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 1, 2014
*This is the second installment of a series by AERA Sealings Team Member and Managing Editor Ali Witsell. Read part one here and read John Nolan’s introductory sealings blog from the beginning of the season, for a refresher course on sealing terminology.
Early on, our ideas on the informal sealings were largely based on their lack of serekhs and some not-so-stellar carving, such that their overwhelming characteristic was really their decided un-royalness. For me, “informal” became a sort of catch-all term for stamp and cylinder seals with geometric motifs, animal scenes that could be wild and chaotic, and often crudely carved, blocky hieroglyphs – quite honestly, “informal” was the soup that contained everything that didn’t get passed to John’s side of the table for registration.
But in our corpus, there were glimpses of brilliant sigillographic fun that truly broke from the Official mold – a fabulous baboon, a tumbling acrobat, rows of catfish. And sometimes those glimpses looked really Mesopotamian to someone like myself with a non-Egyptological background. But they were one-offs, and in the world of sealings, sometimes a one-off just doesn’t cut it.
You see, finding an actual complete cylinder seal is rare. The vast majority of the time, we work from the sealings alone.… READ MORE »
Posted on Mar 25, 2014
By Hanan Mahmoud (MSA archaeologist)
Joining the AERA team at the beginning of March 2014 was one of my dreams. Finally, I could work in the Silo Building Complex (SBC)!
I remember in 2011, after the revolution, my colleague Rabee Eissa and I worked in the Menkaure Valley Temple with the AERA team. By the end of that season and directly to the east of KKT-E basin the workmen exposed rounded silos enclosed with marl brick walls. There were also bins, a kitchen, rooms, corridors and an enclosure wall – all part of a building. Dr Mohsen Kamel, AERA field director, asked me and Rabee to draw this building. Then, we start fighting about who will be the one to get the chance to excavate this amazing Old Kingdom silo building.
A site tour of KKT-E+ area during season 2012. Dr Mark Lehner discusses with Rabee Eissa.
Photo by Sayed Salah.
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 Feb 9, 2011
Posted by Valerie Steele
I arrived in Giza in the early hours of Monday morning on my first visit to Egypt. I never imagined I would visit the pyramids and yet here I am, not just visiting but doing a job I really enjoy right next to a pyramid (actually two)! What am I doing here?
My work involves looking at the organic residues that have been preserved in ancient pottery. These residues are the degraded remains of plant or animal material – everything from food and drink to cosmetics, medicines, waterproofing materials, glues, dyes and, elsewhere, even Neolithic chewing gum made from birch bark.
Pottery is a great place to look for these materials because unglazed pottery is full of holes like a sponge so anything liquid inside the pot tends to soak into these pores. Once inside organic material is semi-protected from the effects of water, sunlight, bacteria, air – in fact most things that might degrade them.
Of course over long periods of time some materials do degrade or disappear. For example sugars and starches are very soluble in water and easily get washed away during burial while proteins are easily broken down by bacteria and rarely survive. … READ MORE »
Posted on Jan 27, 2011
Posted by Mohsen Kamel and Ana Tavares, joint-Field Directors
We have just started excavations again at Giza, after a hiatus last year. During this busy hiatus we prepared material for publications, held an Analysis and Publication Field-School in Giza and a second Salvage Archaeology Field-School in Luxor.
This season we are excavating in both concession areas at Giza – the Workers Settlement (a.k.a the Lost City, a.k.a. Heit el-Ghurab) and the town of Queen Khentkawes. Both sites date from the mid 4th Dynasty (circa 2529 -2471 B.C.) although the town of Queen Khentkawes and the village inside the Valley Temple of Menkaure seem to have functioned until the end of the Old Kingdom (late 6th Dynasty, circa 2154 B.C. Click here for more information on how we date the site). The main research questions for this season are the ancient landscape (the southern and eastern approaches to the site), climate change and site formation (especially the process of dismantling, robbing and erosion). The four excavation areas all contribute evidence to these questions. After 10 somewhat boring days of removing the protective sand covering we put in place at the end of our last season we are finally ready to excavate!Lost City
In the Heit el-Ghurab site we have opened two excavation areas: SFW House 1 and Standing Wall Island (“The Island” for short).… READ MORE »
Posted on Mar 28, 2009
“Ceramics can tell you everything! Well, not everything but a lot.” So says AERA’s Polish ceramics team, led by Dr. Anna Wodzinska.
People often ask when you work in archaeology, “What are you discovering?” They have the romantic notions about finding tombs and treasure.
“Archaeology is not pretty,” Anna told me. The treasure being sought today is not pretty things, but information about our past.
She told me a story from several years ago about sitting surrounded by hundreds of pottery sherds at Saqqara. A woman walked up and asked what she did on the project.
“I study ceramics.”
“Oh, where are they?”
We have little awareness of the things we use every day but they tell a story about us. A pen, a spoon, a screwdriver, or a Tupperware bowl all say something about how we negotiate the mundane tasks of living. Looking at ancient every day objects brings us closer to the people who used them.
For example, Aleksandra Ksiezak and Edyta Klimeszewska related how ancient ceramics speak volumes about cultures that did not toss things away as easily as we do.
“In the Sudan,” Edyta told me, “we find these wonderful pots that have been repaired with string.”… READ MORE »