EES Delta Survey RSS

Jeffrey and Patricia Spencer will be working at Tell Buweib for the EES Delta Survey in March/April 2014 and Patricia will be posting regular updates here.

Further information on the Egypt Exploration Society’s Delta Survey, which is funded by a grant from the British Academy, can be found at http://tinyurl.com/6vjngj.

Archive

Apr
16th
Wed
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Weather, work, a visit by Essam Nagy, and gratuitous cat No.5

We’ve had a lot of weather over the past few days – very strong winds, low temperatures and high temperatures, thunder, lightning and some rain. The general dampness of the atmosphere and the rain made the low parts of the tell, across which we have to walk to get to the work, rather treacherous with slippery mud which stuck to the soles of our boots, turning them into ‘high-risers’! Then this morning we walked to the site in very dense fog - it was amazingly quiet apart from the ever-present cheeping of sparrows and the calls of plovers who always sound on the verge of hysteria. Eventually we heard the sound of voices ahead and the figures of some of our workmen waiting for us became visible through the fog.

At the base of the tell which is totally invisible through the dense fog.

It took until around 8.30 for the fog to lift and then became rather hot and still – too hot for me! Having investigated some of the chambers of the casemate podium, we’ve now started to study the fill into which the base of the it was cut to try to refine the dating of the construction.

An internal corner of one of the chambers of the casemate podium.

As with the temple we can only access the lower levels on the edges of the tell where the brickwork has already been lost. On the south-west side, the foundation-trench of the podium is clearly visible as is the earlier settlement fill into which it was cut.

At the bottom is the outer brickwork of the casemate, then above it the top of the foundation-trench and above that earlier settlement fill with the remains of an oven.

We were very pleased that the EES Cairo Office Manager, Essam Nagy, was able to visit us today, making the long (four and a half hours by road) journey up from Cairo. Jeff and our MSA Inspector, Hany (whom Essam already knows from Luxor), showed him around the site and described the work before Essam left to go on to visit the EES team currently working at Tell Mutubis.

Jeff and Essam discussing the site.

With the Director of the MSA team, Sayed el-Talhawi.

Penny Wilson managed to get a gratuitous ostrich into her last blog post from Mutubis! We can’t compete with such an exotic offering but here is gratuitous cat No.5, exploring some rubbish in the village.

Most of the local cats are tabbies of various colours – this black cat is rather unusual.

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Apr
14th
Mon
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Casemate, flooded fields and bee-eaters

The flooding of the fields beside the track to the tell (in preparation for rice-planting) overflowed on Saturday over the track itself making it very muddy and slippery. Fortunately there is a much narrower ridge beside the unflooded fields on the other side of the track, along which we were able to get to and from the site.

Ploughing the flooded field which overflowed onto the track to the tell. The foal kept splashing into the water to join its mother and had to be ‘encouraged’ out again by the man ploughing!

Walking to the site along the narrow, but dry, ridge of earth on the other side of the flooded track.

By yesterday the track had dried up enough for us to be able to use it again. The investigation of the casemate foundation is going well, with all of the chambers now located and planned and we are going down to some extent in a few of the chambers to study the fill inside. At Tell Dafana Petrie cleared out each of the casemate chambers completely (and his were much deeper than ours!) but found nothing in them, other than bricks and ‘back-fill’, so we’re not expecting ours to produce much of interest, though they will hopefully have some datable sherds.

One of our local workmen defining the edges of a casemate chamber.

We’ve been visited most days on site recently by a flock of very noisy and busy bright green bee-eaters, and today some settled close enough for me to take a photo of them.

Penny Wilson also has bee-eaters at Tell Mutubis where she is currently directing a survey for the EES – see her blog.

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Apr
11th
Fri
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Friday update from Tell Buweib

Clearing the surface dust (which is some places is around a metre deep) from over the casemate foundation is going very well. We have the satellite image to guide us as to where the chambers are but even so some can still be tricky to define accurately if they are filled with bricks. Others are very obvious, having been back-filled during the construction with loose soil and whatever it contained, such as sherds of broken pots. Casemates are the usual form of foundation in ancient Egypt for buildings which needed to be raised up – for whatever reason. The Buweib one is only about half as big (in plan) as the three largest Delta casemate foundations known - at Naukratis, Tell Dafana and Tell Balamun - but must have supported a structure of some size. At Naukratis Petrie found remains of above-floor doorways and wall-footings but it looks like we have nothing standing above floor-level.

The fields by the side of the track to the tell were flooded yesterday prior to rice-planting, which meant the return of the egrets, lined up like soldiers along the ridges left by the plough.

The crops in other nearby fields are almost ready for harvesting – this scene reminded me of one from the tomb of Sennedjem!

Yesterday afternoon we had another walk to the shops in the nearby village which gave me another opportunity to photograph a cat or two, including this one which has a very ‘oriental’ appearance. 

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Apr
8th
Tue
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A temple, a casemate building and gratuitous cat No.3

Our attention was first drawn to Tell Buweib when Jeff was putting GoogleEarth location points on over 600 Delta tells and realised that the plan of a temple was clearly visible on the surface at Buweib.

