Posts Tagged ‘osteo-archaeology’

What is behind the bones…

Posted on Mar 24, 2015

by Ahmed Gabr (Ministry of Antiquities bio-archaeologist)

The study of the skeletal remains is an essential part of the study of biological anthropology. The Field-School ‘osteo’ course was designed to introduce the students to the main aspects of the human remains. We explain the main principle of the excavation of human remains, which follow the same general principles and instructions of archaeological excavation, but needs special additional techniques and tools for the bioarchaeologist.

104943_550
Students from group 3 digging burials, view to the north. Photo by Ahmed Gabr

We try to explain to the students what kind of information we can gain from studying the human remains. Because this is only a Beginners’ Field school and the course is so short it is not meant to train bone specialists, but just to make the students familiar with the methodology of dealing with the human remains in their sites, especially in the case of emergency. So they learn how to deal with the burials they may meet during their work as archaeologists. They can save as much information as possible until an osteologist is available. We also prepare the students in case they choose human remains as their specialty in the Advanced Field-School.… READ MORE »


Giza Field LabGiza Field Lab

Posted on Jul 7, 2011

Posted by Mary Anne Murray

Well, that was a long and interesting Giza Lab season!  The Giza Field Lab was open from January 8th and closed its doors on May 31st.  There were scheduled to be 36 specialists working in the Lab on the material culture and environmental evidence excavated from our sites in 2011, however due to recent events in Egypt only 24 specialists participated this time around.   The main objective of the 2011 season overall was to have each team member finish the analysis of their class of material culture from Area AA at Heit el-Ghurab (HeG) for publication,  including ceramics, all manner of artifacts, clay sealings, human bone, animal bone, plants, lithics, and pigments.   We also made inroads into two new areas of endeavor, however, by having specialists in environmental change and residue analysis visit to assess possibilities of future analysis.

Roger testing the magnetic susceptibility of drill core samples

Dr. Roger Flower, University College London, visited the lab for a week in March.  He primarily looked at an array of our many drill cores from our sites to detect Nile silts lain from flood deposits by processing and analyzing soil samples microscopically for the sedimentary remains of microfauna indicative of former lakes, pools or wetland areas.… READ MORE »


Volunteering Time At Giza

Posted on May 18, 2011

Posted by Steve LaPidus

I have spent the last six weeks as a volunteer on the AERA Giza Plateau Project with some of the most interesting and knowledgeable people I have ever met. I went on a site tour set up for the team early on in the schedule. We had a chance to walk through the sites, to listen to presentations and to ask questions on the project’s operations. It was easy to understand why there was a requirement by the Egyptian Government and AERA to submit your security paperwork six months in advance. It is obvious how much thought goes into the selection of the team members because there are multiple openings on the project and for each opening, there is a specific expert with just the right background and interest.

Site tour. Photo by Hilary McDonald

For the first five weeks, I shared a local apartment with a Swedish human osteologist Johnny (“Bones” for all of you who watch the TV show). He explained to me how he reviewed the excavated burials and drew the skeletons while determining the sex, age at death and whether there was any obvious disease before he had to remove the bones quickly as they easily crumbled apart if left for too long.… READ MORE »


The Largest House of the Pyramid Town

Posted on Feb 27, 2011

Posted by Yukinori Kawae

We first saw the structural footprint of House Unit 1, the largest house in the Pyramid Town for now, during the large-scale Western Town ‘scrape and plan’ season in 2004. Team members call it “Yuki’s House” but the unit is actually much larger than my apartment: the extent is about 25.0 m E-W and 16.0 m N-S covering an area of 400 m2. To date, we ascertained that the unit consists of at least 21 rooms including a bedchamber in the center, storage for the distinctive beer jars and an L-shaped bench, a series of bins in the southwest corner, and industrial area for bread and/or beer production in the east.

