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Last Session

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Friday 23rd November 2018

Topic: Excavations at Tell Timai

Chair: Jen Turner

This week the Forum session was led by Dr James Bennett and focused on his work at Tell Timai, and more generally on the nature of archaeological excavations in the Delta area.

During the presentation and subsequent discussion of the excavation, it was clear that the issues of excavating within the Delta have a significant impact on the condition and state of preservation of the ancient remains. The environmental conditions of the Delta are an important and time sensitive concern, as the wet-dry climate and subsequent decaying of ancient materials and remains are coupled with modern developments such as rapid urbanisation and population growth of the area. Various Nile branches have now silted up and the impact of the Nile flood has had further consequences in the Delta both in ancient times (with the gradual movement of the Nile westwards) and in the present day (the development of the Aswan dam and the use of modern water pumps). Ancient and modern land reclamation such as the presence of sebakhin farmers has meant that ancient mudbrick has also often been dismantled and removed from ancient sites in the Delta.

Many of these problems contrast greatly with the conditions and the outcomes of artefacts found in Upper Egypt; though solid mud mounds found in the Delta are incredibly important archaeological discoveries, these were typically not the results that either museums or private collections wanted or were interested in. The contrast between the climate, the differing access to sites in the north and south, and the expensive and more complex process of excavation in the Delta have all resulted in a much stronger modern focus on finds from Upper Egypt.

At Tell Timai, the increasing population within the nearby modern settlements is beginning to encroach on the site. Thus, in various ways the actions taken through the Tell Timai Project are ‘rescue archaeology’ as a response to this modern situation. The primary action first taken at the site was the clearing of modern waste, as part of the site had been frequently used as a dumping ground for refuse. Yet even on the surface level, some ancient ruins were discovered. 

In addition to hearing about the earliest engagement with Tell Timai through the work of previous excavators such as George Darassy Naville, Donald Redford and Robert Littman, the group were also presented with the history of the previous discoveries such as those found in the northwest of the site from 2013 to 2015. We were also lucky to hear about the ongoing excavations and discoveries from 2017 at the site, including a Ptolemaic workshop, a Late Period/early Ptolemaic elite sarcophagus, and a Roman cemetery.

Further updates on the Tell Timai project, including their field school and plans for future seasons, can be found on their website: http://www.telltimai.org/ and also on social media. We would like to thank to thank James for an extremely interesting talk!

 

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