Posted by Dr. David Jeffreys (Director of the Survey of Memphis, Egypt Exploration Society)
One week into excavation and the site is certainly taking shape. The mountains of local refuse have been cleared by machine and real archaeology has begun.
It is a pleasure to be back at Memphis – we have been working on the desert edge at Saqqara for some years, but Memphis (the site around modern Mit Rahina) is now on urgent priority.
The atmosphere on- and off- site is a delight – one of the happiest crews I have experienced in nearly 40 years of work in Egypt. The area has now been hand-stripped and students are at work learning basic surveying and recording techniques, guided by an excellent team of Egyptian and foreign teachers/supervisors.
My role while I’m here is to prepare students and supervisors for the excavation with talks about Memphis and our work there over the last 30 years, and helping with the survey and sediment coring. One challenge has been to provide global map references for this area, and we have been helped in this by Olivier Onezime and Mohamed Gabr of the ‘Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale’ (IFAO), who have taken GPS readings on our local survey points.
On the mound known as Kom al-Fakhry just south of Mit Rahina, the archaeological site consists of a small group cemetery of the First Intermediate Period (2134-2040 BC) on the west side, found accidentally during road-building work and excavated by the then Antiquities Inspector, Mohamed Abd al-Tawwab el- Hitta in 1954. A slightly later settlement on the east was excavated by another inspector, Mohamed Asheri, in 1981, the first season of the Egypt Exploration Society, Survey of Memphis (SoM). Since then the whole area has served as the dumping ground for refuse from the nearby town. It lies just west of an excavation by a former head of the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA), Prof. Gaballa Ali Gaballa, and north (across the main Bedrashein-Saqqara road) from the EES excavations at Kom Rabia.
Kom al-Fakhry is a vital part of the Memphite complex – the earliest known structures at Memphis itself. We hope to shed light soon on the Pyramid-age occupation at the capital. Watch this space!