Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autumn field school at Amarna

The latest news update from Professor Barry Kemp, from the Amarna Project.

On October 14th the current Amarna field school began to assemble, five overseas students and seven SCA inspectors (drawn mostly from the Middle Egypt region) converging on the Amarna expedition house. The theme of the field school is survey, both in the mapping and planning sense and through the appreciation of human impact on the landscape. Amarna is ideal for these purposes, offering a variety of reasonably clear examples and opportunities for instruction. This year's venue for instruction in planning and profile drawing, using a total station, basic measuring and drawing tools and aerial photography from the expedition's helium photography balloon is the Great Aten Temple, and more particularly one of the broad spreads of gypsum concrete on which are marked the outlines of large numbers of offering tables. The weekly exercises in archaeological landscape appreciation take in the South Tombs Cemetery, the area of the city around the house of Thutmose, the Stone Village and the tomb of Panehsy and surrounding territory. Evening lectures and visits to other sites complete the programme.

The field school is run in conjunction with the Institute for Field Research (IFR) of California ( and with the agreement of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt and in particular with the support of Dr Abd el-Rahman El-Aidi. We are grateful to Dr Hans Barnard, Gwil Owen and Miriam Bertram for volunteering their services as instructors.

The clearing of the gypsum surface of the first court of the temple has revealed a surprising fact. The area is surrounded by an embankment of dusty sand, about 1 metre high, with a thick capping composed of gypsum concrete that is the remains of the floor that originally spread across the entire temple. The sides of the embankment have slumped over the years. In the course of cleaning back the edges it has become clear that it contains fragments of fine sculpture and pieces of carved inlays in darker stone.
The fragments include pieces in indurated limestone (evidently from a large and ornate architrave), travertine, granite and quartzite. We must conclude that, before the final phase of the temple was completed, fine pieces of sculpture were no longer needed and were thoroughly broken up.

On October 22nd and 23rd the expedition was honoured by a visit by the British ambassador, James Watt, and his wife, Amal.

The field school is scheduled to run until November 15th. From October 28th, it will overlap with the start of the next season of excavation at the South Tombs Cemetery, directed by Dr Anna Stevens.

The attached picture shows the group writing landscape description above the South Tombs Cemetery.

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