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

Mar
24th
Mon
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In search of a foundation level for the Buweib temple

For the last two days we have concentrated on defining the main entrance to the temple, in its south-east wall, and trying to find out if our brick walls are above or below the ‘pavement’ level of the temple to help us date the building. The walls are certainly substantial – the ‘front’ wall in which the gateway is situated is almost 10m thick and we’re assuming it served as a monumental entrance, possibly even a pylon. It’s interesting that such a substantial brick structure survived the sebakh-diggers in the past but the bricks have a rather sandy matrix so may not have been as attractive to people looking for alluvial mud bricks to remove and use as fertiliser.

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Our new yellow wheelbarrow being used in clearing surface dust over the temple entrance.

There is a lot less activity on the tell here than there was at Balamun or at Kom el-Daba where we worked in 2011-12. Since it has very steep sides, it is much easier to walk around it than over the top so there is no ‘through traffic’. The track along which we walk to the site, and which skirts its edge, is used by local people on foot (or motorcycles) and their animals and can, just about, be used by cars, though they have to negotiate a very narrow and much rutted part of the track, and most seem to avoid it. Presumably there is an easier way to get to and from nearby villages.

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The track we use to go to and from the tell. The walk takes us about six minutes.

We had lovely weather today – very sunny but with a refreshing cool breeze. It’s just how we need it for working on site and we’re hoping it will last until the end of April and not get too hot.

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Mar
22nd
Sat
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First day of work at Tell Buweib

We’ve had an excellent first day on site – a really good start to the season! It was foggy when we left the house this morning but by the time we were climbing to the top of the tell, it had lifted. Usually the temples on Delta sites are in a low area but at Buweib it is on top of the mound and the reason for this is one of the things we hope to investigate this season.

Ascending the tell on the first morning.

This morning we cleared an area across the mud-brick side wall of what we are assuming is a Late Period temple. First we had to remove all the very loose and powdery surface dust as it is impossible to get pins to hold in the ground until you are down to a firm surface. Then we pinned out a 10m by 5m area to include the temple side-wall (already evident from satellite imagery) and another brick building alongside.

Defining the mud-brick temple wall.

The space between the two buildings appears to have Late Period pottery but since this is virtually on the surface it is from an open context so may not be a reliable guide to the date of the fill below. At the moment we’re using the baskets brought by our workmen to save sherds on site but we hope by tomorrow to have some more useful trays.

Our workmen’s ‘baskets’ are actually woven baskets and not made from reused tyres, which they have been on all our previous sites in the Delta.

The MSA team working with us, led by Sayed el-Talhawi, investigated the corner of the wall, where it turns at the front of the temple. Finding the outer edge of the corner was straightforward but the inner corner is proving trickier to define and will need more investigation tomorrow.

The MSA team investigating the outer front corner of the temple wall.

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Mar
21st
Fri
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Almost ready to start work.

We awoke on our first morning at Tell Buweib and opened our bedroom shutters to see our view across the the tell, only to find there was very thick fog outside and we couldn’t see beyond the palm tree immediately outside the window.

Fortunately the fog cleared by about 8.00am and it turned into a lovely warm day. We’re just about organised in the flat now after a very full day yesterday when we hired a pick-up truck (with driver) and went from Mansura to Tell el-Balamun to collect the equipment we had stored there, then on to the nearest market town, Shirbin, where we’d been shopping regularly for 20 years so we knew where to find things. After stocking up with food, things we would need for the flat and a bright yellow wheelbarrow for the work, we drove to Tell Buweib and arrived here just before 3.00pm. It then took several hours to unpack, sort and arrange things in the flat. After breakfast this morning, we went for walk around the site and decided where we want to start work tomorrow. It is only a few minutes walk from the house where we’re living.

View from the top of the tell to the house where we are living.

As at Balamun lunch will be our main meal of the day, provided by the family who own the house. Today’s lunch was excellent – soup, roast chicken, beans in sauce, salad and rice.

During the afternoon we were shown for the first time the roof terrace of the house which allows a great view of the tell and activity in the surrounding fields.

Jeff checking GPS coordinates on the roof, with the tell in the background.

Looking directly down over the edge of the roof, we could see in plan the remains of the family’s original brick house which has been, as often happens here, replaced by the current red brick and concrete one. Although not ‘ancient’ it provides an interesting example of how the remains of mud-brick walls get eroded once a house is abandoned, and gradually become buried in debris and discarded rubbish.

