The Riddle of Standing Wall Island

by Kirk Roberts (archaeologist)

It’s the first week on site, and the AERA team is excited to be back at Standing Wall Island (SWI). This year, a team of Egyptian students will be working in the Eastern part of this intriguing area, and trying to understand how this enigmatic island of archaeology fits in with the houses, streets and galleries that make up the rest of the site. Unusually, this large, walled enclosure features rounded corners – elements that point towards the management of animals. Previous work by our animal bone expert Dr. Richard Redding, has suggested that the area may have functioned as a cattle corral, and this exciting possibility means that SWI may help us to understand how Heit el-Ghurab was provisioned with meat – an important food resource for which we find abundant evidence. This year, we will test this theory by carefully targeting excavations to look for evidence that might point towards the area having been used as a stock enclosure.

3-1

Field School Team 3 begin the work of clearing Standing Wall Island (SWI),
view to the North. Photo by Kirk Roberts.

When the team got to the site last week, we were confronted with a thick mass of weeds and plant-life. A few days of effort from our terrific team of workmen cleared the area of the protective layer of sand left there in 2011, which meant that today the archaeologists could begin the work of cleaning, mapping and describing the visible remains. It was an exciting experience for the team to see the site take shape, and especially so for me, as this is the first time I’ve been lucky enough to come and work in Giza! Over the next two months, field school team 3, which comprises Hossam Mokhtar, Mai Samir, Reham Mahmoud Zaky el-Sayed, Ayman Youssef Toukhy Mohamed, Hanan Mahmoud and Hoda Osman Khalifa, will be interpreting the clues left behind at SWI. By carefully picking apart the evidence from floors, walls, pottery, bone and other finds, the team hopes to understand how Standing Wall Island developed, and the role it played in the economy and lives of the people who built the pyramids. Along the way, our students will learn the fundamentals of excavation, survey and finds analysis, enabling them to better understand, protect and communicate the unique archaeological resource of Ancient Egypt.

3-2

Kirk demonstrates the use of the level to Field School Team 3. Photo by Daniel Jones.

While the students have been busy trowelling over the site, Hoda and Ashraf have started a trench against the south-east corner of the enclosure, to look for surfaces and evidence which might explain the building’s function. Hopefully this season, using a combination of stratigraphic, chemical and finds analysis, we will be able to answer the riddle of Standing Wall Island.

3-3

Hoda opens a trench to examine the southern corner of Standing Wall Island,
view to the North. Photo by Kirk Roberts.