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Satellite image of Tell Buweib. Copyright GoogleEarth.

Before we started work this season we had assumed that we would find the typical sand-filled foundation trenches, and perhaps a large sand-filled box for the naos area, of a Late Period temple. Instead what we have are the mud-brick walls of an earlier temple filled (where we have been able to check) with layer upon layer of wind-blown dust and mud. Our aim this season was to plan the main structures at the site with only limited excavation to enable accurate planning, so, having finished the plan of the temple, we have now moved on to investigate the other major structure visible on the satellite image – the casemate foundation to the south-west of the temple pylon. We expect this to be a Saite construction but having been proved wrong about the dating of the temple, we’re keeping open minds! We’ve just started to clear the brickwork but it is already showing up very clearly, though the BIG WIND (which has returned with a vengeance) is making it hard to keep the bricks clean for more than a few minutes.

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Detail of brickwork in the casemate building.

For those who prefer feline images to those of bricks, here is gratuitous cat of the season No.3 – a grey tabby who lives around this house.

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Apr
6th
Sun
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Hot day at Tell Buweib

We’ve been working for the past few days at the very top of the highest mound where we are attempting to locate the floor level in the sanctuary area (though it may be too deep for us to reach this year) and also to see if any of the original stonework remains. So far the fill has just been layer upon layer of wind-blown dust with very few sherds and no sign of anything remaining from the internal furnishings of the temple.

Our police guards on the top of the mound, silhouetted against the sky first thing in the morning.

The MSA team is currently investigating the only area of later settlement that we’ve found so far within the temple, inside the interior of the south corner. There are the remains of mud-brick walls and mud-brick paving, and the densest concentration of sherds yet encountered on the site.

One of the MSA team members discussing the dating of sherds found during their work with Jeff.

Today was the first hot day we’ve had on site though fortunately there was an on-and-off breeze footling around to prevent the heat getting too unbearable. We’re still taking our thermos of coffee with us for the midday break but if it continues to be hot, or gets even hotter, then we’ll probably switch to taking a cold drink in the flask instead. For the first time ever in over 30 years of working in Egypt, we have a fridge so (provided the electricity stays on!) we can have cold drinks when we need them.

Patricia at coffee-break time.

The fields immediately in front of the house where we are living, and which belong to the family who own the house, have just been planted with rice and the water-level in them raised, attracting the usual egrets who eat insects and grubs and so are popular with the local farmers.

Planting the rice by walking along, making holes with a stick.

The rice-field with egrets. Our flat is on the first floor (with yellow-walled balcony) behind the palm tree.

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Apr
4th
Fri
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Dating the Buweib temple, baking bread and gratuitous cat No.2

Friday again and end of our second week of work. By investigating the ground on which our temple is founded and looking at deposits which have accumulated over the temple after it fell into disuse, we can now say that it was probably built no earlier than the Ramesside Period and no later than the early Third Intermediate Period, though it would be good, eventually, if we could refine the dating. The outer (back) north corner of the temple had been cut off by the slope of the mound and eroded away, which is how we were able to check the fill, and sherds, beneath its foundation level.

Settlement remains below the foundation level of the north corner.

While we were working yesterday morning a tractor-trailer passed by carrying workers (mostly women) who were on their way to harvest the sugar-beet crop in fields north of the tell. For the rest of the day trailers passed by regularly carrying away the harvested crop and returning empty to be filled up again.

Today being Friday the ladies of the house where we are living have been baking bread at the outdoor oven in the area just below our bedroom window so we had the very tempting aroma of newly-baked bread coming into the flat.

This was closely followed by a delivery of hot loaves straight from the oven – looking rather like an offering from an ancient tomb-scene!

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk (about 15 mins each way) to the closest shops in the village of el-Mahasna, to stock up on some preserved foods. There were quite a few cats prowling around the streets and investigating rubbish dumps - including his fine tortoise-shell and white cat (gratuitous cat of the season No.2).

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Apr
2nd
Wed
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Defining the Buweib temple’s sanctuary

For the past few days we’ve been working on defining the walls of what we are optimistically calling the temple’s ‘sanctuary’ area! Like the main outer wall it is made of mud-brick and is preserved in places several metres above the ancient ground level. It has a doorway on the temple’s axis, but again we have found no indication, so far, of any stonework associated with it. The strong winds we have had for the last two or three days had finally died down by this morning so we were able first thing today to clean the walls properly for planning and photography.

One of the brick jambs of the sanctuary doorway being cleaned.

Our daily timetable on site is to work from 7.00am to 9.00am, then have an hour for breakfast - we have to walk back to the house, cook ours and wash up afterwards – and then work again from 10.00am until 1.30pm, with a short break at around midday when we drink coffee from a thermos and our workmen and the MSA team have tea made on site.

The tea-making equipment on site.

