New Findings from the 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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AERA’s 2019 season at Menkaure Valley Temple on CNN

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.”

The Fayum Landscape: Ten Thousand Years of Archaeology, Texts, and Traditions in Egypt is published by the AUC Press and available on Amazon.… 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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Mark Lehner & Pierre Tallet lecture at MFA Boston

City of the Pyramids: New Discoveries in Archaeology and Texts

This two part lecture is free with museum admission & open to the public. To ensure admittance, reserve your tickets in advance either through the tickets link on the MFA website or by calling 1-800-440-6975. If your plans change, the MFA requests that you cancel your reservation so that others can attend. 

Wadi el-Jarf: The Harbor of King Khufu on the Red Sea and Its Papyrus Archive
Pierre Tallet, Chair, Egyptology, Paris-Sorbonne University

The Wadi el-Jarf site, excavated since 2011 by a team from Paris-Sorbonne University, is a harbor on the Red Sea that was used at the beginning of the Fourth dynasty to reach the copper and turquoise mines of the southwestern part of the Sinai Peninsula. In 2013, hundreds of fragments of papyrus from the end of Khufu’s reign (about 2551–2528 BC) were collected at the entrance of one of the site’s storage galleries. This is the oldest papyrus archive found in Egypt; produced by a team of sailors and stone haulers led by Inspector Merer.

The discovery consists of accounts of commodities delivered to the workers, and logbooks recording their daily activities over several months. Most surprisingly, the logbooks do not record the activity of this group on the Wadi el-Jarf site but describe previous missions under the direction of “Inspector Merer” transporting limestone blocks from the quarries of Tura to the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, then under construction on the opposite bank of the Nile.… READ MORE »

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Mark Lehner interviewed by CNN

Dr. Mark Lehner was interviewed by CNN about his new book, Giza and the Pyramids, and about his decades of work on the Giza Plateau. He discusses how he got his start studying the Great Sphinx, alternative theories, and the recent discoveries at Wadi al-Jarf. 

Read the complete interview on CNN. … READ MORE »

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ARCE Sphinx Project 1979-1983 Archive

The ARCE SPHINX PROJECT (1979-1983) aimed to produce scale drawings (plans and elevations) of the Great Sphinx of Giza, where no scale drawings of this unique monument had been produced before, to map the greater Sphinx site, including three ancient Egyptian temples situated east of the statue, and the larger quarry forming the Sphinx “amphitheater.” Objectives included elevations, profiles, and a detailed master plan of the Sphinx, detailed section and profile drawings showing the masonry restorations added to the statue, topographical maps of the Sphinx ditch and larger quarry, and maps of the structural geology of the site, showing stratification and faults.

The idea was that we could achieve a better understanding of the origin of the Sphinx and how the 4th Dynasty Egyptians created the Sphinx from careful, recorded observations of its structure and geology, and that a good part of the history of the Sphinx could be read from detailed survey and mapping of the stratified masonry on the Sphinx, and from the condition of the bedrock core under the earliest masonry, as well as from analysis of tool marks and mortar bonding the different phases.

An image from ARCE Sphinx Project 1979-1983 Archive.

Dr. James Allen, then Assistant Director of the American Research Center (now Charles Edwin Wilbour Professor of Egyptology at Brown University) applied as Project Director to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization to survey and map the Sphinx.… READ MORE »

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“Giza and the Pyramids: The Definitive History” out now

In this new book Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass provide insights into the history of the Giza plateau based on more than 40 years of excavating and studying the site.

Though today the pyramids and the Sphinx rise from the desert, isolated and enigmatic, they were once surrounded by temples, vast cemeteries, harbors, and teeming towns. This book describes that past in vibrant detail, along with the history of exploration, the religious and social function of the pyramids, how the pyramids were built, and the story of Giza before and after the Old Kingdom. These monuments are brought to life through hundreds of illustrations, including photographs of the monuments, excavations, and objects, as well as plans, reconstructions, and images from remote-controlled cameras and laser scans.

“Lehner and Hawass have produced an astonishingly comprehensive study of the excavations and scientific investigations that have, over two centuries, uncovered the engineering techniques, religious and cultural significance and other aspects of the Giza site.” Read the full review in Nature. 

Available now on Amazon or wherever books are sold. … READ MORE »

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Introducing a new website all about Memphis!

At, we hope to bring Egypt’s ancient capital city alive once more and to share Memphis’ many stories with audiences near and far.

This bilingual English-Arabic website has information for both visitors and researchers about the sites and history of Memphis, from its birth 4900 years ago to the present day.

At you’ll find:

This project is part of our two-year Memphis Site & Community Development (MSCD) project. Special thanks to USAID  for funding the MSCD project, our collaborators at the University of York, and the many Ministry of Antiquities inspectors from across Egypt who made this project such a success!… READ MORE »

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Mark Lehner featured in the Boston Globe

A new article from the Boston Globe features a discussion with Dr. Mark Lehner about his latest theories on how the ancient Egyptians used a system of canals and harbors to help build the pyramids:

Read the Boston Globe article: “Did the Egyptians create a canal and a port to bring stone to the Great Pyramid?”

For a more in-depth examination of these theories, watch the BBC documentary, “Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence”, which has already aired in the UK & will be airing in the US & Canada soon!… READ MORE »

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