We had wondered if planning to start work at a new site where we had to find accommodation within a week of arriving in Egypt would be too optimistic but, thanks to our colleagues at the MSA and the helpful local people here, everything has gone really well so tomorrow we will be starting work on site, at 7.00am. We’re hoping it won’t be as foggy as it was this morning at that time!  

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Mar
19th
Wed
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Visit to Buweib in the sun!

It has been a warm, mostly sunny day for our first visit of the season to Tell Buweib. We went this morning to the MSA Office here and handed over our papers to the Director, Selim el-Baghdadi, whom we first met in 1990 when we toured around sites in the Delta. We then went with Sayed el-Talhawi, who was recently excavating Ptolemaic burials at Tell Tebilla, to Tell Buweib to discuss accommodation options with the family who live closest to the site. Sayed excavated at Buweib himself several years ago and will be leading the team of Egyptian colleagues who will be working with us. Once we arrived at the house, we were made very welcome and were able to agree to rent a first-floor flat (with a view of the tell from its balcony) until late April. After a very generous rice and fish lunch, we returned to Mansura and reported back at the MSA Office on the success of our day. Tomorrow we will return to Buweib to stay, going via Tell el-Balamun to pick up the equipment we have stored there, and doing some essential shopping on the way. We’re looking forward to being able finally to unpack properly and get settled in before we start work on site on Saturday.

View of Tell Buweib with the corner of the house in which we will be living.

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Mar
17th
Mon
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In Cairo

After arriving in the early hours of Sunday morning, we’ve had a very successful two days in Cairo. First thing yesterday we went to the MSA and collected our papers to take to the Mansura office, then we walked over to the British Council and met Essam Nagy, the EES Cairo Office Manager for the first time – it was good to hear about his new initiatives, including the very successful training courses at the office. We borrowed from Essam one of the EES mobile phones and today we bought a USB dongle so we should be able to keep in touch while we’re on site. We also needed to buy a new meter staff and fortunately Jeff was able to remember where he and Vivian Davies had bought surveying equipment in Cairo back in 1980 when they were setting up the British Museum’s expedition to El-Ashmunein. The shop (Buccelati’s) is still there but now seems mainly to sell paintings and reproductions, with just a small surveying section. They did fortunately have a 5-metre staff which we snapped up.

Statue of Mustafa Kamal in the square on which Buccelati’s is situated.

Buying the staff was very quick and easy, buying the dongle and the new SIM card for the phone took much longer than it should have at a Mobinil shop, so we were then ready for a Pizza Hut lunch, though we declined to try a new item on the menu – chocolate and marshmallow pizza!

Tomorrow we are going by train up to Mansura. For the past few years whenever we’ve stayed there, it has poured with rain so we’re hoping for better weather this time. Cairo has been warm today but rather overcast, which doesn’t bode well for the Delta!

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Mar
10th
Mon
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Countdown to the 2014 season

After having had to postpone our planned fieldwork at Tell Buweib from Spring 2013 and then again from the Autumn, we will be leaving on Saturday for Cairo, and hope to be working again in the Delta by the end of next week.

Wall lines visible on the surface at Tell Buweib (2013).

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Aug
14th
Wed
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Delta Survey Workshop papers online and ‘open access’

The third MSA/EES Delta Survey Workshop took place on 22-23 March 2013 at the British Council in Cairo. The EES hopes to publish as many of the papers as we can online and ‘open access’, and the first four have just been uploaded at http://www.ees.ac.uk/research/Delta_Workshop.html:

Aiman Ashmawy Ali, The SCA excavation at Tell Basta 2002

AymanWahby and Karim Abdel Fattah, Some little-known archaeological sites in Dakahlia Governorate

Hesham M Hussein and Sayed Abd el-Aleem, Tell el-Kedwa (Qedua): Saite Fortresses on Egypt’s Eastern Frontier

Manuela Lehmann, Skylines, bridges and mud in the Delta and elsewhere

Tell Balasun in Dakahlia Governorate - one of the sites described in Ayman Wahby and Karim Abdel Fattah’s article.

Modern multi-storey houses in the Yemen which can be compared with ancient Egyptian tower houses (see Manuela Lehmann’s article).