After lunch, we sometimes go back to the tell to do levels and/or planning as this is easier when the site is quiet in the afternoons. Since we arrived the fields to one side of the track have been occupied by two herds of sheep, grazing on left-over vegetation from the last crop, but the fields were being ploughed today for the next crop so the sheep have disappeared for the moment. The horse and cart that passes by the site every day had stopped on the track this morning so I was able to get a close-up of the very attractive foal that accompanies its mother and her cart.

Our electricity is still being very unreliable and (although it is now back on) we had over 24 hours without it, apart from a few short bursts yesterday evening. It’s also become a bit cloudier and chillier so we’ve been having to wrap up a bit more!

Just to show that it isn’t always hot and sunny in Egypt!

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Mar
31st
Mon
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Big Wind at Buweib!

I was just about to write an update yesterday evening when we had our longest power cut (so far!) which lasted over two hours and since the netbook battery was low, I thought it best to postpone. Most evenings here the electricity goes off for only about one hour which we can work around and the longer cut may have been due to the very, very, windy weather we’ve had for the past few days. It has made working on site very unpleasant at times, especially when we’ve been trying to define brick walls on a steep slope. As soon as we have them clean, a fierce wind blows brick dust and powered mud from the top of the tell and totally conceals all the brick joints and wall edges. It is easy to see how over several hundred years the fill inside our temple built up!

Defining a brick wall edge before the wind started!

Like many Delta tells, Buweib was probably originally much bigger and there are a couple of outlying areas in the fields which may once have been joined to the main site. One of them is currently occupied by a Bedu encampment.

A outlying area of the tell, with tents and animals of nomadic Bedu. The tall building in the background is a local school.

Tomorrow will be our first pay-day for our workmen as we’ll have completed the first ten days of work. Everything is still going very well and we hope soon to have a better understanding of the lay-out and dating of the temple building, which appears to be earlier than we had expected at the beginning of the season.

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Mar
28th
Fri
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Possibly some paving and definitely a foundation level.

Yesterday was a very successful day as we found a thin layer of crushed limestone fragments on top of a layer of mud-bricks across what would have been the sill at the very front of the (about 9.5m deep) entrance to the temple. It needs further investigation but if this is what remains of the original paving of the entrance, then it gives us the ancient floor-level and would mean that there are (at the front of the temple) several metres of brick walls standing above floor level.

The remains of crushed limestone fragments on top of a layer of mud-bricks which may be all that has survived of the limestone pavement in the temple entrance.

We’ve also been tracing the exterior edge of the SW side wall and have located the back (north) corner which is only preserved to one/two courses. Below the bricks is settlement fill, so, at this corner, the brickwork is only preserved in its foundation courses which will be helpful for trying to establish a date for the temple as we can investigate the dating evidence from the settlement upon which it was built.

Our surveying has shown that the highest point on the tell is 9.4m above its lowest areas, which are themselves at around the same level as the local fields. Water level is even lower so, for once (unlike at Ashmunein and, occasionally, at Balamun) sub-soil water isn’t going to be a problem for us.

During surveying - looking towards the highest point on the tell where Jeff (just visible against the trees behind!) is taking readings. The man in the middle distance is one of our police guards.

Today being Friday, there has been no work on site so we’ve been catching up with various recording tasks, sorting and labelling images, and doing boring things like cleaning the flat and washing clothes!

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Mar
26th
Wed
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Bricks, pits and the first cat of the season!

Yesterday morning I stayed at the flat before breakfast to catch up on pottery drawing, which enabled me to to take a zoomed photo from our balcony of the work in progress on the site. It reminded me of Petrie’s comment at Tanis about watching the workmen through a telescope when he was back at his house for breakfast!

This morning when we arrived at the site, there was a lot of activity on the low ground – where the SCA had excavated previously – gathering up dried vegetation which had been spread out over a large area. We’re not sure what it is used for – we must ask someone!

First thing today we cleaned for photography those parts of the temple walls which we have so far uncovered. Whether or not the wall is obvious depends to a large extent on what is beside it, so that there are differences in colour and texture. The south-west side wall has fairly empty (at modern ground level) fill so the wall was very easy to identify.

The same isn’t true, however, at the interior of the south corner where there was a lot of later pitting containing both mud-bricks and flowed mud, obscuring the lines of the walls, and making them hard to distinguish. The MSA team have been investigating this again today.

The south corner of the temple. All of the clean area is temple wall, showing how substantial and well-preserved it is. At the top of the slope, the MSA team are trying to define the interior of the corner.

Since we still don’t know the date of the temple, evidence from sherds found in pits cut into the wall after its destruction is very useful. So far the dating of the later pits seems to be Late Period, implying that our temple is earlier. Some of the pits also contain fragments of limestone, indicating that there were once stone elements to the temple, but as yet none of the stone fragments has had any traces of decoration.

Patricia investigating a small pit cut down into the south-east wall.

Finally here is the first gratuitous cat of the season! It was sleeping this afternoon on straw beneath our balcony – it is probably the ginger kitten we saw when we visited the house in March 2013, see here.

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