Minufiyeh Archaeological Survey
The Minufiyeh Archaeological Survey originally formed part of the Egypt Exploration Society’s Delta Survey and has since developed into an independent branch of this important expedition. Supported by the Excavation Fund in addition to external funding the project now conducts survey and limited excavation work as well as running its own field school. The results of this expedition continue to contribute to The Delta Survey by building up a better picture of the range and extent of archaeological sites in this Delta province.
Autumn Season 2011
During the spring 2010 season a new mud-brick structure was uncovered and further investigation confirmed that the broken ceramics sitting on top of the structure were beer jars which could be dated to the late 3rd to early 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.
This was the first structure that had been found at the site to pre-date the Late Period. Further investigations in summer 2010 revealed what appears to be a mastaba tomb, which has been robbed in antiquity on more than one occasion.
The front of the mastaba is best preserved and our conservator in 2010 Mr Alaa Shawkee (SCA) worked to consolidate both this part and other parts of the structure. Until now it has not been possible to reach the burial shaft and investigate whether there might be some remains which indicate the identity of the owner of the tomb, for instance broken sealings.
In spring 2012, the team aims to complete the excavation of the structure and also to confirm whether or not there might be an offering chapel, or indeed a corridor chapel, along the eastern side of the structure.
The sacred falcon necropolis was first identified through test trenches dug by the SCA which located the mud-brick corridors of the structure, containing ceramic jars with eggs as well as mummified falcons themselves and figurines.
The EES mission completed a magnetometer survey of the western part of the sand gezira on which the site is positioned, in between 2006 and 2009 which, together with a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in 2009 clarified the full extent of the structure. Since then, the mission has successful excavated two trenches in the entrance building adjoining the western end of the structure and in spring 2012 we plan to open up a new area south of the corridors excavated by the SCA, where further corridors are suggested by the GPR results.
Summer 2011 saw the first formal archaeological fieldschool at Quesna, providing training in archaeological methodology, including physical anthropology, ceramics analysis and conservation to a team of ten Egyptian students – both inspectors from the SCA and students from the University of Minufiyeh at Shibin el-Kom, and two students from the Freie Universität Berlin.
The team all worked together in the fourth trench that the current EES mission has opened within what is a cemetery ranging in date from the Ptolemaic through until at least the early Roman period. The trench contained very interesting burials both in the date range - with evidence for early Roman amphora and ceramic coffins. Time only permitted excavation of half of a 10 x 10m trench in the summer during the fieldschool, so the second half of the trench will be opened by the team in the spring.
Summer Season 2011
The Society's expedition to Minufiyeh Governorate in the Nile Delta, directed by Dr Joanne Rowland of the Free University, Berlin, resumed work in Summer 2011, with a survey at the desert-fringe site of Khatabtah. This area was first briefly visited by members of the Minufiyeh Archaeological Survey in 2008 with a follow-up reconnaissance survey in 2009. This survey established the location of many findspots with lithic assemblages ranging in date from the Middle Palaeolithic to, possibly, as late as the Old Kingdom. The fieldwork planned for Summer 2011 included a survey of previously visited areas as well as some new areas that had previously been inaccessible. Limited systemic survey was undertaken to establish the post-depositional movement of lithic finds as the team continues to search for in situ material. Rebecca Phillipps of Auckland University, New Zealand, has been leading the survey, having established a successful methodology in Australia which has already been applied to prehistoric sites of the Fayum, and having worked on the prehistoric lithics with Penny Wilson for the EES/University of Durham mission at Sais. Dr Tim Reynolds of the University of London was also a key team member during the survey period.
The season also included a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey at Quesna, by Dr Kris Strutt of Southampton University, which focussed along the northern edge of the Quesna gezira. In 2009, Ground Penetrating Radar was trialled at Quesna and proven to work extremely well at detecting mud-brick features down to a depth of 5m below the surface. As such, it was expected that any subsidiary structures in the vicinity of the Old Kingdom mastaba tomb (detected in 2010; see EA 38, pp.0-13), or directly to the south (just north of the falcon gallery), would be detected using this technique. It is unlikely that the earlier magnetic survey would have detected these features, especially if the structures do not contain large quantities of ceramic vessels. The otherwise complete lack of material dating to the Old Kingdom, combined with the fact that the Old Kingdom mastaba tomb is located on the northern edge of the gezira (the most threatened area of the site due to sand quarrying), made this work imperative. Geophysical survey is the quickest and most cost-effective means of establishing this information – the only other way would be to conduct numerous test pits, which would be very expensive and in all probability could completely miss other, smaller, burials.
A number of test trenches have also been opened during the season – both on the northern edge of the gezira and in the area of the Ptolemaic-Roman cemetery – and more information regarding these will be made available following the season. In addition to these new trenches, considerable focus has been upon the completion of certain aspects of work, including the reconstruction and drawing of the ceramic coffins excavated during previous seasons, as we look forward to our first publication on the site. This work is generously supported by the Michela Schiff Giorgini Foundation.
For the first time, in September-October 2011, the expedition has run a field school to train local Egyptian antiquities’ inspectors and local university students, together with students from Berlin. This initial fieldschool has been made possible through funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) and has provided basic training in the key areas of excavation methodology as well as the excavation of skeletal remains, conservation and the use of surveying equipment. Repoprts are being posted to her blog here. To make sure you keep up-to-date with the latest EES news from Minufiyeh, click on the RSS button at the top of the tumblr page to be notified whenever Jo posts a new entry.
Following the ground survey at Kom Usim, Sobek el-Dahak and el-Rimaly/Umm Harb in spring 2011, the sites were re-visited during the summer season to enable ceramic collection in selected fields in between harvesting and re-planting of crops. The ceramic analysis will be completed in the coming week to add important information to our knowledge of these sites.
Spring Season 2011
During the 2011 season Dr Rowland led a very small team to assess the situation and potential for archaeological work in the Delta following the revolution of January and February 2011. Reports on her findings can be found on her blog here.
Spring/ Autumn Season 2011
During the 2010 season Dr Rowland and her team were working in the Quesna archaeological area (including Kufur Raml, Minshat Damallu, Sharanis (Markaz Quesna)), at Kom el-Ahmar (Markaz Minuf), and in the region directly alongside the Rosetta branch of the Nile from Kafr Dawud in the north to el-Khatatbah in the south. Dr Rowland also continued the ground survey in Minufiyeh province. You can read about her season on her blog here.
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