Mit Rahina Field School Archive

Perunefer or ‘bon voyage’ in ancient Egyptian

Posted on Oct 7, 2014

We reached the end of the 2014 Mit Rahina field-school.

‘All too short’, is the unanimous feeling of the team. But we have managed to do a lot in only 4 weeks. Our aims were to train students in advanced ceramics analysis and archaeological illustration; and analyse certain categories of material – Old Kingdom ceramics, objects, mud sealings and ground stones.

Every morning we left the Giza Archaeological Centre soon after 6am, to drive to Memphis where we arrived to see the sun rise over the palm groves. We worked there until 1pm with a short break for breakfast at 10am. September-October is date harvest time at Memphis so often we had trays of different types of dates brought to us for tasting. Some prefer the bright yellow fibrous dates, others the dark brown soft dates, dripping with ’honey’. All washed down with strong tea made over a wood fire.

Simple tools for the date harvest – a belt to serve as a climbing harness, bare feet, a sharp knife, and a wide and shallow basket. Photo by Sayed Salah.

Simple tools for the date harvest – a belt to serve as a climbing harness, bare feet, a sharp knife, and a wide and shallow basket. Photo by Sayed Salah.

Back at Giza, after a late lunch, the afternoons were spent working in the library and on the computers. The illustrators digitally ‘inked’ their drawings; the ceramicists translated articles and researched comparative material for their reports.… READ MORE »


Choose the short straw…

Posted on Oct 5, 2014

By Rudeina Bayoumi, Rehab Ahmed Mohamed and Aisha Mohamed Montaser (MSA ceramic students)

Our supervisors in the ceramics team gave us some topics to read and discuss together the following day. They also assigned pages or topics for every one of us.

One day they gave us some pages with a lot of topics, and they asked us to divide it between ourselves. But we didn’t know how to do that! If we divided it by pages the topics would not be complete, and if we divided it by topic some of us would have more than 5 pages and the others less than half page. So what could we do?

The ceramics group at work in the Mit Rahina courtyard. Left to right: Rehab Mahmoud, Walid Abd el-Bary, Sherif Abdel Moneim (supervisor), Rudeina Bayoumi and Aisha Mohamed Montaser.

The ceramics group at work in the Mit Rahina courtyard. Left to right: Rehab Mahmoud, Walid Abd el-Bary, Sherif Abdel Moneim (supervisor), Rudeina Bayoumi and Aisha Mohamed Montaser.

The break time came and the answer also came with it. Guess what? It is “the short straw” game we decided to play, to divide the topics by luck. We played it and finally Rudeina was the unlucky person in our group, because she got the biggest part of these articles. Better luck next time!… READ MORE »


Making flour…and not only

Posted on Sep 28, 2014

By Dr. Giulio Lucarini, University of Cambridge, UK

When I spoke for the first time with Ana Tavares about the food production research project I am currently carrying out in several regions of North Africa* and, in particular, about the analysis I am doing on grinding stones, she experienced a ‘light bulb moment’ and, smiling, exclaimed: “I have finally found somebody who may be interested in our fantastic querns and grinders! Do you think we can apply the same approach to the tools coming from the ancient capital of Egypt?” She did not have to wait too long for my reply. I was absolutely delighted and honored by receiving this proposal, especially considering that the importance of stone assemblages coming from dynastic contexts is very often underestimated or, at least, not considered at the same level of other classes of materials, such as pottery. As an archaeologist and prehistorian I have to admit that making the stones ‘speak’ has always been my greatest passion and the possibility to analyze assemblages from such an important Middle Kingdom site is a new challenge for me. This is the reason why I am writing this blog today.

Giulio analyzes a grinding stone, from Middle Kingdom Memphis, with a USB microscope. Photo by Ana Tavares.

Giulio analyzes a grinding stone, from Middle Kingdom Memphis, with a USB microscope.

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Special guest

Posted on Sep 26, 2014

By Mahmoud Nour-Eldin Mohammed, Illustration trainee

As usual, we wake up at 5:45 am to prepare ourselves for another working day. After breakfast and tea we got in the microbus on our way to the stores room at Mit-Rahina (Memphis).

microbus

But this day is not like any other day because there was a special gust with us in the microbus in the form of a big fan. This fan was to provide us with cool air during our work in the store room.

But sometimes things never go according to plan. When we arrived at the store room the electricity was not working. At first we thought it would be off for only one or two hours, but it seems that the electricity did not like our new guest, the fan; because it stayed off the whole working day.

fan

At 11:30 am there was a surprise. Very Egyptian cups of tea were made not by the modern way, but in the ancient Egyptian way using a Hearth.

teapot

At the end of the day, our guest returned with us to the AERA Giza centre without performing its job, because of the electricity. However, we had amazing very Egyptian tea, thanks to our natural style of life.… READ MORE »

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Now comes the hard part…

Posted on Sep 22, 2014

By Dr. David Jeffreys (director Survey of Memphis, Egypt Exploration Society)

Everything is coming along very nicely with this advanced Mit Rahina field school, with an enthusiastic and highly committed group of students and their typically professional, critical but supportive tutors. Everyone seems content with their specialist subject areas (ceramics and illustration), and each gave a short and lucid presentation to the others just before the weekend. The tutors are also following their specialisms such as the sizeable collection of seals and seal impressions from the Kom Fakhry site.

lecture_410

My job, as last time three years ago, is to introduce the students to the site of Memphis and the challenges it faces. I will be giving short illustrated talks on the background to the history, and the history of exploration, of Memphis, and we have started a series of site tours, beginning with the Mit Rahina museum with its showpiece, the colossal limestone statue of Ramesses II (Abu’l Hol) and the various objects inside and in the museum garden, including the two standing restored / rebuilt colossi in granite, partners to the limestone one.

