AERA News

Online lecture: Loaves and Fishes

The Egypt Exploration Society will be offering a new lecture by Dr. Claire Malleson, AERA”s Director of Archaeological Science, titled “The economy of “building” the pyramids.” This lecture will offered on January 26th and again on January 28th.

When people ask “how were the pyramids built?” they are usually thinking about the engineering of the construction, not about the phenomenal level of careful planning and logistics that had to be in place in order for the project to even begin to be possible. One critically important aspect that is rarely considered is the provision of food – bread, meat, beer, fish – to the teams involved. This talk will present current research on evidence for the logistics of providing to the “workers” at Giza in the 3rd Millennium BC.

Dr Claire Malleson is Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the American University of Beirut, and Director of Archaeological Science for Ancient Egypt Research Associates. She specializes in the study of ancient Egyptian plant remains, and agriculture.

Register in advance using the links below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Webinars have a limited attendance capacity, so please only sign up if you’re confident that you can attend.… READ MORE »

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2020 Year in Review

This year we are especially grateful to our members who’ve given us the opportunity to continue our work throughout this challenging year. Thanks to their support we were able to adapt to changing conditions and continue to search for clues to the development of Egyptian civilization and help to preserve Egypt’s heritage for the future.

Looking Forward to 2021: From Discovery in the Field to Publication

While we’re grateful for the work we were able to get done this year, like everyone we hope for the chance to do even more in the upcoming year.… READ MORE »

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Member Lecture: The People Who Built the Pyramids

AERA members are invited to watch the online lecture “The People Who Built the Pyramids – How We Know” given by Dr. Mark Lehner. The lecture will premiere on Saturday, October 17 at 1:00pm ET & be available for viewing for 48 hours.

Not an AERA member yet? Join now to attend the online lecture and help support our work in Egypt!

For the past thirty years, Dr. Mark Lehner has directed AERA’s excavations at the Giza Pyramids Plateau. This project has revealed the settlements and everyday life of the people who built the pyramids, including their workshops, bakeries, barracks, and the houses of those who administered the pyramid projects. Dr. Lehner’s talk will elaborate on recent discoveries, including the reconstruction of buried waterways and harbor basins that match information from the Wadi el-Jarf Papyri and Journal of Merer, the leader of a team who delivered stone for Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Learn about the royal port and palace city sprawled below the Giza Pyramids and what we now know about the people who built the pyramids.

This lecture in honor of International Archaeology Day is co-hosted by the Department of Egyptian Art of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Archaeological Institute of America, the Archaeological Institute of America – New York Society, the American Research Center in Egypt, the American Research Center in Egypt, New York Chapter.… READ MORE »

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Treasures from the Lost City of Memphis

Treasures from the Lost City of MemphisWe are delighted to announce the publication of Treasures from the Lost City of Memphis, by AERA archaeologist Aude Gräzer Ohara. This detailed catalog of the remarkable collection of artifacts from the Mît Rahîna museum is now freely available to students, scholars, and museum visitors from around the world.

Click here to download a PDF copy of Treasures from the Lost City of Memphis.

The museum of Mît Rahîna sits on archaeological remains in the heart of the Memphite ruin field and displays a substantial and remarkable collection of monuments, including several unique pieces that deserve to be more widely known. With this book we hope to offer insight into the museum’s collection and context, as well as the history and excavation of Memphis, Egypt’s ancient capital city. 

This important research work stems from our Memphis Development Project (MDP), a joint effort with the University of York, funded by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and AERA’s members and donors. The MDP grew from deep roots: AERA’s long history of field schools for Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities Inspectors, including Beginners, Advanced, Salvage Archaeology, and Scientific Analysis and Publication.

In 2011 and 2014 we ran field schools at Memphis, the first major field archaeology projects there in 20 years.… READ MORE »

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Watch Decoding the Great Pyramid online

Last year AERA’s Claire Malleson, Glen Dash, Richard Redding, and Mark Lehner joined Salima Ikram and Pierre Tallet to discuss the latest research into how the Great Pyramid was built and how building it transformed Egyptian society. Now PBS is making this and some of their other favorite NOVA episodes available online for free. 

How did the ancient Egyptians engineer Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza so precisely? Who were the thousands of laborers who raised the stones and how were they housed and fed? And how did mobilizing this colossal labor force transform Egypt? Watch “Decoding the Great Pyramid” to find out.

 

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2019: Our Year in Review

Thanks to the support of our members and donors, in 2019 we were able to bring together specialists from around the world to search for answers about the origins and development of Egyptian civilization and help preserve Egypt’s heritage for the future.

Returning to the Menkaure Valley Temple (MVT) and the Great Sphinx of Giza
We returned to the MVT to excavate its western side, unseen since George Reisner discovered the famous statue of Menkaure and Queen in 1910, where we made some intriguing discoveries.

