Below are selections from our 2009 – 2017 Field School Blog

Congratulations to our team on a successful 2017 season!

June 6th, 2017

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

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The 10th anniversary of the AERA field school

April 21st, 2015

by Reham Mahmoud Zaky (Field-School student, Inspector of the Ministry of Antiquities)

In a warm atmosphere, the 10th anniversary of AERA field school was held in the presence of Dr. Mark Lehner, Ana Tavares, and Mohsen Kamel from AERA accompanied by our supervisors, and students. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Mr. Sabry Abdel-Aziz, who witnessed the birth of field school, Dr. Mahmoud Afifi, Mr. Ahmed Ebeid, Mr. Kamal Wahid, Afifi Rohaim, and Mr. Mohammed Yossef from the Ministry of Antiquities also attended.

Mark Lehner with AERA field school student, Mohammed Abd el-Maksoud. Photo by V. Pabeschitz

The party became more lovely with our colleagues from past field schools all over the last 10 years. I have met old friends who had not seen for a while! Especially my dear colleagues from the Giza plateau who received their certificates for 2012 AERA Field school.

We took many photographs with each other to save this memory for ever. Photo by V. Pabeschitz

Dr. Mark said a word about how the field school started in 2005, its objectives and the challenges which faced it. For me, the most interesting part was the presentation photos of school students all over the last 10 years. Egyptian students then, they have become our instructors now, and they are teaching us in different fields: excavation, osteology and pottery.… READ MORE »

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Final check-in from Standing Wall Island

April 3rd, 2015

by Kirk Roberts (archaeologist)

As work on site draws to a close at Standing Wall Island (SWI), Field School 3 have begun the work of painstakingly recording, photographing and drawing all of the archaeological remains that we can see. What began as an open space surrounded by a few stone walls, is now clearly recognizable as a building, with an entranceway, corridor, and rooms featuring a range of activity and storage areas. As our understanding of the site has grown, though, so have our questions about it!

Reham and Ayman (field-school students) hard at work. View to the North. Photo by Y. Mahmoud.

It is now clear that SWI was not a simple structure built as one event, but rather a large, imposing building which was gradually re-built and expanded, until it encompassed the large enclosure wall which is such a characteristic feature of the site. Within the building were a series of large, regular rooms accessible only via a single narrow doorway on to the outside. Privacy and security were very important elements in the design of the building – many of the rooms can only be accessed via narrow winding entrances, sometimes with screening walls to prevent people from seeing inside.… READ MORE »

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A Fourth Dynasty harbor and dolphins in one day!

March 31st, 2015

by Ayman Eltokhey (Field-school student, Inspector of the Ministry of Antiquities)

For the last field trip of the Beginner’s Field-School 2015 we gathered in the villa at 6:00 AM, and then the bus moved towards to the Red Sea at 7:00 AM. The weather was very good and it was a sunny day.

French excavation site, Wadi el-Jarf. Photo by Yasser Mahmoud.

After one and half hour we reached Ayn Sukhna and took a rest. Some of us went towards to the Red Sea shore to take photos, while the others drank coffee.

Students and supervisors take a little break during the trip. Photo by M. Yasser Mahmoud.

Then we moved again to the south on Zafarana road which is located between the Red Sea and the mountain of Galala. It was a very beautiful view. 20 KM south of Zafarana we reached the archaeological site which lies inside the desert about 3 KM. We could see the French mission tents from the road.

The French team kindly showed us their work. Photo by V. Pabeschitz.

We started the visit to the site with the French mission director, Dr. Pierre Tallet, who explained all the details about the galleries, excavated inside the rocks.… READ MORE »

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What is behind the bones…

March 24th, 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.

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 »

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Not Walking on Memphis but HeG

March 10th, 2015

Taking daily life for granted

by Debra Karbashewski (AFT/AUC Student)

Imagine that you have never been to a restaurant in your entire life. One day you are granted an invitation to dine out with the world’s best chef. This is how it feels to be a beginner in archaeology field training at Heit el Ghurab (HeG), “Lost City of the Pyramid Builders”.

Pottery dump in ‘Standing Wall Island’. Photo by D. Karbashewski.

What a gift. I have been dropped right into a real excavation directly behind the Pyramids, the most famous archaeology site in the world. The professional team of archaeologists are knowledgeable and patient. My Egyptian counterparts are well versed in archaeology, hieroglyphs and ancient Egyptian culture. They have an incredible eye for details. They are tremendously happy people that have open heartedly accepted me into their study group.

We are studying settlement archaeology. What was daily life like for the pyramids builders? Who knew it would be about bread, beer and meat? It reminds me how we continually take daily life for granted. I never have to think about where my drink, bread and meat will come from. After a long day of digging and cleaning sand, an excellent supply is provided by AERA’s talented cook Ahmed.… READ MORE »

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Sand Storm on Site

March 7th, 2015

by Mohammed Abdel Maksoud (Student, Inspector of the Ministry of Antiquities)

Two weeks ago there was a big storm on the site which made us leave the site early at 10:30 a.m. The first thing which happened was a light wind, and we continued our work. Step by step the wind became stronger than before, after that we could not complete our work because the sand prevented us from seeing anything. In this stage we tried to write the data for everything which we found on that day but it was very difficult to write or give numbers for the bags – the wind was very hard.

