Between the Desert and the Nile. Theban Harbours and Waterscapes

Back in 2011 the Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (THaWS) started with a field season of geophysics. This Egypt Exploration Society project (www.ees.ac.uk), directed by Dr Angus Graham,  was established with the aim of using different techniques to study the … Continue reading

The West Bank of Thebes

The West Bank of Thebes

Back in 2011 the Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (THaWS) started with a field season of geophysics. This Egypt Exploration Society project (www.ees.ac.uk), directed by Dr Angus Graham,  was established with the aim of using different techniques to study the settlements and temples on the east and west banks of the Nile, and how they relate to the changing floodplain and river. Unfortunately the season had to be aborted after the 25th January revolution, and the survey was postponed to the 2012 season, when the fieldwork progressed at a cracking pace.

After five years of the project a large quantity of survey data, together with sedimentary data from auger samples, has been collected and is pushing forward some tentative interpretations about the archaeology and geomorphology of the area. Fieldwork in areas as diverse as Malqata, Birket Habu and the floodplain in front of Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum has provided food for thought on the depth of ancient ground levels and the organisation of the waterways on the West Bank, with interesting results from some of the East Bank work, including Karnak.

For the 2015 season the fieldwork has shifted up a notch with a larger and more diverse team. The plan was to run different geophysical survey techniques, while also continuing the auger sample strategy and processing of samples from the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Work has very much focused on Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) surveys on the West Bank, particularly in the area to the east of the Ramesseum heading up to the current course of the Nile, with Ginger Emery working on the instrument. This has been complemented by an intensive season of auger work conducted by Ben Pennington and Willem Toonen, to investigate changes in the sediments represented in the ERT.

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

The survey has allowed a solid dataset to be collected running from c.600m to the east of the Ramesseum all the way the the modern banks of the Nile, with the resistivity and auger data integrating to allow some more nuanced interpretations of the development of the floodplain and the presence of possible man-made canals to be ascertained. The work in this area relates closely to the function of temples further to the south between the Birket Habu and the Ramesseum.

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

This week we have focused the work in the area of Kom El Hetan. Previous seasons provided information on the axis of theTemple of Amenhotep and the possible presence of channels associated with the temple. The aim this week has been to expand on this information with more intensive ERT and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in the area.

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

Hopefully by the end of the week we will have a series of close (5m) profiles of ERT data to model, and GPR data at 0.5m intervals across the front of the Colossi, in the first court, and in the third court for comparison, with a second plan to conduct more GPR profiles in the fields to the south to detect the possible enclosure of the temple. It promises to be an exciting week.

There have been trials and tribulations in the fieldwork, including negotiations with landowners, and issues with the burning of sugar cane chaff during the first two weeks. There have also been compensations, not least in the form of tea and cake, the latter being provided by the wife of Sumara, one of our workmen.

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara's wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara’s wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

The fieldwork will be carrying on at Thebes until 1st April. However, results from the previous seasons of work are presented in the last three editions of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, and in other papers listed below. Happy reading!

 

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2012, The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey. Recent Fieldwork to Investigate the Canals and Harbours on the West and East Banks at Ancient Thebes (Luxor), Egypt. The Newsletter of the International Society for Archaeological Prospection 31, April 2012, 6-7.

Graham,A., Strutt, K., Hunter, M., Jones, S., Masson, A., Millett, M., Pennington, B. 2012, Reconstructing Landscapes and Waterscapes in Thebes, Egypt. In Journal for Ancient Studies eTopoi, 3, 135-142.

Graham, A., Strutt, K.D., Hunter, M. , Jones, S., Masson, A., Millet, M., and Pennington, B.T. 2012, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2012. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 98, 27-42.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2013, Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. In Egyptian Archaeology 43, Autumn 2013, 5-7.

Graham, A, Strutt, K., Emery, V.L., Jones, S. and Barker, D. 2014, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2013. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 99, 35-52.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. (forthcoming), Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. Egyptian Archaeology. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 100.


