Posted on Jun 5, 2014
*This is the fourth installment of a series by AERA Sealings Team Member and Managing Editor Ali Witsell. Read part one, part two, part three and John Nolan’s introductory sealings blog from the beginning of the season, for a refresher course on sealing terminology.
The real story of the informal sealings at Giza was brought to light with re-excavations in an area called AA a few years ago. What the Pottery Mound corpus was to defining “formality” at Giza, I think Area AA will be to our finally defining “informality.” Area AA lies in the Western Town of HeG and is composed of three structures that seem – based on the formals that we reconstructed from that area – to have been related to the administration and potentially the provisioning of a group of priests working for the Royal Funerary Workshop (or the wabet), largely dating to Menkaure’s time. (John has an article on these priests slated for publication in the next issue of AERA’s newsletter, AERAGRAM 15.1. Keep your eyes peeled!)
But mixed in with these formal priestly sealings were informals in a number that we had not really encountered in any other area of the site. And not only were they numerous, they were duplicates, and by piecing them all together I came up with a snazzy informal theoretical of my very own.… READ MORE »
Posted on Jun 3, 2014
*This is the third installment of a series by AERA Sealings Team Member and Managing Editor Ali Witsell. Read part one, part two and John Nolan’s introductory sealings blog from the beginning of the season, for a refresher course on sealing terminology.
So to recap a bit, broadly, John and I see all the seal types at Giza (and the Old Kingdom Egyptian glyptic corpus as a whole) as holding positions on this continuum between our formal and informal categories. That’s all fine and well art historically, but if we project our seals out into society and try to assign person to thing, what does this difference mean? If the Official seals represent scribes, priests, and all things royally administered, who or even what in ancient Egyptian society and economy do the informals represent?
Although it would be convenient for the Giza glyptic material to fall into two simple categories of “formal” and “informal,” with a corresponding continuum of “royal” and “individual,” the reality of the situation is probably as complicated and nuanced as the various contributing components of the larger Old Kingdom economy. There is a high likelihood that all sorts of sealed goods were shipped in from the countryside surrounding the plateau, all intended to help fuel Giza’s vast pyramid-building machine and the upkeep of the staff in the temples of the deceased pharaohs.… READ MORE »
Posted on May 28, 2014
*The next installments of our field blog will be a long story in four parts, by AERA Sealings Team Member and Managing Editor Ali Witsell. Before you read these next installments, we suggest you read John Nolan’s introductory sealings blog from the beginning of the season, for a refresher course on sealing terminology.
In a way, ancient clay sealings are a lot like postage stamps. To a philatelist, stamps encapsulate much about the society that they represent, be they a first-day issue 1847 5-cent Benjamin Franklin, an Egyptian 1879 5-piastre gray Sphinx and Pyramid, or a US 2013 Johnny Cash Forever stamp. A perusal of the offerings available in any US post office will give you a quick snapshot of that which American society values today: civic history and the battle for human rights; military history and heroes (even those 200 years removed from our own daily lives); beloved musicians, poets, athletes, and inventors; celebrated religious holidays and their most evocative imagery. But some stamps are purely decorative-colorful flowers, butterflies and birds, geometric designs-images chosen from the natural world around us. Just as the stamps you choose to buy in the check-out line of your post office speak volumes about you as an individual, so too will the images chosen for next year’s batch of new stamps tell philatelists around the world a good deal about your country.… READ MORE »
Posted on Apr 2, 2014
By Emmy Malak (AERA archaeologist and object registrar)
Mysteries and puzzles can be very exciting, especially when it comes to understanding the lives of the ancient Egyptians. When I started working at Heit el-Ghurab (HeG) nine years ago, I was puzzled by the artefacts of the site. At first, most of the artefacts looked like broken stones.
Just broken stones? A closer look shows these are drill stones indicating the crafting of stone vessels at the Heit el-Ghurab settlement. Photo by Emmy Malak. … READ MORE »
Posted on Feb 10, 2014
By Richard Redding
I am looking forward to arriving in Egypt on April 10th. Our research design this season has unified our excavation and material culture studies strategies. I will be looking at the animal bone from the Silo Building Complex (SBC) testing the idea that the area was occupied by priests associated with offerings for one or more of the Pharaohs whose tombs lie at Giza. How can animal bones tell us about the “job” of the residents of an area? How can I test this idea?