Sandstorm on site. View to the North. Photo by Yasser Mahmoud

Our eyes could not see anything and we were afraid of the sand in our eyes. At the start of the wind I tried to continue and not to miss any information about the site because every day at the site there is a lot of a new information. I hoped that the wind would finish and we could continue the work. But it became very difficult. So we were sorry but we had to return all our tools to the store and we went to wait for the cars to transfer us to the villa.… READ MORE »

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I belong to the Field School Group 2

March 2nd, 2015

By Samar Mahmoud (Field School Student, Inspector of the Ministry of Antiquities)

Firstly, let me seize the opportunity to express my feeling about joining such a great field school with the well-organized team held by AERA.

I am a member of the Field School Group 2 team along with Dan, Essam, Hazem, Nehad, Debra and Mohamed. Together we are carrying on the analysis of the Standing Wall Island (SWI) area of the Heit el-Ghurab (HeG) site at Giza. We start work at 7am and the first thing we do is go to the storeroom to get the equipment we need for the day. When we walk to the storeroom Debra takes photos of us, the sky, or horses.

AERA 2015 Field School Group 2. Standing (from left to right) Essam, me, Nehad, Debra, Hazem, Mohamed, and Dan (sitting). Photo by Yasser Mahmoud.

There are three groups in the 2015 AERA field school. Group 1 is working away from us in an area called AA-South which is next to the very interesting Pedestal Building. Field School Group 3 are our neighbors and also working in Standing Wall Island (SWI).

Standing Wall Island is at the southern end of the HeG site west of the “Abu el Hol Sports Club” and within the southern tip of the western town of HeG.… READ MORE »

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Learning How to Unravel the Evidence

February 26th, 2015

by Claire Malleson (Director of Archaeological Science, Lab Manager and archeo-botanist)

Once again, we are back working in the AERA lab workroom on the Giza plateau. Every year a team of specialists gathers to study, record, draw, photograph and analyze all the archaeological materials; ceramics, animal bones, plants, lithics, pigments, mud seal impressions, mudbricks, soil cores, human skeletons and objects.

I first joined this team in 2007 (during an AERA/MSA fieldschool season) to assist Dr. Mary Anne Murray, who was the Director of Archaeological Science, Lab manager and Archaeobotanist. After several weeks at the microscope I was hooked, continued to train with her here, and I now work as a specialist at many sites in Egypt. Since 2013 I have also been Director of Archaeological Science and Lab Manager here for AERA. I love working with plant remains and I love running the lab; looking after the team, managing the work we do here. One of the things that I loved most about AERA during my first season was the fieldschool, but it is only this season that I am fully involved for the first time, so returning this year to run the lab and teach Archaeobotany and Lab/workroom management is especially exciting for me.… READ MORE »

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What is our backsight today?

February 22nd, 2015

…dumpy level, total station, single context record, temporary benchmark…

by Rahel Glanzmann (AFT /AUC trainee)

A few weeks ago, these words had no practical meaning for me.

I have a deep passion for the Ancient Egyptian culture and I try to absorb anything that concerns the subject of Egyptology while studying at my home base University in Basel, Switzerland. A program such as the one offered by the AERA field school had for long time been an aspiration in order to get closer to the REAL, i.e. to gain fieldwork experience right there where theory meets real practice. For me, this is a dream-come-true experience. But more than that, just a few days here and I was captured by the feel for the professional engagement that I want to devote to any of the tasks offered for training.


Mohammed, A. and Mohammed, A. and me cleaning the surface on our first day. Photo by F. Sadarangani

Time is flying: our class is already two weeks into the field school program.

The days are very structured. We usually get up very early in the morning to have breakfast and to gather all excavation tools. We leave at 6.45 am for the excavation site and back to the Villa for lunch.… READ MORE »

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Plaster, Pits and Pots: Feeling Smug in FS1

February 16th, 2015

by Freya Sadarangani (AERA Post-Excavation Manager)

It’s great to be back excavating at HeG, and great to be back teaching at the AERA fieldschool. Teaching in this fieldschool is a pretty special experience for me – the students are always so incredibly keen and interested, serious about learning but always there’s a good mix of site banter and laughter. And this season is no exception, I am teaching fieldschool Unit 1 (FS1), with my colleague Rabee Eissa Mohammed. We have five great students (Aly Ahmed Aly, Hanaa Hagag Sayed, Kholoud Abd el- Naby, Mohammed Abd el-Maqsoud, Rahel Glanzmann) and two trainees (Ibrahim Samir Ibrahim and Mohamed Arafa), and are joined by archaeologist Virag Pabeschitz.


