Ancient Egypt Research Associates

by Claire Malleson (Director of Archaeological Science, Lab Manager and archeo-botanist)

Once again, we are back working in the AERA lab workroom on the Giza plateau. Every year a team of specialists gathers to study, record, draw, photograph and analyze all the archaeological materials; ceramics, animal bones, plants, lithics, pigments, mud seal impressions, mudbricks, soil cores, human skeletons and objects.

I first joined this team in 2007 (during an AERA/MSA fieldschool season) to assist Dr. Mary Anne Murray, who was the Director of Archaeological Science, Lab manager and Archaeobotanist. After several weeks at the microscope I was hooked, continued to train with her here, and I now work as a specialist at many sites in Egypt. Since 2013 I have also been Director of Archaeological Science and Lab Manager here for AERA. I love working with plant remains and I love running the lab; looking after the team, managing the work we do here. One of the things that I loved most about AERA during my first season was the fieldschool, but it is only this season that I am fully involved for the first time, so returning this year to run the lab and teach Archaeobotany and Lab/workroom management is especially exciting for me.

We have only just begun work, and as usual, the lab season began with the ‘ritual’ unlocking, putting up the guards’ tent, cleaning, tidying, arranging and generally settling back in.

Opening the lab in the 2015 season.

Views to the East.

Work has already begun on analysis of animal bones from past excavations. Dr. Richard Redding is back at his familiar work station, surrounded by his modern reference collection

Yasser Mahmoud has started working on illustrations of objects from past seasons, Mahmoud el-Shafei and Sherif abd el Moneim are also hard at work processing ceramics, and we are joined this season by Sarah Chapman, from the University of Birmingham in the UK, who is a photographic imaging specialist (watch out for her blog in a few weeks time).

Dr. Richard Redding is back to lab.           Yasser Mahmoud starts an illustration.

Sarah Chapman with her photographic equipment.

The materials excavated from the site are delivered to us each week, carefully registered by our Inspector Ahmed Ezz and our Lab assistant Mohammed Hassan as being received, then distributed to the different specialists for study. As work has only really just begun, we have had just one delivery so far this season!

Ahmed Ezz (sitting on the left) and Mohammed Hassan (right) in the lab.

Next week the fun begins when the first of the 2015 AERA field school groups will arrive in the lab to learn about the work we do here; lessons in ceramics, illustration, faunal analysis and archaeobotany as well as general lab management and good materials handling and storage practices.

Photos by C. Malleson.