The SBC complex in 2012. View to the west, photo by Mark Lehner.
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 Apr 18, 2011
Posted by Sabine Boos
As everybody knows, people in ancient Egypt used stone to build their monuments and statues. What is much less known, however, is that a large number of their tools were made of stone and this holds true for the Predynastic period as well as for a major part of Pharaonic times. Chert, sometimes referred to as flint, was the preferred stone for making their tools. Nodules of chert can be found almost everywhere in Egypt’s deserts and because of its good quality with robust, sharp edges people chose chert as raw material to produce many types of tools.
Most people associate stone tools with the Paleolithic period (the Old Stone Age) and thus with a time, when people have generally been thought to be more “primitive”. A term that we wouldn’t want to use to refer to the advanced civilization of the pyramid builders. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of the Lost City of the Pyramids preferred tools made of chert for a wide variety of purposes. Many of these tools are quite similar to those Homo erectus used 2 million years earlier.
I have studied Egyptology and prehistory and see a great chance to combine my two main fields of research by looking at the lithic industry of Giza with the background of prehistoric technologies as well as in the Egyptological cultural context.… READ MORE »
Posted on Feb 27, 2011
Posted by Yukinori Kawae
We first saw the structural footprint of House Unit 1, the largest house in the Pyramid Town for now, during the large-scale Western Town ‘scrape and plan’ season in 2004. Team members call it “Yuki’s House” but the unit is actually much larger than my apartment: the extent is about 25.0 m E-W and 16.0 m N-S covering an area of 400 m2. To date, we ascertained that the unit consists of at least 21 rooms including a bedchamber in the center, storage for the distinctive beer jars and an L-shaped bench, a series of bins in the southwest corner, and industrial area for bread and/or beer production in the east.
In the 2011 season, we are focused on excavations at the eastern end of House Unit 1, the “industrial area,” which is markedly different in content, character and function to the rest of the building. We presume the area was either a bakery or brewery (or both functioning together) but the nature of this industrial area has yet to be determined.
Brewery in the Pyramid Town?
Bread and beer were the staples of the Ancient Egyptian diet. As bread/beer specialist Delwen Samuel states, “Both were consumed at every meal, by everyone, and no meal was considered complete without them.”… READ MORE »
Posted on Feb 23, 2011
Posted by Yasser Mahmoud
We were excited to begin drawing Standing Wall Island’s “jumble of limestone and mud brick walls” (SWI) (see Simon Davis’ “Standing Wall Island” blog post). In the beginning we couldn’t believe ourselves to be honest, because this is the first time for the Egyptian drawing team to draw such extensive walls, containing thousands of pieces of limestone and other cultural material.
The difficulty in drawing this type of structure lies in the position of the stones, because they are located at many different levels and are interwoven with each other. Creating an accurate map is very difficult. After a week, however, I can say that we can now teach the others team members how to approach this type exercise, and accurately map the walls.
One such method is to use a wooden planning frame (a meter-square) that is subdivided with nylon string into10 or 20 cm squares, thus dividing the planning frame into 100 or 25 segments. The planning frame must be laid horizontally on the ground and we use the rocks to prop up the frame, until the planning frame is level.
In addition we use wooden rulers and pencils (with at least 1H leads) or automatic or clutch pencils to record our evidence.… READ MORE »
Posted on Feb 7, 2011
Posted by Simon Davis
Two weeks down, five to go and we haven’t even started digging yet!
Well actually three weeks down now as we spent the last week under curfew and not able to work.
We are at the end of our second week of work at Standing Wall Island (SWI) and what appeared at first to be a discreet jumble of stone and mudbrick walls is fast transforming itself into an archaeological site (amazing what a bit of site grid can do!). Our aim, to uncover the previous recording work carried out by AERA back in 2004 to try and work out how SWI fits into the rest of the plateau complex that sprawls out to the north.
The site literally is an island, a raised bank of sand that emerges out of two muddy lagoons flanking it to the north and south. These lagoons until a few years ago contained standing water and the ‘Island’ is only recently available for excavation again. It’s not only physically separated from the rest of the site but the standing walls lie on a slightly different alignment to the rest of the settlement complex. A missing piece of the jigsaw then? Well maybe and tempting to suggest, but it’s certainly worthy of a second look.… READ MORE »