Rabee Eissa Mohamed teaching the FS1 students and trainees how to use the Auto Level.
Photo by V.Pabeschitz.

We’re only a week into the fieldschool, but already the students have learnt and experienced the importance of cleaning the site thoroughly, identifying different deposits by their composition, colour, and types of inclusions; co-ordinate systems and our own 5m grid; planning archaeological features at scale 1:20; setting up and using the Auto Level – and loads more.


FS1 students planning in Area AA-S, view to the East. Photo by F.… READ MORE »

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The Riddle of Standing Wall Island

February 8th, 2015

by Kirk Roberts (archaeologist)

It’s the first week on site, and the AERA team is excited to be back at Standing Wall Island (SWI). This year, a team of Egyptian students will be working in the Eastern part of this intriguing area, and trying to understand how this enigmatic island of archaeology fits in with the houses, streets and galleries that make up the rest of the site. Unusually, this large, walled enclosure features rounded corners – elements that point towards the management of animals. Previous work by our animal bone expert Dr. Richard Redding, has suggested that the area may have functioned as a cattle corral, and this exciting possibility means that SWI may help us to understand how Heit el-Ghurab was provisioned with meat – an important food resource for which we find abundant evidence. This year, we will test this theory by carefully targeting excavations to look for evidence that might point towards the area having been used as a stock enclosure.


Field School Team 3 begin the work of clearing Standing Wall Island (SWI),
view to the North. Photo by Kirk Roberts.

When the team got to the site last week, we were confronted with a thick mass of weeds and plant-life.… READ MORE »

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New Archaeologist on Board

February 5th, 2015

By Virág Pabeschitz (Hungarian archaeologist)

Working in Egypt a stone’s throw from the pyramids? This is a real archaeologist heaven!

My first impression is that the AERA team has done a very professional and important job. This excavation associated with the field-school is a very useful experience for everyone

team_410 The team so far. Photo by Yasser Mahmoud.

We have busy days which start early in the morning, but it’s never too early to start your day in Giza to excavate in one of the most important archaeological sites. Have you ever seen the pyramids early in the morning without tourist? Truly amazing.

It is very heart-warming to see the field school students as they gather around their teacher and soak up the new knowledge in the field and after they put it into practice. I think they will be very successful and professional archaeologists.

survey_410 Survey class on site. Photo by Virag Pabeschitz.

In Hungary we use similar excavation techniques and databases as here but this is a very useful experience for me to work in an international team and meet with other materials, artifacts and conditions. I can learn every day from my professional teammates about lots of topics like flints, GIS, or cultural heritage, etc.… READ MORE »

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The AERA 2015 Field Season Begins!

January 30th, 2015

A Season of Migration to the South

By Ana Tavares (joint Field-Director)

Gradually the team assembles at Giza for the 2015 excavation season. For most of us, this involves travelling south – away from cold weather, storms and snow. It is wonderful to be back in the warmth of the Giza plateau.

We have been preparing for the season for weeks; assembling equipment, organizing documentation, surveying the excavation grid, cleaning the site from vegetation, and removing the protective layer of sand (backfill) which protects the mud brick ruins in between excavation seasons. We also prepared manuals, lectures and equipment for the field-school students. Field-schools are an important component of AERA’s fieldwork and this year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the AERA/ARCE field-school. We would like to assemble alumnae from all over Egypt and celebrate with a party towards the end of the season!

Beer and Meat
The site work also takes us south. This season we are back in the Heit el-Ghurab settlement, investigating two areas in the southern part of the site. These areas are named AA-south and SWI (for Standing Wall Island). The research questions for the season centre on ‘beer and meat’.

The southern part of the site is occupied by a neighbourhood which we named the ‘Western Town’.… READ MORE »

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Perunefer or ‘bon voyage’ in ancient Egyptian

October 7th, 2014

We reached the end of the 2014 Mit Rahina field-school.

‘All too short’, is the unanimous feeling of the team. But we have managed to do a lot in only 4 weeks. Our aims were to train students in advanced ceramics analysis and archaeological illustration; and analyse certain categories of material – Old Kingdom ceramics, objects, mud sealings and ground stones.

Every morning we left the Giza Archaeological Centre soon after 6am, to drive to Memphis where we arrived to see the sun rise over the palm groves. We worked there until 1pm with a short break for breakfast at 10am. September-October is date harvest time at Memphis so often we had trays of different types of dates brought to us for tasting. Some prefer the bright yellow fibrous dates, others the dark brown soft dates, dripping with ’honey’. All washed down with strong tea made over a wood fire.

Back at Giza, after a late lunch, the afternoons were spent working in the library and on the computers. The illustrators digitally ‘inked’ their drawings; the ceramicists translated articles and researched comparative material for their reports. The students also downloaded the cameras, entered data on photo and ceramics databases, scanned and archived their work.… READ MORE »

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