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 »
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 4, 2009
Despite his heavy responsibilities as Director of AERA, Mark Lehner is at heart a field archaeologist. One foggy morning at Giza recently, I found him alone, mapping features in the area between the Menkaure Valley Temple and Khentkawes Town.
Mark and his good friend, Zahi Hawass, have an ongoing joke about which one of them first started wearing their signature hats in the field. It’s a question happily without resolution, as they both wear it well. But it’s only one of many hats that Mark wears.
Mark leads a very large, international, multidisciplinary team during long field seasons. He has to spend the rest of the year raising the funds that support the excavations, the field school, and the processing and analysis of vast amounts of data from the digs. He is the principal writer and final editor of all AERA publications, and he also gives lectures.
Yet he makes time to do what brought him to archaeology in the first place.
Mark spends part of every day during the field season in the field, walking from area to area within AERA’s concession, taking pictures and talking with team archaeologists. He asks about features they’re excavating, suggests alternative interpretations, or offers a tie-in from some obscure but relevant report written by a long-dead excavator that he read a decade ago.… READ MORE »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Posted on Mar 14, 2009
Mark Lehner and AERA team leaders gave donors, friends, and colleagues tours of the Giza dig site on Saturday, 14 March.
This is a treat for non-specialists, as it the dig site is closed to the public and requires security clearance to access (thanks to Dr. Zahi Hawass). The guests were shown the Late Period burials, the Western Compound, the double-walled structure called the Chute, and the excavations at Khentkawes Town.
Joining Mark were Ann Lurie, a longtime and generous supporter, Bruce Ludwig, supporter and AERA board member, AERA co-founder, Matthew McCauley and his partner Jane Rusconi, and Suzanne, Nelson, and Nelson Del Rio Jr. Mohsen Kamel and Ana Tavares gave tours to colleagues.Archaeologist, Freya Sadarangani explains her work in House 1, in Western Town.
No matter how many times I watch and listen to this group of professionals, I’m always fascinated. I like patterns and archaeology is all about finding patterns from scattered evidence left behind in abandoned homes, buildings, hearths, workshops, and garbage dumps.
Just as an artist may see form differently than you and me in terms of light and shadow, details of a feature or a structure appear to the archaeologist’s eye in ways that we would usually miss.… 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 11, 2009
As long as I’ve worked with Mark Lehner’s team (5 years), AERA has been looking for a permanent home near the field work at the Giza Pyramids. We’re thrilled to announce that it now has one, paid for by private donations.
There has never been a time when your support of AERA’s operations will yield more for each dollar you give than now. Why?
The Field School
For the field school to be a lasting entity for the future, it must have a permanent headquarters. The idea that the field school will someday exist as an Egyptian operation has always been Mark Lehner’s goal. The new home is a huge step in securing that future.
Lower operating costs
The new permanent residence at Giza will reduce operating costs and increase the efficiency of the archaeological field work, the operation of the field school, the writing and publication of the results, and the storage of materials.
Every previous season, the team has had to rent space for a headquarters, office, and partial residence. In addition, they had to rent two large apartments, stuffed to the gills with team members and equipment, with the field school in a hotel nearby.
All of this must be set up and broken down at the beginning and end of the field season.… READ MORE »
Posted on Mar 5, 2009
Archaeology always presents fun puzzles to be resolved. Mike House recently found a puzzling structure while excavating a road or ramp within the Khentkawes complex.
The structure consists of a possible square mud brick plinth or platform (1.90m x 1.70m) with an additional mud brick extension to the east. The platform and extension were plastered, and only the lowest courses survive. Selim Hassan recorded it in the 1930s as a Wabet (w’bt) tent, although its function is unclear.
Its position in the road may suggest a different use; it may represent an administrative platform with steps leading up to it inside of a building.
Within, a small amount of a marl plaster floor survived to the north and east, extending up to an enclosing wall (represented by a single mud brick course). The west side of the feature has been slightly truncated by the later robbing trench excavated by Ana Tavares in 2008.
To the south of the platform structure, there appears to be an-out-of-phase wall, which appears at first inspection to be truncated by the platform. However, the plaster on the outside of the platform continues down between the wall and the platform. This phasing sequence leads me to believe that the wall may in fact be a form of partial collapse, which appears on Hassan’s plans as a wall.… READ MORE »