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 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 »