012 the team excavated the rubble and collapse that filled the room – leaving the ‘goodies’ for this excavation season – another reason why this a perfect start.

Year of the Horse
Traditionally we begin our Giza seasons soon after the Coptic Christmas celebrations on the 6th January. This year we star slightly later with the Lunar New Year – the Chinese Year of the Horse.  I joined the project in the previous ‘Year of the Horse’ in 2002. Just as in that season – when we revealed the Eastern town in the Heit-el-Ghurab site, excavated the Royal Administrative Building and an entire workmen’s gallery – we expect a season full of interesting discoveries. We will keep you posted….