2012 Field Season Archive

Connecting Our Data Through Digitization

Posted on Apr 2, 2012

Posted by Rebekah Miracle

Even though I’ve been back home from Giza for over a week now, my work with the AERA geographic information system (GIS) isn’t over– it has just shifted into a new phase.

During the excavation season, my priority was the daily digitization of new features as they came out of the ground. Over 900 new archaeological features were digitized this season, which kept me very busy! I worked closely with the excavators and our archivist to make sure that all of this season’s data was properly recorded and to provide team members with a quick, accurate, and integrated visualization of the KKT & HeG sites.

Now that the season is over, all of the new data has to be carefully checked, linked to the database of feature descriptions, and finally integrated into our existing dataset. After the data is finalized and integrated, it can be used for analysis and to make maps throughout the year – for the excavators’ reports, for publications and presentations, and to combine with the specialists’ datasets to help them place their finds in context and aid in their understanding of the site. The GIS is where all of our data ultimately comes together – archival, survey, excavation, special projects, and specialist data – and it forms an important part of the digital archive of our work on the site.… READ MORE »


Time for tea?? Final week in the Giza Lab

Posted on Mar 27, 2012

Posted by Dr. Claire Malleson

After a busy season of work on materials from four areas of the AERA excavations, the Giza lab is now winding down. The ceramicists have finished their recording and drawing, the objects are all registered, sketched, photographed and stored, the animal bones have been identified, and the sealings are all stored for future seasons. The work this season was conducted mainly by the SCA Inspectors, who have trained with the AERA/ARCE field schools and graduated through the advanced levels to become specialists, working alongside the international specialists. They have all been looking at the materials from the Gallery, Menkaure Valley temple and Khentkawes Valley temple – all very interesting, and there have been several special discoveries.

I arrived late on this season, and I am working my way through the archaeo-botanical samples from two areas of the site; Khentkawes valley temple and Gallery III.3. These days in the lab at the end of the season are usually peaceful and quiet; the lab is almost empty now. The occasional specialist pops up to check something, re-photograph an object or potsherd. Most people are now very hard at work on their final reports, writing up their findings based in our project center.… READ MORE »

Madient Het el-Gourab: What I was doing 10 years ago

Posted on Feb 21, 2012

Posted by Ashraf Abd el-Aziz, SCA archaeologist

I was talking to Ahmed Ezz, one of the team members, about when I excavated Gallery III-4 at Madient Het el-Gourab when I realized that excavation was 10 years ago and no one excavated in the gallery complex until this year, 10 years later. One of my dreams was to excavate in these galleries again and I’m very pleased to be back to the galleries this season.

I was alone with four workmen only when I excavated Gallery III-4. We excavated the entire gallery except its northern part in squares which we had excavated in 2001. My Gallery III.4 excavation was almost 150 square meters. The AERA team said to me, “You cannot excavate the entire gallery in a season” and even Dr. Mark Lehner was unsure telling me “Frankly, it is a lot of work for one person”. But I felt I could do it. In 4 months I excavated GIII-4 with only the four workmen and people keep asking me, “How did you excavate the entire gallery alone in one season?”

This season I have come back to the galleries and I’m excavating in the gallery next to GIII-4. We want to compare the layout and material culture of GIII-3 with GIII-4.… READ MORE »

Reading History Through Holes

Posted on Feb 16, 2012

Posted by Hanan Mahmoud

Working in excavations requires you to be patient and record everything stratigraphically starting from modern to old. But working in trenches enables you to answer specific questions. Sometimes archaeologists have to make “shofi holes”.

An interesting thing happened to me with my team members during our excavation in Trench G in Menkaure Valley Temple at Giza 2012. We were working behind one of the limestone core blocks that dates to Menkaure; suddenly we heard a loud yelp. It was one of our workers crying when he fell down into an unseen hole our excavations had uncovered. The depth of this hole was about 3 meters and 0.41 meters in diameter. Luckily, our worker was not hurt. The archeologists use the hole to read the stratigraphy and the limestone foundation of the temple as a shofi hole. This pit revealed to us the courses of lime stone core block.

Moreover, the most famous discoveries in ancient Egyptian history happened in this way. For example, Carter found the tomb of the king Montohotep “neb hebt re” in Deir El Baharei in Luxor. A horse fell down the shaft of the tomb. Also Zahai Hawas discovered both of the workmen cemetery at Giza and the Golden mummies in Baharia Oasis when a donkey fell down and sunk in the sand.… READ MORE »

Learning The Language Of Others

Posted on Feb 14, 2012

Posted by Alexandra Jacobsen

I was given the wonderful opportunity to return as a volunteer this year. I realized very quickly that only knowing a few words in Arabic from my last trip was not going to be enough this season. Archaeology itself is difficult but learning archaeology in Arabic is extremely challenging. I was fortunate to find two wonderful Egyptian archaeologists from the field school, Mohamed Elkhateeb and Hanan Mahmoud to give me lessons.

I am slowly building my vocabulary. There are many different dialects. Mohamed and Hanan are teaching me what you would call their “slang”. I write down everything I learn in my notebook and Mohammad has graciously given up a few of his lunch breaks to “test” me on my progress. Learning Arabic is not required since everyone on the project speaks English, but I feel learning a language can teach you about the people and their cultural heritage. Egypt especially has such a rich history; you can learn so much by just having a conversation with an Egyptian. I am truly grateful for my teachers!

