AERA News Archive

Unearthed: Secret History of the Sphinx

Mark Lehner and Richard Redding being filmed this year in Giza for "Unearthed: Secret History of the Sphinx".

Mark Lehner and Richard Redding being filmed this year in Giza for “Unearthed: Secret History of the Sphinx”.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mark Lehner worked with a documentary film crew to digitally deconstruct & recompose the Sphinx, Sphinx Temple and Khafre Valley Temple in order to help us better visualize these structures and advance our understanding of how these incredible monuments were built. 

This work drew heavily on the research Dr. Lehner did with University of Tübingen geologist Dr. Thomas Aigner, showing the 4th Dynasty Egyptians created the Sphinx along with these two temples as part of the same quarry-construction sequence. The ancient builders moved massive blocks, some weighing up to 100 tons, from the quarry that became the Sphinx ditch to the southeast to build the Khafre Valley Temple and as they quarried deeper, to the east for building the Sphinx Temple. 

The program “Unearthed: Secret History of the Sphinx” will begin airing in the U.S. on the Science Channel at 9pm CT on Tuesday, June 13th. It will also be shown on the Discovery Channel in Europe, France TV, CBC in Canada, and via broadcasters in Asia. Check your local listings for more information.… READ MORE »

Congratulations to our team on a successful 2017 season!

2017teamThe 2017 Giza season consisted of an intense six weeks of study and ‘stock-taking’ in our Giza Lab.

  • The ceramics team (Mahmoud el-Shafei and Aisha Mohammed) studied materials from relatively recent excavations – the 2012 work in Khentakawes East area, and 2015 work in AA South. Over four weeks they were almost able to catch-up on these analyses, and put the finishing touches on their reports for those areas.
  • Manami Yahata, who excavated in the Soccer Field West House Unit 1 area several years ago, has always been interested in the large quantities of roofing materials from this house, and because we had a study season, she was able to conduct analyses of these remains, recording the various different types of impressions from logs, branches, matting etc found in anonymous-looking lumps of sandy-mud!
  • Ali Witsell, one of our sealings specialists, joined us for a week to make an assessment of what will be needed in the future to complete the analyses of our sealings material.
  • Samar Mahmoud, a field-school student in 2015, is studying lithics as part of her Masters program, and was able to join us for a few days a week. She looked at materials from much older excavations, in the Main Street East area (2006-2007), in which large quantities of the debris of stone-tool production were discovered.

Happy holidays from AERA!


From excavating Egypt’s ancient cities to training the next generation of Egyptian archaeologists, 2016 has been an exciting year for AERA:

  • We continued excavations at the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders on the Giza plateau, this year focusing on the office-residence of a high official.
  • We began the process of getting our Sphinx data online and publicly available in 2017. This data is from the only systemic survey and architectural study of the Great Sphinx ever done and includes over 8,000 documents.
  • We continued our work with the Glen Dash Foundation survey at the Great Pyramid, focusing on the marks left by the ancient builders that offer insight into their building methods.
  • We entered the second year of our USAID funded project to develop Egypt’s cultural heritage infrastructure at the ancient city of Memphis, bringing back to life this once-great city, Egypt’s capital through much of Pharaonic history.
  • We’re completing work on a walking circuit for Memphis visitors, adding seven new sites to the one currently open and producing guide books, signage, a museum catalog, and other informative materials for visitors.
  • We’ve trained 46 Egyptian field school students at two field schools, helping to build the future of Egyptian archaeology.

Return to Memphis: Field school begins its 2nd year

Top: A student and field school supervisor celebrate her mastery of the auto level. Bottom: A student works on her 3D model of the House of the Apis Bull at Memphis.

Top: A student and field school supervisor celebrate her mastery of the auto level.
Bottom: A student works on her 3D model of the House of the Apis Bull at Memphis.

In September, we began work on the second year of our heritage and training project at Memphis, Egypt’s ancient capital city. Over a three month period this fall we will be training nearly 50 Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities inspectors in cultural heritage management, site interpretation, community engagement, archaeological site recording, and research techniques.

In collaboration with our Egyptian field school students, we’re creating bilingual Arabic/English websites, brochures and guidebooks with information about the ancient city available for both tourists and scholars, and will produce the first fully illustrated catalog of objects from the Memphis Open Air Museum. We’re also building a walking circuit with information panels around the remains of the city, so that its ancient sites can be opened to tourists for the first time next year!

This project is a partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the University of York and is made possible thanks to a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Click here for more information about the Memphis Site and Community Development project.… READ MORE »

AERA’s Sphinx data to go online

sphinxMark Lehner’s 1979-1983 work with James Allen on the Sphinx Project is still the only systemic survey and architectural study of the Great Sphinx of Giza that has ever been made. The Sphinx Project’s archive includes:

  • a stack over 5 feet long of written reports, notes, journal entries, site forms, and survey data,
  • 7716 photographs,
  • 266 architectural drawings and maps, one of which unrolls to over six feet long!

These documents show the bedrock surface of the Sphinx’s body, the history of its ancient repair, and the degree of erosion that existed when stonemasons first added its protective casing. Much of this evidence has since been covered by subsequent restoration work and is no longer visible.

