Ancient Egypt Research Associates

Posted by Mohsen Kamel and Ana Tavares, joint-Field Directors

We have just started excavations again at Giza, after a hiatus last year. During this busy hiatus we prepared material for publications, held an Analysis and Publication Field-School in Giza and a second Salvage Archaeology Field-School in Luxor.

This season we are excavating in both concession areas at Giza – the Workers Settlement (a.k.a the Lost City, a.k.a. Heit el-Ghurab) and the town of Queen Khentkawes. Both sites date from the mid 4th Dynasty (circa 2529 -2471 B.C.) although the town of Queen Khentkawes and the village inside the Valley Temple of Menkaure seem to have functioned until the end of the Old Kingdom (late 6th Dynasty, circa 2154 B.C. Click here for more information on how we date the site). The main research questions for this season are the ancient landscape (the southern and eastern approaches to the site), climate change and site formation (especially the process of dismantling, robbing and erosion). The four excavation areas all contribute evidence to these questions. After 10 somewhat boring days of removing the protective sand covering we put in place at the end of our last season we are finally ready to excavate!

Lost City

In the Heit el-Ghurab site we have opened two excavation areas: SFW House 1 and Standing Wall Island (“The Island” for short).

This season we hope to complete the excavation of House 1 and then proceed with its publication. House 1 is a very large House in the Western Town probably belonging to a high official. This might be the largest Old Kingdom house so far excavated in Egypt. Thousands of inscribed sealings with important scribal titles were excavated from this area (more on sealings). The excavation is supervised by Yukimori Kawae, working with Manami Yahata, and field school graduate Hussien Rikaby.

Fig. 1 - Removing the protective sand cover from SFW House 1 (photo by Sayed Salah)

Standing Wall Island is the most southern structure we exposed in the Heit el-Ghurab settlement. We found in 2004 limestone’s walls standing to an unusual height (for our site) at this location. These walls have more western alignment (NNW, approximately 21° west of north) than the other structures of the HeG site, which are aligned just west of north. The walls demarcate two enclosures opening to the south. The high limestone walls are probably a later phase or a rebuild over earlier mudbricks structures.

Fig. 2 - Standing Wall Island looking west (photo by Sayed Salah)

This season Simon Davis and Nagwan Bahaa aim to find out the character of this building. Was it a storage area, workshops or a place of administration? Why is it aligned so differently from the rest of the site? They will use drills cores to check if the two low depressions to the north and south (named Lagoon 1 and Lagoon 2) are ancient topographic features or if they were they part of the settlement now eroded away by water and wind.

The Town of Queen Khentkawes and the Menkaure Valley Temple

On the other side of the Gebel el-Qibly knoll we continue to explore the Valley Complex of Queen Khetkawwes. Here we have excavated a series of ramps and corridors around a low open area (harbour?). Daniel Jones, Kasha Olschowska and Reinert Skumsnes will use drill cores and excavate sondages to define the shape of the bedrock basin on which the Valley Complex is built. They will also investigate how far east and south this complex extends.

Fig. 3 - The Khentkawes site at Giza (photo Hilary Mcdonald)

Further to the south Amelia Fairman, Delphine Driaux and Brittany Hughes face a monumental task in the Menkaure Valley Temple. This temple was excavated at the turn of the 20th century by George Reisner and the eastern area in front of the temple ( the Anti-Town) by Selim Hassan in 1932-33. They are seeking to answer; how the Anti-Town relates to the Main Temple (is it an addition or part of the original plan) and how these structures were accessible given the sharp drop in levels to the east? To reconstruct the ancient landscape here we will again use drill cores and excavate sondages.

Fig 4 - Menkaure Valley Temple area: removing the protective sand covering from the Anti-Town vestibule which we excavated in 2008 (photo by Sayed Salah)

Fig. 5 - Anti-town and MVT looking northwest (photo by Sayed Salah)

This promises to be a busy season with excavations running into early March, and specialists’ work in the laboratory continuing until the end of May. We also plan to conserve and reconstruct a priest’s house in the town of Queen Khentkawes during April and May (see our reconstruction of a village house in the Eastern Town).

In the coming months we will alternate news from the field and the lab to keep you updated. Enjoy.