In the fall of 2017 while I traveled and lectured about AERA’s work in Cairo, Prague, New York, Shanghai, and Kaifeng, the AERA team planned our new research initiative: to look for the older phase of the Lost City site (a.k.a. Heit el-Ghurab, HeG) and, as part of that search, investigate the Kromer Dump site, a massive trash heap of demolition debris and waste that the 4th Dynasty pyramid builders dumped from their nearby settlements.
Season 2018, directed by Dr. Mohsen Kamel, AERA-Egypt Executive Director, launched in February with the Kromer Dump (KRO) excavation, work in Area Standing Wall Island (SWI) in HeG and the Khentkawes Town (KKT). Eight Advanced Field School trainees from the Ministry of Antiquities were fully integrated into our primary research agenda, and, as in the past, they worked alongside us. Under the direction of Dr. Richard Redding and Dan Jones, they made significant contributions to our basic survey and excavation work and to our analysis and interpretation of results, more than in any of our other field schools. Former field school student turned field school teacher, and now professional surveyor, Mohamed Abd el-Basat, assisted by Survey Instructor Amr Zakaria and the advanced survey students, carried out all the survey work at the Kromer site.
Our 2018 excavations at the “OK (Old Kingdom) Corral,” Area SWI, and in House D of the Khentkawes Town (KKT), were in the hands of advanced excavation students, supervised by Dan Jones and Rabee Eissa, another AERA Field School graduate.
In AERA’s Giza Field Lab, veteran AERA Field School supervisors Mahmoud el-Shafey and Samar Mahmoud honed in on the pottery and chipped stone tools (lithics), with Dr. Claire Malleson directing. The advanced archaeozoology students analyzed animal bone from the Kromer Dump and contributed the “Knucklebone Soup” hypothesis to explain the missing distal ends of the long bones of sheep and goat: did elites enjoy the flesh of meat-bearing bones while supplying fat and protein in a bone soup for a workforce?
Samar was seeing more flint knives than usual—for bone cutting? Ali Witsell, who led us in conceiving and promoting the Kromer research, found a surprising number of clay stoppers—perhaps for soup jars?
Ali and David Jeřábek, our clay sealings team, recognized and documented a clay sealing fragment from the Kromer Dump that has important implications for our work. It bore hieroglyphs that spell out Egypt’s oldest known use of Setep Za, one of five terms for “palace,” one of many clues that suggest a palace, perhaps a royal resthouse at the pyramid construction site, graced the older phase of the HeG or KKT settlement sites.
Everyone on AERA’s 2018 team brought together pieces of a puzzle from which a picture has emerged, a hypothesis we will test in future field seasons: a palace belonged to the older phase of one of the nearby settlements, HeG or KKT, from which people of the highest rank directed and provisioned a workforce. Can we locate its foundations?
Please stay with us on our adventure of discovery, as we take the clues from Season 2018 on a search for the pyramid workforce and palace, apparently as intertwined in ancient times as training and discovery have intrinsically become in AERA’s agenda.