Ancient Egypt Research Associates

Posted by Pedro Manuel Lourenço Gonçalves (Cambridge University)

In the shadow of the Saqqara Pyramids, right where the desert becomes fertile land, every morning a group of almost 50 people waits for the minibuses. Their tired eyes can´t hide the enthusiasm for a new day of intensive learning and work, despite the early hour and the dark sky. The destination is the site, Kom Fakhry (Mit Rahina), where we are trying to shed light on the early settlement of Memphis. This another day of intensive work and learning here at the Mit Rahina Field School, which has been an amazing experiment, both at a personal level and also in terms of my research. Despite being my first fieldwork in Egypt, this is also my first visit to this amazing country. All my expectations have been supplanted and more than ever I feel delighted to have decided to do research on the palaeo-landscapes of Memphis.

Everyday morning meeting at site FAD (Mit Rahina). (Photo Pedro Gonçalves)

Being part of the team that is boring cores to understand the geomorphologic evolution of the site, I couldn´t be more happy with the results obtained so far. The preliminary impressions on the cores are likely to reveal the oldest signs of human occupation found at Mit Rahina. Have we reached the fossilized landscape that allowed the first “Memphites” to settle? Was the river here? Was this an island? These are the questions in the minds of all the people involved in this project, including supervisors and students. And I am happy to help in trying to find an answer, proudly making part of a group where David Jeffreys, Judith Bunbury and Ana Tavares deserve to be mentioned. But, even if we don´t find it now, at least I can be sure that a new generation of Egyptian archaeologists will try to find it with enthusiasm in the near future. In fact, it is wonderful to see how both students and supervisors are being sensitive to the importance of landscape changes to understand the history and evolution of both settlements and culture. Despite the “muddy” hands full of what Dr. Judith Bunbury described as “yuk”, the sun on the heads and the dust all around, all students wanted to return to help boring. And, at the end of day, I am constantly questioned about the results obtained by the day’s coring work. But, at the end and overall, I am extremely satisfied to see that all understood that a landscape is something that is constantly changing.

Analyzing and recording core sediments. (Photo Pedro Gonçalves)

On a more personal side, I want to highlight the amazing human experience I am having. I want to profoundly thank all the students and supervisors for making me feel at home. I was especially impressed by their willingness to learn, feeling that they know how lucky they are to be a part of such a qualified field-school. I will leave in a few days, but with the wish for a quick return. I couldn´t finish without mentioning how lucky I feel for being on site with Dan, Mike, James, and all the specialists and supervisors, from whom I learned. Nevertheless, a special compliment has to be addressed to Judith Bunbury and Ana Tavares for allowing me this experience, and last but not least to David Jeffreys, an awesome source of knowledge, not only about Egyptian Archaeology, but also someone that is always a pleasure to talk with whatever the subject.

A site full of enthusiasm! (Photo Pedro Gonçalves)