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
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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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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