Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The South Tombs Cemetery excavations at Amarna, 2013: the final season!

The latest email news update from Anna Stevens and Barry Kemp

From the South Tombs Cemetery photo album on
 the Amarna Project's Facebook page
(see link below)

The final season of excavations at the South Tombs Cemetery is now underway at Amarna, and with just a couple of weeks left on site we are working hard to try to reach our project target of 400 skeletons. 21 to go!

We are continuing work at the Upper Site, under the direction of Dr Mary Shepperson, where the odd trend for multiple burials noted in previous seasons continues. Do these graves simply represent family tombs, or was this part of the cemetery in use at a time when the population was exposed to a particularly harsh outbreak of disease that killed many and resulted in Œ"mass graves"? The physical anthropology team, who will recommence their study of the human remains in May, will no doubt be interested to examine these new burials with these issues in mind.

We've also opened a new part of the site, around half way along the wadi in which the cemetery lies, which is densely packed with very regularly spaced graves, most occupied by single skeletons. Yet, as always, the site offers something unexpected: the burial of an adult not in the extended position as is standard, but in the contracted (fetal) position. This is only the second burial of this kind in eight seasons of excavations, and we are wondering if this individual was perhaps a foreigner living at Amarna.

Back at the dig house, the conservation team led by Julie Dawson is recommencing their crucial project to consolidate the pieces of decorated wooden coffin recovered from the cemetery over recent years, which are so important for the study of funerary religion in Akhenaten¹s reign.

And the excavations continue to produce other finds that convey something of the character of the people of Amarna, including two pairs of bronze tweezers in the grave of an adult female, and an entire necklace formed of blue faience fish-shaped pendants and hundreds of little ring beads.
These pieces can be viewed in the online photo album at the link below, which is updated regularly and includes images of the excavations:

And yesterday we were joined by the BBC, who are working on a new program entitled "Treasures of Ancient Egypt", so some footage of the cemetery excavations might also make it to the television screen soon!

The excavations this year are funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant, and by the Amarna Trust, and the conservation of the coffins is paid for by grants from the Thriplow and Aurelius Trusts.

For anyone interested in learning more about the cemetery excavations, you might also like to read our recently published research article in the journal Antiquity (subscription required):

Thanks again for your interest in and support of our work.

19 April 2013

Anna Stevens/Barry Kemp

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