Some of the papers at the Workshop are effectively already available for download and links will be provided for these, eg:

Ross Thomas and Alexandra Villing, Naukratis (Kom Geif) 2012 field season

The Delta Survey page of the EES website has also been updated with more information and links added: http://www.ees.ac.uk/research/delta-survey.html

Further papers will be uploaded as and when they have been received and prepared for online publication.

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Mar
26th
Tue
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Visit to Mansura

We returned to Cairo today after a very successful two days in Mansura. On Sunday we went there by train – something we haven’t done for many years as usually we hire a car for our field seasons. It was the first time I’d seen the main Cairo railway station since it was refurbished and it is quite amazing. As I said in a tweet that day, it reminded us of Las Vegas!

The main hall of the railway station at Cairo.

On arrival we went to the office of the SCA Director in Dakhalia, Neguib Nur, and talked with him and his colleagues about our application to work at Tell Buweib in October. As ever, they were all very welcoming and helpful and arranged for us to visit the site the following day with Sayed el-Talhawy who had directed excavations at Buweib for the SCA ten years ago.

On Monday we met Sayed at the SCA office and drove by taxi (about an hour and a half from Mansura) to Tell Buweib where we walked over the site and Sayed told us about the results of the previous SCA excavations. We then went for a very welcome drink of tea in the nearest house to the tell.

View of Tell Buweib from the house where we were given tea.

The house owner’s granddaughter, who was very wary of us.

There were several cats around the house, including this ginger kitten.

This morning we got the train back to Cairo and we fly home on Thursday after a short but very successful and productive stay in Egypt.

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Mar
23rd
Sat
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Summary by the EES Chair, Dr Aidan Dodson

Aidan is noting that the passion of the final discussion shows the value of having so many people together in one place to discuss their work and concerns. Papers over the past two days have ranged from discussions of single sites to surveys of areas and overviews. The EES is very keen that these events should continue. Aidan was pleased that we had such an international presence, and so many papers from our Egyptian colleagues. Finally he would like to thank all the speakers, the session chairs, the British Council and Jeff, Faten and me for doing all the work!!

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Final Discussion

In reply to Ayman Wahby, Mohamed Abd el-Maguid says that everyone talks about the tomb of Alexander the Great which should be in the ‘Soma’ and he hopes that it has not yet been destroyed. He reiterated the problems of excavating in the deep stratigraphy of Alexandria. Geoffrey Tassie is pointing out that other cities, such as London and Lincoln, have similar problems and it might be worth consulting, for example, the Museum of London Archaeological Service for advice.

Robert Schiestl queried the prominence Penny gave to the Ptolemaic Period which her own survey work seemed not to support for the northern west Delta. Penny agreed that most of the sites seem to be Late Antique but she doesn’t believe they are necessarily all LA foundations and wonders if Ptolemaic evidence might be found if sondages were to be dug into the apparently-later sites in the area. Robert said that his own sondages have only found evidence for Roman levels, not Ptolemaic. 

Tomasz Herbich is advising Jeff to pass on to the Naukratis team that caesium magnetometery will be more productive to locate river channels.

Mohammed Abd el-Maguid is asking about evidence for maritime activities at Naukratis. Jeff says there were some anchors from Petrie’s work and Penny added that some nails and sheeting from ships were found.

In reply to Joanne Rowland, Penny says more training is needed of local archaeologists to survey and document endangered sites as they are already in Egypt and can respond quickly if rescue archaeology is necessary. Aiman el-Ashmawy is stressing the importance of survey data and especially magnetometery scans being available to SCA Inspectors. Edgar Pusch is emphasising the importance of scanning as it can reveal archaeological deposits so much more quickly than excavation. Tomasz Herbich has explained the different advantages of fluxgate and caesium magnetometry.

Aiman is making the point that scans would enable the SCA to judge in advance if a site needs excavation before being released. Edgar is recommending that scanning the fields around obvious tells would show their extent even if they have been flattened.

Discussion has turned to making data available to as many people as possible and as easily as possible. Jeff is suggesting that scans and images can be made readily available to everyone if they can be hosted online, as many satellite images now are. However, it all costs money - both to do the initial scanning and to host it online - and it would need organising and maintaining. Reports can also be uploaded and made available as PDFs online, as he did with the final Balamun report which can be downloaded for free from the BM website. Aidan is pointing out that online publication would also allow errors to be corrected or data updated. Ayman Wahby says there is still a problem getting information about sites from the SCA. Tomasz says he always tries to publish his scanning as soon as possible.

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