Along with Dr. Zahi Hawass and the Glen Dash Foundation, we conducted a geophysical survey of the Sphinx Temple using ground penetrating radar. We also collaborated with Yukinori Kawae and a Japanese team to carry out 3D recording of the Sphinx by drone, photogrammetry, and laser scanning.

Preserving & Interpreting Egypt’s Heritage: From Monuments to Everyday Life
Thanks to 2019-2020 grants from ARCE, we’ve begun work on two conservation projects. The Great Pyramid Temple Project aims to conserve what remains of Khufu’s pyramid temple and to promote greater visitor understanding of the pyramid complex as a whole.

The AERA Objects Publication Project will create a freely accessible archive of data about the everyday items used by the individuals involved in the construction of the Giza pyramids and mortuary cults and will offer scholars a unique insight into Old Kingdom economy, administration, technology, and daily life.… READ MORE »

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New Findings from Menkaure Valley Temple

AERA’s 2019 Field Season Report: New Findings from the Menkaure Valley Temple

During our 2019 Field Season, we returned to the Menkaure Valley Temple (MVT), an area crucial to our understanding of the overall settlement of the Giza Plateau. We believe that when people abandoned the Heit el-Ghurab (HeG) settlement (also known as the Lost City of the Pyramid Workers) they resettled near the Khentkawes Town (KKT) and MVT. The nature of these sites then changed from infrastructures for large royal works to service centers for the cults of the deceased kings. 

Figure 1: The central-southeastern Giza Plateau showing the location of the Menkaure Valley Temple where AERA worked during Season 2019. Map by Rebekah Miracle from AERA GIS.

The First and Second Temples

George Reisner excavated the MVT between 1908 and 1910, but he never saw the whole temple exposed in phase, so his plan of the temple is reconstructed from separate exposures. It was clear to Reisner that he had two major periods: an earlier mudbrick “First Temple” (shown in green on Fig. 2) completed by Menkaure’s successor Shepseskaf and a later “Second Temple” (shown in orange on Fig. 2) built over 200 years later, probably under king Pepi II.… READ MORE »

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Watch AERA’s 2019 excavations at Menkaure Valley Temple

A CNN crew joined our team in March to document what it was like working on the Menkaure Valley Temple in Giza. This is the first video footage from the western part of the Temple, which until this year had been buried under sand since George Reisner last saw it 100+ years ago.

The video documents some of our recent finds, details our approach to archaeological science, and interviews some of the incredible team of people working with us from Egypt and around the world. We are so happy to be able to share this video with our members!

CNN’s Inside Africa documented our 2019 excavation as part of a program on Egyptian archaeology that also features recent finds at Saqqara and ARCE’s field school program.

Watch the complete program online on Vimeo.READ MORE »

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New book by Dr. Malleson “The Fayum Landscape”

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Claire Malleson, AERA’s archaeobotanist and Giza lab manager, has published her first book. In addition to her work at Giza, Dr. Malleson has been working in the Fayum for many years and her book focuses on the history of this important region.

“Located some one hundred kilometers southwest of Cairo, the Fayum region has long been regarded as unique, often described in terms that conjure up images of an idealized Garden of Eden. In An Egyptian Landscape, Claire Malleson takes a novel approach to the study of the region by exploring the ways in which people have, through millennia, perceived and engaged with the Fayum landscape.

Distinguishing between the experienced landscape of state and bureaucratic record and the imagined landscape of myth, meaning, and observers’ personal influences and expectations, Malleson questions in detail where those perceptions come from. She traces religious practices, follows the tracks of myths and traditions, and investigates the roots of stories found in texts from the pharaonic, classical, and Medieval Islamic periods. She also reviews many, more recent travel writings on the region from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The work of each author is presented in its historical and cultural context, and Malleson integrates what is known about ancient activities in the Fayum, based on the archaeological evidence from the many monuments and ancient settlements that exist in the region.”… READ MORE »

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2019 Season Begins at Menkaure Valley Temple & Sphinx

Our excavation season has just begun and we’re starting to peel back the sand that George Reisner left to cover and protect the Menkaure Valley Temple (MVT) ruins after excavating it more than 100 years ago. It’s exciting to take a look at this site with modern archaeological methods, especially since Reisner backfilled as he excavated and the western part of the site remains much as he found it and unseen since 1910.

We return to the MVT this year thanks to the support of Wally Gilbert, Nobel Laureate in chemistry and a founder of Biogen. Our focus is the western third, the location of the inner sanctuary and its flanking magazines. This is where Reisner found the world-renowned Dyad and Triad statues of Menkaure flanked by his queen, the goddess Hathor, and deities of Egypt’s nomes (districts). We previously excavated the eastern third of the MVT and its Annex and when we return in 2020, we will tackle the more complex settlement archaeology in the central court, where temple personnel built apartments to live in and granaries to hold their shares of temple revenues.

