2009 Field Season Archive

Filling the gaps

Posted on Mar 12, 2009

Driving back to the hotel from the main dig site today, I was reminded of two features of the daily commute during my month digging with the AERA team in 2004: driving through the crowded suburb of Nazlet es Saman past the Sphinx and hearing three or four languages spoken at once in the microbus. French, Polish, Swedish, English, and Arabic were the interwoven music of drive time.

Today I heard almost exclusively Arabic because I was on the bus with Egyptian field school students.

Joint Field Director, Ana Tavares, teaches a class in mapping.

Joint Field Director, Ana Tavares, teaches a class in mapping.

All of these students work for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities as inspectors. Most of the 1,500 or so inspectors in Egypt are trained in Egyptology, the study of the language and culture of ancient Egypt. The AERA/ARCE field school teaches them modern archaeological technique. 

One of Will Schenk’s illustration students.

One of Will Schenck’s illustration students.

Will Schenck has worked in Egypt for decades and has taught and done illustration with AERA in previous seasons. Will is teaching illustration to the students by giving them hands on training in the field and on computers. He also shows up on Betsy Bryan’s blog from the Mut Temple in Luxor (see Hopkins in Egypt in the blogroll).READ MORE »

AERA’s new home in Cairo

Posted on Mar 11, 2009

As long as I’ve worked with Mark Lehner’s team (5 years), AERA has been looking for a permanent home near the field work at the Giza Pyramids. We’re thrilled to announce that it now has one, paid for by private donations.

There has never been a time when your support of AERA’s operations will yield more for each dollar you give than now. Why?

The Field School

For the field school to be a lasting entity for the future, it must have a permanent headquarters. The idea that the field school will someday exist as an Egyptian operation has always been Mark Lehner’s goal. The new home is a huge step in securing that future.

Ana Tavares and team survey the villa and grounds.

Ana Tavares and team survey the villa and grounds.

Lower operating costs

The new permanent residence at Giza will reduce operating costs and increase the efficiency of the archaeological field work, the operation of the field school, the writing and publication of the results, and the storage of materials.

Every previous season, the team has had to rent space for a headquarters, office, and partial residence. In addition, they had to rent two large apartments, stuffed to the gills with team members and equipment, with the field school in a hotel nearby.READ MORE »


Posted on Mar 10, 2009

Having just traveled from one side of the globe to the other, I’m having difficulty getting oriented, as my jetlag-addled brain tries to catch up to Giza time.

It also may be difficult for you to get spatially oriented to the description of an archaeological site you’ve never seen. That, I can help you with through some magic created today by Camilla Mazzucato, one of the members of AERA’s GIS team.

AERA is excavating two sites at Giza, both very close to the pyramids: the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders and the sacred town of Queen Khentkawes. The connection between the Lost City and Khentkawes’ town is that they are 4th Dynasty settlements (2589 to 2504 BC) established to support sacred monuments.

Giza Plateau showing AERA’s excavations.

Giza Plateau showing AERA’s excavations.

(The image above omits the hundreds of large and small tombs cut into ancient quarry walls and shaft tombs cut into the plateau bedrock.)

Khentkawes’ monument and town.

Khentkawes’ monument and town.

In the detail of Khentkawes’ town above, you can see her huge tomb in the upper left. Extending east by slightly north is the town where her priests lived, with its enclosure wall along the edges and its sharp dogleg to the south.

This image is based on data from work by Mark Lehner’s team (since 2005), and before him George Reisner (1908-1910) and Salim Hassan (1932).READ MORE »

Guest blogger

Posted on Mar 7, 2009

Brian Hunt, AERABLOG editor, will be our guest writer from the Giza pyramids in Egypt for two weeks in March 2009 during our twentieth anniversary celebration.

Brian has been a volunteer with AERA since 2004 and has been the producer/writer of the AERA web site since its inception in 2005. He brings his longstanding interest in ancient and modern Egypt and his knowledge of our work to the task of reporting on our archaeological excavations from ground zero. Brian has been a lead writer at Microsoft on such titles as Age of Empires, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator, Microsoft Train Simulator, and Microsoft ESP. He is also a freelance writer for the web and periodicals. He’s currently working on a book and collaborating on a screenplay.

AERA writer, Brian V. Hunt.

AERA writer, Brian V. Hunt.


Curious Structures

Posted on Mar 5, 2009

Archaeology always presents fun puzzles to be resolved. Mike House recently found a puzzling structure while excavating a road or ramp within the Khentkawes complex.


Part of the road at the Khentkawes Temple.

Part of the road at the Khentkawes Temple.


The structure consists of a possible square mud brick plinth or platform (1.90m x 1.70m) with an additional mud brick extension to the east. The platform and extension were plastered, and only the lowest courses survive. Selim Hassan recorded it in the 1930s as a Wabet (w’bt) tent, although its function is unclear.


Its position in the road may suggest a different use; it may represent an administrative platform with steps leading up to it inside of a building.


Within, a small amount of a marl plaster floor survived to the north and east, extending up to an enclosing wall (represented by a single mud brick course). The west side of the feature has been slightly truncated by the later robbing trench excavated by Ana Tavares in 2008.


To the south of the platform structure, there appears to be an-out-of-phase wall, which appears at first inspection to be truncated by the platform. However, the plaster on the outside of the platform continues down between the wall and the platform.READ MORE »

Late Period Burials

Posted on Mar 4, 2009

The excavations at Giza are off to a roaring start. One of the challenges of excavating the Lost City at Giza is that there are hundreds of Late Period burials (747-525 BC; see A Girl and Her Goddess) above the 4th Dynasty layers.

