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 »
Posted on Mar 23, 2009
Anubis was the ancient Egyptian god of embalming. He is often pictured on tomb walls attending to the deceased during mummification. The inspiration for the god’s identity probably came from the wild dogs that roamed the ancient cemeteries.
The AERA osteo team uncovered a Late Period (747-525 BC) burial this week with five well-preserved canines. They are actually better preserved than many of the Late Period human burials.
These are not the first Late Period animal mummies (if we can call them that; they appear to be mummified) but they are the first from the cemetery at the Lost City of the Pyramids. Experienced as the diggers here are, the dogs generated quite a bit of excitement on the team.
Animals were often used as votives in late antiquity Egypt, objects given in dedication to a specific god or goddess. There are huge animal cemeteries containing mummies of ibises, cats, and other animals such as those at Saqqara.
These dogs were possibly buried in the Late Period cemetery as votives to the god Anubis. Like most ancient funerary material, they were a device to ensure the everlasting peace of the dead. Ironically, these canines were buried on top of at least two earlier burials, probably disturbing the everlasting peace of the previous inhabitants.… READ MORE »
Posted on Mar 22, 2009
With her blond, surfer-girl looks and vernacular, it would be easy to mistake Jessica Kaiser for just another cute denizen of the California beach … until she starts talking osteo-archaeology.
Osteo-archaeology is the archaeology of human and animal remains, particularly skeletal remains. Jessica is completing her PhD based on her research of the Late Period (747-525 BC) burials that overlie the pyramid settlement at Giza. Born in Sweden, she lives in California and speaks flawless Californian, along with Swedish, Arabic, and other languages.
Jessica wants to examine the origins and diet of the people buried in the LP cemetery. Were they from the area or were they buried here because Giza was a pilgrimage site? She also has done a typology of Late Period coffins.
Whether tossing about Latin names for skeletal pathologies, warmly discussing her students, or relating a visit to the Egyptian coast, Jessica is always very animated. But she seems most passionate about two things: old bones and the AERA/ARCE Field School.
Jessica has excavated with AERA since 2000 and her team has recovered nearly five hundred Late Period burials, 390 of them complete burials. They recently found one that shows clear evidence of Late Period mummification. Its abdomen was stuffed full of funerary material.… READ MORE »
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 »
Posted on Mar 4, 2009
The excavations at Giza are off to a roaring start. One of the challenges of excavating the Lost City at Giza is that there are hundreds of Late Period burials (747-525 BC; see A Girl and Her Goddess) above the 4th Dynasty layers.
They’re fascinating to study but they slow us down, as each one must be excavated and recorded. The osteology team, led by Jessica Kaiser, is very busy, as you’ll see from the excerpts below of team member Scott Haddow’s field report of but two of many excavated burials.
The burials mostly cover an area of our main dig site near the Wall of the Crow. We also find them in the excavations at KKT, the town built around the monument of Khentkawes, northwest of the Lost City. Last week the osteology team excavated a couple of interesting burials.
At KKT, Burial 461 was a skeleton that had several pathological lesions, including a severe case of osteomyelitis (a deep infection of the bone, usually resulting from a penetrating wound) involving the entire left tibia, and several cervical vertebrae with signs of degenerative joint disease on the vertebrae.
Based on the appearance of the reactive bone on the infected tibia, it appears the lesion was active perimortem (at the time of death) and may have led to the death of the individual through septicaemia (blood poisoning).… READ MORE »