For more than 35 years, these documents have remained largely unpublished and inaccessible to researchers. Now, thanks to a grant from the American Research Center in Egypt, we are hard at work scanning, digitizing and cataloging the data in order to make this archive of information freely and permanently available online through Open Context. We look forward to announcing its online launch sometime next year!

Click here to read more about the original Sphinx Project’s findings.… READ MORE »

“Memphis, Ancient Egypt’s Premier City” Lecture in Egypt

hathor-headDr. David Jeffreys and Freya Sadarangani, Field Director for Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), will be giving a lecture on “Memphis, Ancient Egypt’s Premier City.”

Date: Saturday, December 3rd, 2016
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Garden Room, British Council,
192 Sharei El-Nil St. Agouza-Cairo

While many visitors make a brief stop at the “Open-air Memphis Museum” at Mit Rahina to look down upon a colossal limestone statue of Ramesses the Great, they pass right by eight sites where archaeologists have excavated important parts of Memphis, including the Great Temple of Ptah, the Apis House (a major tourist stop in Roman times), a Hathor Temple, a New Kingdom shrine, and a series of early tombs and residences.

Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), in collaboration with the University of York and the Ministry of Antiquities, and funded by USAID, is currently developing an archaeological walking circuit that will guide visitors through some of the most important Memphite sites, while also conserving the cultural heritage of Memphis by cleaning and documenting this endangered area. In this lecture we aim to show how much has been done in documenting Memphis in recent years, what is happening now, and what could be achieved in the future.

Click here for more information about the Memphis Site & Community Development Project.… READ MORE »

Another Piece of the Pedestal Puzzle

This pedestal, found tucked in a closet in the courtyard of the AA-S house, is the best preserved example we have found to date. 3D image created by Kirk Roberts

This pedestal, found tucked in a closet in the courtyard of the AA-S house, is the best preserved example we have found to date. 3D image created by Kirk Roberts

Ever since we uncovered the first pedestals on the Heit el-Ghurab (Lost City of the Pyramid Workers) site, we have puzzled over their function. The first pedestals were found in 1988 in what came to be known as the Pedestal Building and had tops that were completely eroded and revealed little about their purpose. Eventually we concluded that they probably supported some sort of storage device, such as a bin that straddled the space between two pedestals.

Since that initial discovery, we’ve found many more pedestals in various configurations: both large groups & small sets, in closets & out in the open, isolated & aligned in rows in institutional structures — but always with a gap, or slot, between pedestals.

One big clue to the pedestals function came in the 2006-2007 seasons when we discovered a row of pedestals at the southern end of the Pedestal Building with low mud partitions on top that appeared to define where bins may have rested. In front of some of the slots between the pedestals we found beer jars propped upright at the gaps, as if positioned to catch drips from whatever was stored above or perhaps to serve as standard measures for doling out the contents.… READ MORE »

Watch “Unearthed: Dark Secrets of the Pyramids” on Science Channel

UnearthedIn this new Science Channel documentary, AERA’s Mark Lehner and Glen Dash discuss their most recent survey work at the Great Pyramid of Giza and the system of blocks and grooves within the pyramid used to protect the King’s Chamber from tomb robbers.

Watch a trailer and read more about the documentary on LiveScience, catch it this month on the Science Channel, or watch it now online!… READ MORE »

Ana Tavares to give a talk in the UK

Ana TavaresAERA’s Co-Field Director, Ana Tavares, will be giving a talk on July 9th at the Ancient Egypt & Middle East Society. 

Living in a liminal zone: The pyramid builder’s settlement at Heit el-Ghurab, Giza
This discussion highlights the architecture and layout of the settlement, and provides new insights on the dynamic relationship between the community and the ancient Egyptian state during the mid-fourth dynasty c.2490 BC

Living in a liminal zone: The priests’ ‘town’ of Queen Khentkawes at Giza
This site is unique in the Old Kingdom period and new information from the AERA’s excavations here is discussed in this talk, allowing us to ‘read the town’ and gain an understanding of its development.

For more information or to book a ticket:… READ MORE »

Mit Rahina 2016 Field School: Applications Open

Mit Rahina 2016
Site Management and Heritage Field-Schools
Saturday 18th September to Thursday 27th October 2016 (FS3)
Sunday 6th November to Saturday 17th December 2016 (FS4)
Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA)

Three of our field school students examine a colossus of Ramesses II located at Memphis

Three of our 2015 field school students examine a colossus of Ramesses II from Memphis

Applications are opened to inspectors of the Ministry of Antiquities (MA) for the Mit Rahina 2016 Site Management and Heritage Field-School run by AERA. There are 25 places for Inspectors of the Ministry of Antiquities for each field school. Applicants must have been with the MA for longer than one year, and may have had a field-school before.

The Mit Rahina project is developing a walking circuit of eight archaeological sites for visitors to experience the rich cultural heritage of ancient Memphis. The Mit Rahina Site management and Heritage Field-school provides training in preparing desk-based site assessments; archaeological recording and site preparation; techniques of site management and cultural heritage, including production of signage and site interpretation materials; as well as development of activities for interaction with the public. The training will include site work in Mit Rahina, lectures and workshops as well as report writing and presentations. Applicants must have a serious interest in explaining archaeological sites to the public.… READ MORE »

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