AERA News Archive

ARCE Sphinx Project 1979-1983 Archive

The ARCE SPHINX PROJECT (1979-1983) aimed to produce scale drawings (plans and elevations) of the Great Sphinx of Giza, where no scale drawings of this unique monument had been produced before, to map the greater Sphinx site, including three ancient Egyptian temples situated east of the statue, and the larger quarry forming the Sphinx “amphitheater.” Objectives included elevations, profiles, and a detailed master plan of the Sphinx, detailed section and profile drawings showing the masonry restorations added to the statue, topographical maps of the Sphinx ditch and larger quarry, and maps of the structural geology of the site, showing stratification and faults.

The idea was that we could achieve a better understanding of the origin of the Sphinx and how the 4th Dynasty Egyptians created the Sphinx from careful, recorded observations of its structure and geology, and that a good part of the history of the Sphinx could be read from detailed survey and mapping of the stratified masonry on the Sphinx, and from the condition of the bedrock core under the earliest masonry, as well as from analysis of tool marks and mortar bonding the different phases.

An image from ARCE Sphinx Project 1979-1983 Archive.

Dr. James Allen, then Assistant Director of the American Research Center (now Charles Edwin Wilbour Professor of Egyptology at Brown University) applied as Project Director to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization to survey and map the Sphinx.… READ MORE »

“Giza and the Pyramids: The Definitive History” out now

In this new book Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass provide insights into the history of the Giza plateau based on more than 40 years of excavating and studying the site.

Though today the pyramids and the Sphinx rise from the desert, isolated and enigmatic, they were once surrounded by temples, vast cemeteries, harbors, and teeming towns. This book describes that past in vibrant detail, along with the history of exploration, the religious and social function of the pyramids, how the pyramids were built, and the story of Giza before and after the Old Kingdom. These monuments are brought to life through hundreds of illustrations, including photographs of the monuments, excavations, and objects, as well as plans, reconstructions, and images from remote-controlled cameras and laser scans.

“Lehner and Hawass have produced an astonishingly comprehensive study of the excavations and scientific investigations that have, over two centuries, uncovered the engineering techniques, religious and cultural significance and other aspects of the Giza site.” Read the full review in Nature. 

Available now on Amazon or wherever books are sold. … READ MORE »

Introducing a new website all about Memphis!

At, we hope to bring Egypt’s ancient capital city alive once more and to share Memphis’ many stories with audiences near and far.

This bilingual English-Arabic website has information for both visitors and researchers about the sites and history of Memphis, from its birth 4900 years ago to the present day.

At you’ll find:

  • a downloadable brochure & guidebook,
  • information for visitors about the museum facilities and the Memphis temples and monuments still visible today, including the colossus of Ramesses II and Egypt’s second largest sphinx,
  • information for researchers including a bibliography, detailed plans made from 2015-2017 survey data, and the location of objects from Memphis now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo,
  • field diaries and videos produced by our amazing field school students,
  • information for tour guides to help them better explain Memphis and its important history to tourists,
  • and information about the project itself, including our recording methodology and information about the project’s staff, students and sponsors.

This project is part of our two-year Memphis Site & Community Development (MSCD) project. Special thanks to USAID  for funding the MSCD project, our collaborators at the University of York, and the many Ministry of Antiquities inspectors from across Egypt who made this project such a success!… READ MORE »

Mark Lehner featured in the Boston Globe

A new article from the Boston Globe features a discussion with Dr. Mark Lehner about his latest theories on how the ancient Egyptians used a system of canals and harbors to help build the pyramids:

Read the Boston Globe article: “Did the Egyptians create a canal and a port to bring stone to the Great Pyramid?”

For a more in-depth examination of these theories, watch the BBC documentary, “Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence”, which has already aired in the UK & will be airing in the US & Canada soon!… READ MORE »

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

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 »

Click here for a complete list of our articles and other publications