In the Field

Qubbet el-Hawa Jen Turner

I’m Jen, the Forum Coordinator for Birmingham Egyptology. In March-April of this year I was lucky enough to participate in the Qubbet el-Hawa research project in Aswan, a joint mission of the University of Birmingham and Egypt Exploration Society since 2016.

Qubbet el-Hawa is located on the western bank of the Nile opposite the city of Aswan, and has been of interest to early explorers and Egyptologists alike since the late 19th century, and is home to many studied tombs such as that of the 6th Dynasty official Harkuf. The area also features a complex of burial sites ranging in date from the Old Kingdom to Roman occupation, with some areas of the site never before investigated.

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Previous seasons have generated a great deal of exciting information about the site’s functions and continued use – a causeway leading to the southern extension of a great retention wall was identified and was coupled with the discovery of various levels of tombs and mastabas. The current season therefore had many exciting avenues to take, and work continued on both the causeway, retention wall, and mastaba tombs in order to develop further insights. In particular it was interesting to reconstruct through the variety of finds the interaction between the cultural and ritual landscape and aspects of funerary belief.

As a beginner to the archaeological excavation process, I gained crucial experience through working on different areas of the site involving levelling, measuring site trenches and their progression as work developed, tackling 1:50 architectural drawings and processing finds. While working on the eastern extension of the causeway, it was fortunate that various fragments of embedded pottery were detected which would allow for further analysis and dating of the excavated sections of the site.

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As the excavation progressed, it was incredibly beneficial to share ideas about the site and our finds throughout the day to hypothesise and even mentally reconstruct aspects of the ancient use of the site. This seems to me a fundamentally important justification for gaining experience of fieldwork as part of becoming an effective researcher; through excavations such as these we were able to see, for example, the continued repair and thus repeated use of the site’s causeway. Further exciting discoveries found this season will be shared through future archaeological reports– though it was great to have been able to experience these in person!

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The end of this season was extremely positive with lots of exciting data to proceed with, and plans for future excavations. It was truly a brilliant experience to be part of the team for this season, and to meet and work with so many great people.

Further information about the Qubbet el-Hawa Research Project can be found on the EES website: https://www.ees.ac.uk/qhrp

Tell Timai  Sarah Chapman

Hello. My name is Sarah Chapman.  I’m a PhD student in Egyptology at University of Birmingham and also hold a staff position on the Expedition to Tell Timai, Egypt, which is sponsored by the University of Hawaii. Tell Timai is located in the Egyptian eastern delta region (Governorate of Daqahliya) and is just 0.5 km south of ancient Mendes. Tell Timai was occupied throughout the Greco-Roman and Christian periods.

Although the team generally excavates during the summer months, this past year the 2012 excavation season was held in December. This allowed me two new experiences: excavating in cool weather … and Christmas in Egypt! In the past 5 years I have excavated in Egypt I had not yet spent the winter months there. All in all, it was a great time.

This past December the team excavated on the high part of the Tell, near the ancient city’s center. This area is believed to have been a residential district, with the exposed surface dating to the Roman Period. As a unit supervisor, my team for the season consisted of Lori Lawson (who is also Timai’s Lab Manager and House Manager) and Reis Mohamed. We were excited to begin the excavation and see what we would uncover and how much we would learn about the site from the season’s work.

Here’s Lori with her new trowel, ready to start digging!

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As the season progressed, our unit began to look more and more like a Roman building and less like a heap of dirt and stray bricks. It’s interesting how the discovery of certain features can excite the imagination and allow you to really visualize the past. I experienced such an occasion when we uncovered what appeared to be the piping for a small cook stove, complete with a stain of soot on the adjacent wall. For the first time I really started to see an ancient house. Each new discovery seemed to give another tantalizing glimpse of life in Roman Egypt. I particularly enjoyed finding the bases of ceramics that still had organic remains encrusted.  Was it wine? Or perhaps oil? We couldn’t be certain without testing the residue but the chance to see these types of remains, which were so unlikely to survive all these centuries, certainly was exciting.

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Timai was one of the first sites I worked on in Egypt and my inspiration to continue on in the field. My first experience working at Timai was on the 2007 preliminary season, before the excavation had begun. Those few weeks were life-changing. Everywhere I looked I saw new and interesting things that motivated me to investigate further. I was so curious about this incredible place! Never before had I experienced walking down ancient streets with the remains of the ancient mud brick buildings on either side of me. Each find was exciting from sherds of pottery to jewellery  I was just amazed. Working at a site like this and experiencing the discoveries made each season really makes the past something that seems more tangible and in ways, more relatable as well.

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Now five years later and working in the field is still just as exciting as when I had first started out. The December season ended on a high note and provided plenty of data to keep the team busy with research for the spring. It will not be long now before it will be time to travel back to Egypt for the first summer season of excavation in June. I am eager to begin this next adventure!

 

To learn more about Tell Timai and how you can participate in future field seasons visit: www.telltimai.org

 

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