Posts Tagged ‘AERA/ARCE Field School’

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.

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.

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 »

Graduation Day

Posted on Apr 2, 2009

“I feel like new born,” said field school graduate ‎Amr Zakaria Mohammed when asked how he felt at the end of the AERA/ARCE Giza Field School. Graduation day was the culmination of eight weeks of very, very long days and hard work.

The graduates, all Egyptian antiquities inspectors, have been out in the cold and heat of Giza, on their hands and knees in the dirt, patiently scraping, drawing, surveying, and recording. They’ve spent afternoons and evenings six days a week in lectures, late-night study, and taking exams.

Sunday they head back to work all across Egypt. Thursday, the SCA and Dr. Zahi Hawass sent them home with congratulations and encouragement for the future.

Mark Lehner began the ceremonies with an acknowledgment of the hard work of the students, their instructors, and especially Joint Field Directors Mohsen Kamel and Ana Tavares. Without them there would be no field school.

He also gratefully acknowledged the partnership of the American Research Center in Egypt and introduced SCA Project Director, Dr. Janice Kamrin. Janice told us ARCE Director Gerry Scott regretted he could not join the students at graduation, since he believes that training is an essential part of ARCE’s mission in Egypt.

Janice then introduced Secretary General Dr.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.”

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.’”READ MORE »


Posted on Mar 18, 2009

A small group of us had dinner with Mark Lehner last night and I caught up with him at the dig site this morning. One of the fascinating stories he told today was about the apparent pattern of occupation, abandonment, and then reoccupation of the Menkaure valley temple (MVT) and perhaps the Khentkawes town (KKT) as well.

AERA is re-excavating areas that Reisner and Hassan both recorded. In general, those researchers, however, did not do an in depth study of the phasing of the two sites, which was not common in their era (although Reisner did two phases in MVT). Phasing refers to an examination of the relationships between stratigraphy or layers of archaeology to determine when structures were built relative to each other. This is one of AERA’s key goals at MVT and KKT.

Reisner recorded evidence of perhaps 350 years of occupation in the town that eventually overtook the Menkaure temple. When the temple town was abandoned, layers of aeolian (windblown) sand accumulated. Those layers were subsequently built upon when the site was reoccupied. The last king of the 6th Dynasty, Pepi II, left a record that he restored the temple during his reign, hundreds of years after Menkaure’s son had inaugurated his father’s cult.READ MORE »

Twentieth Year Celebration II: Lectures at the SCA

Posted on Mar 15, 2009

Dr. Zahi Hawass gave warm mid-day remarks about the AERA/ARCE Field School to an already packed auditorium at the Supreme Council of Antiquities on Sunday, 15 March. Dr. Hawass’ statement introduced the second half of the fascinating lectures by AERA team leaders and Mark Lehner.  

Dr. Hawass said that his friendship with Mark “…is one of the most important relationships showing how an Egyptian and foreigner who are highly motivated and educated can work together for good. Mark does this for us.”

He’s very proud of the Egyptian graduates of the school.

Accent on the international

Typically, with AERA’s international composition, the talks were given in a variety of accented English by participants from nine different nationalities, including Egyptians (accented, of course, to my American ears).

A lot of the evidence presented about the pyramid settlement indicates a formally-established, highly-controlled, royally-provisioned city.


I arrived a little late (I’d been visiting Egyptian friends across Cairo until about 1:00 am), just as osteologist Jessic Kaiser was presenting. Jessica was explaining how the most common pathologies on the Late Period skeletons at Giza are, not surprisingly, stress related injuries from hard work, and some malnutrition (not related to pyramid building, as this is thousands of years later).READ MORE »

Filling the gaps

Posted on Mar 12, 2009

Driving back to the hotel from the main dig site today, I was reminded of two features of the daily commute during my month digging with the AERA team in 2004: driving through the crowded suburb of Nazlet es Saman past the Sphinx and hearing three or four languages spoken at once in the microbus. French, Polish, Swedish, English, and Arabic were the interwoven music of drive time.

Today I heard almost exclusively Arabic because I was on the bus with Egyptian field school students.

All of these students work for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities as inspectors. Most of the 1,500 or so inspectors in Egypt are trained in Egyptology, the study of the language and culture of ancient Egypt. The AERA/ARCE field school teaches them modern archaeological technique. 


Will Schenck has worked in Egypt for decades and has taught and done illustration with AERA in previous seasons. Will is teaching illustration to the students by giving them hands on training in the field and on computers. He also shows up on Betsy Bryan’s blog from the Mut Temple in Luxor (see Hopkins in Egypt in the blogroll).

One of the students remarked that although they use modern equipment at their jobs, such as total stations, GPS, and GIS, here at the field school they are learning the very basics of modern archaeology: drawing, surveying, excavation, and recording.READ MORE »

Giza Field School 2009

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

Students and teachers have begun to arrive for AERA’s 2009 Giza Field School, cosponsored once again by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). We welcome back some of the 2007 Giza Field School alumni and 2008 Luxor Field School graduates. The students will be learning advanced skills in:


  • Ceramics
  • Illustration
  • Survey
  • Osteology (excavation of human remains) 

We’re proud to say that some of our graduates will be teaching classes to their fellow Egyptians. This is a great advantage, as it means they’ll teach classes in Arabic and the foreign instructors can take a step back. This helps us fulfill our mission of eventually making the Field School an Egyptian-run operation.


Our aim is to teach comprehensive archaeological skills to the cadre of inspectors who oversee all of the historic sites in Egypt, to better equip them to protect Egypt’s fragile and increasingly-threatened heritage.


The American Research Center in Egypt launched the first field schools in the 1990s and in 2005, AERA made the Giza Plateau Mapping Project and Lost City site a platform for a more optimized field school. We thank our colleagues at the Supreme Council of antiquities, especially Dr. Zahi Hawass and Shabaan Abd el-Gawad, for their continued support.READ MORE »