While our excavation team works in targeted trenches at MVT, our team of material culture specialists will be making their own exciting discoveries in AERA’s field lab, nestled among the gigantic mastaba tombs west of the Great Pyramid.… READ MORE »

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Nova’s Decoding the Great Pyramid on PBS Feb. 6th

How did the ancient Egyptians engineer Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza so precisely, with none of today’s surveying or tools? Who were the thousands of laborers who raised the stones and how were they housed, fed, and organized? And how did mobilizing this colossal labor force and the resources invested in this monument transform Egypt?

AERA’s Claire Malleson, Glen Dash, Richard Redding, and Mark Lehner join Salima Ikram and Pierre Tallet to discuss the latest research into how the Great Pyramid was built and how building it transformed Egyptian society on a new episode of Nova premiering on PBS on Wednesday, February 6th, at 9pm ET/8pm CT.

Watch the trailer on the Nova website & check your local PBS channel for times. READ MORE »

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Richard Redding to give keynote speech at BAE 2019

Richard Redding AERA’s Chief Research Officer, Dr. Richard Redding, will be the keynote speaker at the Joint Conference on the Bioarchaeology of Ancient Egypt & the International Symposium on Animals in Ancient Egypt (BAE) being held in Cairo from January 10-13, 2019.

“What I Have Learned Over 50 Years –
Assumptions Bad: Interactions Good”
Ewart Hall, American University in Cairo, Tahrir Square, Cairo
Saturday 12 January, 9am
BAE conference website

Dr. Richard Redding is a Research Scientist at the Kelsey Museum, University of Michigan, and a principal in Ancient Egyptian Research Associates. His interests are based in anthropological archaeology with a focus on the origin of food production and the role of human subsistence in the development of cultural complexity. He has worked in the Fayyum Depression, the Eastern Desert, Luxor, the Nile Delta, and Giza. He was a co-director, in the 1980s, of the excavations at the Old Kingdom site of Kom el-Hisn. Dr. Redding has worked every year since 1997 at the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders.… READ MORE »

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From Our Students: Learning Animal Bone

Editor’s Note: As AERA continues its mission of education and outreach, we delight in sharing our staff’s knowledge with new generations of students and scholars. This is especially rewarding when we have the chance to delve more deeply into an area during an Advanced Field School session with students who have a passion for a particular topic. Here, two enthusiastic new students of AERA’s Archaeozoologist Dr. Richard Redding, Mohamed Hussein Ahmed and Mohamed Raouf Badran, share their experiences and impressions of their recent training session during the Giza 2018 field and lab season. We feel that the best way to train students is a hands-on approach to our current research topics. Mohamed and Mohamed did just that this season, jumping right in on new material from this season’s Kromer excavations.

Become a member or make a donation to help us continue training the next generation of Egyptian archaeologists.

by Mohamed Hussein Ahmed and Mohamed Raouf Badran

The 2018 AERA-ARCE Field School training was a dream come true. It is important that people know that becoming an animal bone specialist in Egypt is not an easy thing. To even find such training in a university in Egypt is difficult, if not impossible.… READ MORE »

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The Giza Botanical Database Goes Online

Since 1988 Ancient Egypt Research Associates has systematically collected sediment samples for flotation in order to recover macrobotanical remains from project excavations in Old Kingdom settlements on the low desert to the southeast of the Giza Plateau, Egypt. The goal has been to contribute information on ancient plant use to the project research. This dataset contains all samples studied between 1988–2018. Site conditions at Heit el-Ghurab fluctuate between wet and dry (and have done so for millennia), and therefore only charred plant remains are preserved. Despite the drier conditions of the Khentkawes Town, only charred remains are preserved there as well.

The remains come primarily from two different settlement sites—the Khentkawes Town and Heit el-Ghurab. Within the Heit el-Ghurab settlement there are three distinctly different neighborhoods—the Western Town (large dwellings), the Eastern Town (small village-like dwellings), and the Galleries (a walled area possibly designated for communal accommodation for work and expedition crews). The Khentkawes Town was initially constructed to house priests attached to the funerary cult, but later was probably re-purposed. Information about archaeological features varies for different areas of excavation due to evolving standards of site recording over 30 years.

Dr. Wilma Wetterstrom initiated botanical work at the site. In 1995 the project expanded and Dr.… READ MORE »

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AERA discovers two ancient houses near Giza pyramids

reconstructed houseAERA’s discovery of two ancient homes near the Giza pyramids in Egypt was reported this week in LiveScience.

The houses were located near an ancient port that saw goods and materials coming in from all over Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean. The structures may have housed officials responsible for overseeing the production of food for a paramilitary force living in a nearby series of galleries, during the time the Pyramid of Menkaure was being constructed at Giza.

For more information, including a photogallery of images, see the full article on LiveScience.

For our reports of previous seasons’ work at these structures, see AERAgram volumes 16 & 17.… READ MORE »

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