They’re fascinating to study but they slow us down, as each one must be excavated and recorded. The osteology team, led by Jessica Kaiser, is very busy, as you’ll see from the excerpts below of team member Scott Haddow’s field report of but two of many excavated burials.

The burials mostly cover an area of our main dig site near the Wall of the Crow. We also find them in the excavations at KKT, the town built around the monument of Khentkawes, northwest of the Lost City. Last week the osteology team excavated a couple of interesting burials.

Burial 461

At KKT, Burial 461 was a skeleton that had several pathological lesions, including a severe case of osteomyelitis (a deep infection of the bone, usually resulting from a penetrating wound) involving the entire left tibia, and several cervical vertebrae with signs of degenerative joint disease on the vertebrae.

Based on the appearance of the reactive bone on the infected tibia, it appears the lesion was active perimortem (at the time of death) and may have led to the death of the individual through septicaemia (blood poisoning).READ MORE »

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!

Posted on Feb 28, 2009

Today, Marina Milić came to the Lab to give a lecture on lithics drawing to the Illustration class of the Field School. The class is steaming ahead in all aspects of the course, as is their enthusiasm for the assignments that Will Schenck has given them.

The other day, Will sent his teaching assistant Yasser to go to the nearby tourist Panorama on the Plateau to buy some cheap tourist junk so they can practice the various aspects of drawing they’ve learned so far.

Ever resourceful, Yasser was back in a flash with a bag of broken trinkets that the shop keepers gave him for free – worthless to them but priceless to the class – result!

Junk students used to practice drawing.

Junk students used to practice drawing.

The Royal Administrative Building (RAB) is the next area of the settlement to be published. On Monday, we had a meeting in the Lab with the specialists currently present at Giza, as well as the excavator and author of the RAB final report, Freya Sadarangani. Our boss, Mark Lehner, also attended.

In all, we had 12 people discussing their findings – artifacts, pottery, animal bones, lithics, plant remains and pigments in relation to the temporal and spatial results from the excavation.READ MORE »

Valentine's Day

Posted on Feb 20, 2009

On Valentine’s Day there was an impressive 42 people working in the Giza Lab! This included three of the Advanced Field School classes – Illustration, Ceramics and Human Osteology, plus the ‘regulars’. I’ve put photos up in the lab with the names of all of the students in the five Field School groups to help everyone get to know everyone else at this early stage.


My trusty assistant Claire Malleson of Liverpool University has arrived and its great to have her back. Day after day, she sits at her microscope plugged into her iPod and steadily works her way through the many samples of ancient botanical remains we have from our main site Heit el Gurob, as well as the nearby Khentkawes. She’s a tremendous help to me since I often have to run around dealing with a myriad of lab issues and it’s great to leave the botany department in her capable hands.


Laurie Flentye has also started back at the lab this week. An American living in Cairo off and on for the last 5 years, Laurie’s specialty is the decoration, materials, and architectural elements used in 4th Dynasty Giza tombs. In the Lab, she analyses the pigments and painted plaster from the site.READ MORE »

Lab Rats and Lab Mice

Posted on Feb 13, 2009

Several of the lab crew have arrived. The cast of characters so far… 

Dr. Anna Wodzińska is the head of our (largely Polish) pottery team, which includes Alexandra Ksiezak, Edyta Klimaszewska-Drabot and Meredith Brand this season). Always hard working, AERA will be publishing Anna’s impressive 4 volume Egyptian Pottery Manual this year.

Inside the Giza Lab.

Inside the Giza Lab.

Archaeozoologist Dr. Richard Redding has worked all over the Middle East for nearly 40 years and has been with AERA since 1989. He’s also on AERA’s board (see also Pyramids and Protein). As ever, he’s living in his tent in the back yard.

Marina Milić (aka Serbia) is our lithics specialist, analyzing the chipped stone tools and debitage from the settlement. This is her second season with AERA and she’s done a brilliant job of organizing and analyzing our worked stone.

Working in the lab.

Mohammed Hassan working in the lab.

Will Schenck and his assistant Yasser Mahmoud are teaching illustration to their eight Advanced Field School students in the lab. Will has worked in Egypt since 1978, illustrating everything from scarabs to tomb decoration for excavations from most countries represented in Egypt – a veteran, a true professional and all around good guy.

Our osteologist Jessica Kaiser studies the human bone from the Late Period burials on the site.READ MORE »

Giza Field School 2009

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

Students and teachers have begun to arrive for AERA’s 2009 Giza Field School, cosponsored once again by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). We welcome back some of the 2007 Giza Field School alumni and 2008 Luxor Field School graduates. The students will be learning advanced skills in:


  • Ceramics
  • Illustration
  • Survey
  • Osteology (excavation of human remains) 

We’re proud to say that some of our graduates will be teaching classes to their fellow Egyptians. This is a great advantage, as it means they’ll teach classes in Arabic and the foreign instructors can take a step back. This helps us fulfill our mission of eventually making the Field School an Egyptian-run operation.


Our aim is to teach comprehensive archaeological skills to the cadre of inspectors who oversee all of the historic sites in Egypt, to better equip them to protect Egypt’s fragile and increasingly-threatened heritage.


The American Research Center in Egypt launched the first field schools in the 1990s and in 2005, AERA made the Giza Plateau Mapping Project and Lost City site a platform for a more optimized field school. We thank our colleagues at the Supreme Council of antiquities, especially Dr. Zahi Hawass and Shabaan Abd el-Gawad, for their continued support.READ MORE »

  • Photos from the Field

  • More photos from our 2015 Giza Field School
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