Posts Tagged ‘pyramids’

An Ecosystem Saved

Posted on Feb 28, 2011

Posted by Richard Redding

The horses and camels are back. As a result the pigeons have returned to Giza. Now, if we can just the tourists to comeback!

For more information about the pigeons, see the earlier post “The Mystery of the Pigeons.”



Standing Wall Island

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 »

A big chance to learn

Posted on Mar 25, 2009

Afaf Wahba has worked for the Supreme Council of Antiquities for nine years. She began as a curator at the Coptic Museum in old Cairo and for the past two years, she’s been an inspector at the Central Department of Giza. This job does not usually entail field work, but that did not stop Afaf from dreaming about it.

Afaf heard about the AERA/ARCE Field School in 2006. A colleague encouraged her to apply.

“I never imagine they will take me. I said, ‘No, no.’ and didn’t apply.”

One week before the application deadline, a friend sent her the application and insisted she apply. Despite the late date, she got an interview and was accepted into the Advanced Field School. She was determined to excel.

“Zeinab [Saiad Hashesh] and me, we drive our instructor crazy, study all the time. Sleep only one, two hours every night. She said, ‘Please, please sleep.’ But we want to do very well.”

Her instructors sensed her ability and during the course of the field school, she was encouraged to do things she thought she couldn’t do. “I would say, ‘I don’t think I can do this.” And they would say, ‘Yes, you can do it.’”READ MORE »

Filling the gaps

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 »

Guest blogger

Posted on Mar 7, 2009

Brian Hunt, AERABLOG editor, will be our guest writer from the Giza pyramids in Egypt for two weeks in March 2009 during our twentieth anniversary celebration.

Brian has been a volunteer with AERA since 2004 and has been the producer/writer of the AERA web site since its inception in 2005. He brings his longstanding interest in ancient and modern Egypt and his knowledge of our work to the task of reporting on our archaeological excavations from ground zero. Brian has been a lead writer at Microsoft on such titles as Age of Empires, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator, Microsoft Train Simulator, and Microsoft ESP. He is also a freelance writer for the web and periodicals. He’s currently working on a book and collaborating on a screenplay.READ MORE »

Curious Structures

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 »

Valentine's Day

Posted on Feb 20, 2009

On Valentine’s Day there was an impressive 42 people working in the Giza Lab! This included three of the Advanced Field School classes – Illustration, Ceramics and Human Osteology, plus the ‘regulars’. I’ve put photos up in the lab with the names of all of the students in the five Field School groups to help everyone get to know everyone else at this early stage.


My trusty assistant Claire Malleson of Liverpool University has arrived and its great to have her back. Day after day, she sits at her microscope plugged into her iPod and steadily works her way through the many samples of ancient botanical remains we have from our main site Heit el Gurob, as well as the nearby Khentkawes. She’s a tremendous help to me since I often have to run around dealing with a myriad of lab issues and it’s great to leave the botany department in her capable hands.


Laurie Flentye has also started back at the lab this week. An American living in Cairo off and on for the last 5 years, Laurie’s specialty is the decoration, materials, and architectural elements used in 4th Dynasty Giza tombs. In the Lab, she analyses the pigments and painted plaster from the site.READ MORE »

Giza Field School 2009

Posted on Feb 11, 2009

Students and teachers have begun to arrive for AERA’s 2009 Giza Field School, cosponsored once again by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). We welcome back some of the 2007 Giza Field School alumni and 2008 Luxor Field School graduates. The students will be learning advanced skills in:


  • Ceramics
  • Illustration
  • Survey
  • Osteology (excavation of human remains) 

We’re proud to say that some of our graduates will be teaching classes to their fellow Egyptians. This is a great advantage, as it means they’ll teach classes in Arabic and the foreign instructors can take a step back. This helps us fulfill our mission of eventually making the Field School an Egyptian-run operation.


Our aim is to teach comprehensive archaeological skills to the cadre of inspectors who oversee all of the historic sites in Egypt, to better equip them to protect Egypt’s fragile and increasingly-threatened heritage.


The American Research Center in Egypt launched the first field schools in the 1990s and in 2005, AERA made the Giza Plateau Mapping Project and Lost City site a platform for a more optimized field school. We thank our colleagues at the Supreme Council of antiquities, especially Dr. Zahi Hawass and Shabaan Abd el-Gawad, for their continued support.READ MORE »

In the Shadow of the Pyramids

Posted on Feb 6, 2009

AERA’s Giza Lab officially opened for the season on Sunday, February 1st, 2009. It’s a funny place, doesn’t look like much from the outside – a low, one story brick-and-cement bunker painted a yellowish dung color – a building of little consequence nestled amongst Giza’s imposing pyramids.

AERA's storeroom and laboratory.


When the rusty metal door opens with its loud clang, however, a different impression emerges as one’s eyes adjust to the light, and especially as one descends into the heart of the lab. Much larger than imagined and everywhere, boxes! These, stacked high on floor to ceiling shelves, are all labeled with the details of their contents and of their origin.


These six rooms of detail contain the narrative of the nearby settlement of the Giza pyramid builders, the traces left behind by the inhabitants of this Lost City. Our large and diverse lab team hails from 12 nations and it’s our job to recover stories from the pottery, objects, human bone, animal bone, plants, mud sealings, chipped stone tools, pigments, plaster, wood charcoal, roofing material, mud brick.

There is much to do before the lab crew begins to arrive this week and, as ever, our Egyptian inspector and my team of local workmen are on the job.READ MORE »

Ready to dig at Giza

Posted on Feb 3, 2009

AERA's goals for the 2009 field season at Giza.