Blog Catch-up #1: Archaeology and Survey in the Nile Delta at Naukratis

Due to commitments in the field over the last month or so it has proved difficult to keep up to date with the blog. Now seemed like a good time to produce a few posts to highlight some recent fieldwork … Continue reading

Due to commitments in the field over the last month or so it has proved difficult to keep up to date with the blog. Now seemed like a good time to produce a few posts to highlight some recent fieldwork and site visits, starting with a recent survey at Naukratis. In May 2014 I conducted geophysical survey at this archaeological site in the Nile Delta. The Naukratis fieldwork project is directed by Ross Thomas of the British Museum, and seeks to assess the surviving archaeology of this important ancient site using a range of complementary methods including topographic and geophysical survey, in addition to borehole survey and excavation, as part of a larger project directed by Alexandra Villing of the Greek and Roman department of the British Museum called ‘Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt’.

Magnetometer survey being conducted to the east of Kom Ge'if

Magnetometer survey being conducted to the east of Kom Ge’if

 

The season in May (the third season of fieldwork) added to the existing dataset from the first two seasons in 2013, mapping the extent of the ancient settlement and its association with the Canopic Branch of the River Nile.

The port of Naukratis was the earliest Greek port in Egypt, established in the late 7th century BC as a base for Greek (and Cypriot) traders and the port of the royal Pharaonic city of Sais. It was an important hub for trade and cross-cultural exchange long before the foundation of Alexandria and continued to be significant through the subsequent Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Previous fieldwork was conducted by Flinders Petrie amongst others, and concentrated on excavation of the central areas of the ancient town. Further research was required to fully understand this very important archaeological site. For this season, the magnetometer survey of the site was continued in the fields surrounding the modern village.

Two ERT profiles were also undertaken using an Allied Associates Tigre ERT. The first of the profiles ran from a point some 400m to the west of the site, over the kom or mound, to a point 400m to the east of the site, incorporating the line of the Canopic Branch of the Nile and Naukratis. This provided a section 15m deep running west-east across the southern part of the site. The main aim was to better understand the geological relationship between the river and the settlement, and to tie the profile in with the series of borehole surveys conducted along the same traverse.

 

Mohamed Roshti assisting with the ERT survey on the kom

Mohamed Roshti assisting with the ERT survey on the kom

The survey work at Naukratis has produced significant new data on the layout of the ancient town, its local environment and hinterland, including the location of the Greek sanctuary complex, the Hellenion, and the Temenos or temple enclosure at the site. The magnetometer results located a large number of mud brick and stone structures in the fields around Kom Ge’if, particularly in the north and east of the site. In addition to the plan of the ancient town, the magnetometer results also give us a much better idea of the extent of the ancient site in relation to the location and development of the Canopic branch of the Nile, which ran to the west of the ancient settlement. The magnetometry clearly shows the change from settlement to canal infilling, with structures positioned along the edge of the canal. This data is reinforced by the results of the ERT survey. The depth of deposits underlying and surrounding Kom Ge’if is suggested by the topography, with a sharp contrast between the kom and the surrounding fields. The remains of the ancient site are present, if buried, but life in the modern village of Kom Ge’if carries on. The village, with its new mosque, stands out from the surrounding floodplain, a mixture of bean fields, and brown ploughed and saturated fields prepared for planting melon. A number of venerable sheikhs’ tombs stand out on the fringes of the village. The local shepherd crosses from field to field, allowing his sheep and goats to graze on the stubble remaining from the wheat harvest, and manuring the fields in the process, then herds the flock back through the winding streets of Kom Ge’if.

 

Detail of survey results from Naukratis

Detail of survey results from Naukratis

Many of the areas of the ancient settlement still require surveying using magnetometry, and a combined strategy of ERT survey with drilling of boreholes will provide useful comparative data for particular parts of the site and its hinterland.

Shepherd leading flock to feed on cut fields

Shepherd leading flock to feed on cut fields

Donkey transport for the ERT

Donkey transport for the ERT

 

More information on the fieldwork at Naukratis can be found on the project website at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/all_current_projects/naukratis_the_greeks_in_egypt.aspx

Also, you can discover more about the artefacts recovered from Naukratis by visiting the Online Research Catalogue at:

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_research_catalogues/ng/naukratis_greeks_in_egypt.aspx

 

Sunset over Kom Ge'if

Sunset over Kom Ge’if

This post is a reworking of an article recently published in the International Society for Archaeological Prospection (ISAP) Newsletter for May 2014.