The Difficulty of Understanding Other People’s Language Was the Reason to Teach Others My Own

Posted on Feb 8, 2012

Posted by Mohamed El-Khattib

Being an outsider and not being able to communicate with the people around you makes you feel very alone. I know English but I am Egyptian and my native language is Arabic. I was given the opportunity to go to London and work with the British Museum last year. This experience gave me the realization that a person who does not know English and visits London would experience a lot of loneliness.

When I met Alex Jacobsen, I quickly realized, that she was an outsider. I felt that teaching her Arabic would change that. I did not want her to experience the feeling of loneliness that I associated with my trip to London. Being an archaeologist, you have to be able to communicate with workers, who cannot speak any English. Most importantly, some of the tools we use don’t have English names such as “Mukteef.” You must know these words to work on our sites.

The way I teach Alex is by writing out the sounds of the Arabic words in English. She writes these down in her notebook. Learning how to write Arabic is completely different from being able to speak in Arabic. We decided its best to start with speaking it rather than writing for now.… READ MORE »

To Prevent Insects From Eating Your Seeds, Use The Egyptian Method

Posted on Feb 1, 2012

Posted by Rabee Eissa, SCA archaeologist

One of the most interesting things that I noticed in my excavation, in what seems to be a storage building that dates to the Old Kingdom in Giza, is a concentration of ash. This ash surrounded circular mud brick silos that had been constructed beside each other forming an L. The ash itself was very dark, dense and soft. Thinking about the silos and the ash, I remembered my mother and her storage methods for the butter. She put the butter in a big aluminum jar and surrounded the jar with a layer of soft ash to prevent the ants from reaching the butter. My colleague Hussein Rekaby, an excavation supervisor, told me that the people in his village near Aswan still use the same idea in their construction of storage silos. They start by spreading ash horizontally, then they put clay to make the base of the silo before building the silo itself. Hanan Mahmoud, hearing Hussein’s story, told me that she exposed a layer of ash deposit under a sequence of round mud brick silos when she excavated House E to the East of Queen Khentkawes tomb at Giza. We follow some of our ancestors’ daily life behaviors and customs.… READ MORE »

From Modern Life, We Explain The Past

Posted on Jan 30, 2012

Posted by Essam Shihab, SCA Archaeologist

Modern life provides clues to the past. I started the 2012 season by cleaning the houses in the north side of the Khentkawes causeway in order to record them. We defined the walls, exterior and interior, that form the houses, we defined the earlier phase of usage of the houses and the later phase that witnessed the modifications and additions, which are represented in the blocking events and new dividing walls. But I found something that made me think about modern life in the villages.

Frequently, in modern villages the level of the ground of the streets is higher than the entrances of the houses, and the people must do something to prevent rainwater from running into their houses. By raising the door sills, they create a dam that keeps the water out. In the village societies when their houses became very old and the unpaved streets become higher because the dirt collects in them, they cannot always demolish the house and rebuild a new one higher. As a short-term solution, they remove the roofs and build the old walls higher. They seal up the windows that became very close to the ground and fill the inside spaces to raise the level of the floors.… READ MORE »

‘Back To Barracks’ – Excavation of Gallery III.3

Posted on Jan 23, 2012

Posted by Ashraf Abd el-Aziz and Dan Jones

The 2012 excavation season sees a return to the Gallery Complex at AERA’s main site of Heit el-Ghurab. The immense size of the complex, which is divided into four sets of elongated galleries, is a defining feature of the site. Previous excavation of parts of these enigmatic structures, by the AERA team over the years, has given rise to the idea that they could have been built as accommodations for the workers who built the Pyramids at Giza.

This is an exciting idea and one of our aims this season is to see whether we can find evidence to support this view. We also want to gain information on how these structures were built and the changes they went through during the time they were used. This is an important part of our work because although AERA’s map of the Complex (see below) appears to show that the galleries were built according to a standard plan there are variations in size and internal layout.

Therefore, we want to try and understand why this was the case. Our work this season will concentrate on Gallery III.3. This Gallery was chosen for our investigation because not only has it already been partially excavated but it is next door to Gallery III.4 the entire ground plan of which was studied previously by Ashraf Abd el-Aziz.… READ MORE »

New Year, New Start

Posted on Jan 17, 2012

Posted by Ana Tavares, Joint Field Director

With the New Year we open a new excavation season in Giza. We have been preparing for weeks: equipment, archives, travel, and housing. Traditionally, we started on site soon after the Coptic Christmas Holiday on 7th of January. We spent a week removing the protective sand we had left at the end of our previous seasons from four excavation areas in readiness for the team. Saied Salah, our Reis (overseer of workmen), monitored and photographed the entire process, which ranges from removing modern thick, sand deposits, to light trowelling of delicate areas.

This season we have, essentially, an Egyptian team. This is the culmination of many seasons, when Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) archaeologists have joined the AERA Giza team, working side by side with foreigners. This process was accelerated with the AERA/ARCE* field-schools, which we have been running since 2005. The Egyptian graduates, in archaeology, survey, ceramics, illustration, osteology, became teachers and now run aspects of the field-school themselves. This season, just two months after we completed the Mit Rahina Beginners’ field-school, we are running a ‘training-on-the-job’ programme for Giza SCA Inspectors.

We are excavating in both in the workers settlement Heit el Ghurab (Lost City) and in the Khentkawes/Menkaure area.… READ MORE »