Ramesses

We discussed the nature of and reasons for patterns of erosion on the limestone statue and the nearby travertine sphinx, where one side is deeply damaged but the other is a pristine state (apart from the loss of paint) – a result of permanent submersion in ground and flood water (the well preserved side) in contrast to the half that has been subject to alternate wet and dry conditions and has therefore suffered.… READ MORE »

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The Canary in the Data Mine

Posted on Sep 16, 2014

By Rebekah Miracle (AERA GIS specialist)

As the geographic information specialist (GIS) at AERA, my job is to digitally archive, synthesize and present our excavation data in ways that make it more understandable and usable to other people – both to our own researchers and, through articles and illustrations, to other people who may have never seen our sites before. Working with the Mit Rahina site data from Memphis is a bit different than working with our Giza data. While I know the Giza sites backwards and forwards, I’ve never seen the Mit Rahina site in person.

In some ways this makes my job harder, as I have to orient myself solely through our excavation archive. In other ways though, this helps me to do my job better, as I can’t take anything for granted and I know that if something doesn’t make sense to me, it probably won’t make sense to outside researchers either. I feel like I am the canary in the coal mine for data clarity this year!

Though I am working from my home in Austin, Texas, we have twice-weekly team meetings and constantly send documents back and forth. Despite the 7100 miles between my home and the site, it actually works very smoothly.… READ MORE »

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Different Methods to Drawing Pottery

Posted on Sep 12, 2014

By Walid Abd Elbary Attia (MSA ceramics student)

When Mr. Yasser (our teacher) taught “the ceramics and illustration team” how to draw pottery, he explained to us the pottery drawing steps and we understood his explanation very well.

Mr. Yasser teaching the team. Photo by Ana Tavares.

Mr. Yasser teaching the team. Photo by Ana Tavares.

After he finished, I told Mr.Yasser that I use a different method to draw the pottery sherds. I learned it when I trained with the German expedition at Schedia “El- Buheirah – Kafr El- Dawar.”

I explained this different method to both the illustration and ceramics teams. They were surprised when they saw it. Then, another one of the ceramics team told us that he uses triangles to find the height of a sherd and some of us were surprised also, because we hadn’t used this method before.

At this time, I told them I’m using the clay “grit” to draw pottery sherds, and again all the ceramics and illustration team were surprised even more than the first time. So they said to me “we want to see how you use clay to draw.” I already had a clay lump in my bag and I started to use it to draw the pottery sherd.… READ MORE »

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Home and Away

Posted on Sep 5, 2014

By Freya Sadarangani and Dan Jones

Whilst the students and teachers of the Mit-Rahina Field School (MRFS) study season take the minibus each day from Giza to the work room in Mit-Rahina (Memphis) the two of us are frustratingly housebound – Dan in the Giza archive and Freya at her desk in York, UK. With there being digital versions of our Mit-Rahina excavation and post-excavation records and because we can talk regularly using Skype it is surprisingly easy to work together, given that we are separated by some 3,500 kilometres.

Freya working from the UK

Freya working from the UK

Dan working from Egypt

Dan working from Egypt

Our remit this season is to produce a publishable article on the 2011 Mit-Rahina site’s stratigraphic sequence – detailing how the site developed over time. This will be done in collaboration with Egyptian colleagues from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) who were teachers during the 2011 season. Our first job has been to pull out the complete excavation archive from 2011 (record forms, drawings, photographs, reports, survey data, drill core data, stratigraphic matrices), double check that everything has been digitised and that there are no erroneous niggling gaps lurking in the archive. We also need to make sure that the specialists have everything they need from us to complete their own work and teaching.… READ MORE »


Fast forward by a thousand years…

Posted on Aug 31, 2014

By Ana Tavares

From Old Kingdom Giza to Middle Kingdom Memphis – a short drive to the south from AERA’s usual excavation site at Giza but a thousand years forward in time.

We are pleased to be working again in the ancient capital – Memphis. In 2011 we ran a beginner’s field school on this site. We were privileged to excavate and record part of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040-1640 BC) settlement in the site of Kom el-Fakhry. The site also included a series of stone-lined tombs dated to the First Intermediate PeriodP (c. 2134-2040 BC).

According to ancient tradition the capital was founded by Menes, the first ruler of unified Egypt (around 2,900 BC). Kom el-Fakhry site is the oldest known part of Memphis.

Memphis sunrise. During the MRFS 2011 teaching and analysis of material culture was carried out in a series of tents set up under the famous Memphis date palms. Photo by Lamia el-Hadidy.

Memphis sunrise. During the MRFS 2011 teaching and analysis of material culture was carried out in a series of tents set up under the famous Memphis date palms. Photo by Lamia el-Hadidy.

During the 2011 Mit Rahina Field-school we recorded, analyzed, and curated a diversity of material culture – ceramics, lithics, plant remains, animal bone, mud sealings, and objects. We now return for a season to study and record this rich material and to write preliminary reports on site stratigraphy, objects overview, Old Kingdom residual ceramics, faunal remains, and mud sealings.… READ MORE »

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