Plan of House Unit 1 at the Western Town

Plan of House Unit 1 at the Western Town

In the 2011 season, we are focused on excavations at the eastern end of House Unit 1, the “industrial area,” which is markedly different in content, character and function to the rest of the building. We presume the area was either a bakery or brewery (or both functioning together) but the nature of this industrial area has yet to be determined.

Brewery in the Pyramid Town?

Bread and beer were the staples of the Ancient Egyptian diet.… READ MORE »


A big chance to learn

Posted on Mar 25, 2009

Afaf Wahba has worked for the Supreme Council of Antiquities for nine years. She began as a curator at the Coptic Museum in old Cairo and for the past two years, she’s been an inspector at the Central Department of Giza. This job does not usually entail field work, but that did not stop Afaf from dreaming about it.

Afaf heard about the AERA/ARCE Field School in 2006. A colleague encouraged her to apply.

“I never imagine they will take me. I said, ‘No, no.’ and didn’t apply.”

Afaf Wahba at the AERA residence.

Afaf Wahba at the AERA residence.

One week before the application deadline, a friend sent her the application and insisted she apply. Despite the late date, she got an interview and was accepted into the Advanced Field School. She was determined to excel.

“Zeinab [Saiad Hashesh] and me, we drive our instructor crazy, study all the time. Sleep only one, two hours every night. She said, ‘Please, please sleep.’ But we want to do very well.”

Her instructors sensed her ability and during the course of the field school, she was encouraged to do things she thought she couldn’t do. “I would say, ‘I don’t think I can do this.” And they would say, ‘Yes, you can do it.’”

Afaf graduated with distinction.READ MORE »


The hounds of Giza

Posted on Mar 23, 2009

Anubis was the ancient Egyptian god of embalming. He is often pictured on tomb walls attending to the deceased during mummification. The inspiration for the god’s identity probably came from the wild dogs that roamed the ancient cemeteries.

The AERA osteo team uncovered a Late Period (747-525 BC) burial this week with five well-preserved canines. They are actually better preserved than many of the Late Period human burials.

Votive offerings to Anubis?

Votive offerings to Anubis?

These are not the first Late Period animal mummies (if we can call them that; they appear to be mummified) but they are the first from the cemetery at the Lost City of the Pyramids. Experienced as the diggers here are, the dogs generated quite a bit of excitement on the team.

Animals were often used as votives in late antiquity Egypt, objects given in dedication to a specific god or goddess. There are huge animal cemeteries containing mummies of ibises, cats, and other animals such as those at Saqqara.

Detail view of the canine’s spines, craniums, and canines.

Detail view of the canine’s spines, craniums, and canines.

These dogs were possibly buried in the Late Period cemetery as votives to the god Anubis. Like most ancient funerary material, they were a device to ensure the everlasting peace of the dead.READ MORE »


A force of nature

Posted on Mar 22, 2009

With her blond, surfer-girl looks and vernacular, it would be easy to mistake Jessica Kaiser for just another cute denizen of the California beach … until she starts talking osteo-archaeology.

Jessica directing field school students.

Jessica directing field school students.

Osteo-archaeology is the archaeology of human and animal remains, particularly skeletal remains. Jessica is completing her PhD based on her research of the Late Period (747-525 BC) burials that overlie the pyramid settlement at Giza. Born in Sweden, she lives in California and speaks flawless Californian, along with Swedish, Arabic, and other languages.

Jessica wants to examine the origins and diet of the people buried in the LP cemetery. Were they from the area or were they buried here because Giza was a pilgrimage site? She also has done a typology of Late Period coffins. 

Whether tossing about Latin names for skeletal pathologies, warmly discussing her students, or relating a visit to the Egyptian coast, Jessica is always very animated. But she seems most passionate about two things: old bones and the AERA/ARCE Field School.

Late Period canine burial at Giza.

Late Period canine burial at Giza.

Jessica has excavated with AERA since 2000 and her team has recovered nearly five hundred Late Period burials, 390 of them complete burials. They recently found one that shows clear evidence of Late Period mummification.READ MORE »