EES Minufiyeh Survey RSS

During summer 2014 Dr Joanne Rowland will again lead the Egypt Exploration Society's Expedition to the Minufiyeh Governorate, Egypt.



The last days at Quesna!

Tuesday 16th September 2014

By Hatem and Jo

It is always hard to finish up a season and leave the site, but the time has come to pack up and lock up until next spring 2015. Having spent every day but Friday here for 43 days, it will be strange not to be coming back to work with the team!

The backfilling went very well - this time we used sacks filled with sand enitrely - rather than putting sand directly into the trenches, and structures.  One of the main reasons for this is that it will make it much easier to remove sand bags if a specific part of any of the structures needs to be investigated in the future. 

On Tuesday morning we headed to Quesna and the day was divided between checking the final backill of the mastaba and also re-organising the workrooms and taken final photographs and fill in final recording forms.  Boxes were moved from our temporary to permanent workrooms and everything was complete by late afternoon! Today followed several days of report writing, registering finds and the printing and copying of reports for the end of the season - to be followed by the final report after the end of the spring season, the end of our year’s work.

Thanks to Dr. Jo and her team, Rais Omar and his team, my MSCA friends and securities and thanks to have chance to write in Tumblr and  for reading our updates and we look forward to being back again soon.
By Jo.
The season has been very successful and very full! We succeeded in completing the excavations in the mastaba tomb and further investigations in the falcon necropolis - with exciting results to come as the post-excavation work continues in the coming months from photographic records, and from the assessment of our finds and contexts sheets.
We locked up at the end of the day today and the guards, as ever, came to help and this now very familiar ceremony was recorded photographically as ever!!
It remains to say a huge thank you to Emad Shayib, head of the Minufiyeh office in Tanta, to Hatem our inspector who as been fully involved in our work, and of course to the team - Tass, Sebastian, Alex, Katherine, Stephanie and Reis Omer, Ramadan and Am Yasseen who have been invaluable … again! Many thanks to the EES for supporting our season and Jo is looking forward to being able to reveal the results in lectures and publications early next summer!! 
Am Yasseen ready to emerge from one of the final contexts!
For now - over to Imbaba Province for survey!

A week of comings and goings

Friday 12th September 2014

It has really been a week of comings and goings!  Last week already we said goodbye to Larry Owens, who we hope to see again very soon, and also to Luciana Carvalho who proved an excellent addition to the team as conservation support!!  This Wednesday we also had to say goodbye to Alex, Katherine and Sebastian as they variably make their way back to London and Berlin.  It was the first time and Quesna for Alex and Katherine - who have been so helpful in the falcon gallery and had a great time, and the third time for Sebastian, who is now a valued member of the team and who has taken all of our small finds photos up until now. It will be down to Tass and Jo from tomorrow!!

Preparing to take animal mummies to the store rooms

Jo travelled to Cairo and back on Saturday to give a talk at the British Council as part of the EES lecture series. She was thrilled at the great attendance … it is very nice to see so much interest in an area of the Delta that is only slowly becoming better known!  Hatem give a short introduction about Minufiyeh before Jo spoke and there were lots of questions afterwards and lots of interest in the region!  Old friends as well as new came along, and it was brilliant to see Ahmed Mekawy in the audience and Susannah Thomas too as well as Ana Tavares and team from Memphis! Hatem, Mr Alaa and Rais Omer all came to watch the talk too! Thanks to Essam for organising the talk and to everyone for coming!  It was a very long day - but well worth the trip - Jo will also speak on 18th September at AUC in Tahrir Square (7-9pm) so I hope we will have a good turnout then too!!


Alaa, Ahmed, Jo, Omer, Hatem after Jo’s talk at the EES


Bluebell flies again

Twice more this week Bluebell, the already beloved kite, took off again!  The first occasion, earlier in the week, was not so windy and although it worked, we could often not get the kite to stay in one play at a high enough altitude.  Ideally for KAP (Kite Aerial Photography), we should let the main kite out to 30m and then attached the cradle and camera at 60m because then we are able to get better coverage from the sky and the video (which we have ended up using due to problems with the single capture trigger) can then cover the whole of a single structure at any one time - if the camera is too low - then it is very partial.  Hatem’s computing skills have triumphed once again as he has been able to extract stills from the video and alreay from the first camera flight we have somet nice images of the falcon gallery.

Yesterday - Friday, we were able to launch Bluebell again in quite strong (i.e. good) winds and she flew very well!  Jo had to work up in the workrooms and was amazed who high up she was when the team brought her and the camera up to run over the mausoleum.  It is such a great and cost-effective method - thanks to TOPOI in Berlin for hosting the KAP workshop this past summer, because Tass and Sebastian were able to attend and make great contacts and take notes which has enabled it to happen together with support from the EES!

Kite at c60m and cradle with camera at 30m!


A focus on the falcon necropolis!

7th September 2014

Today we welcomed one of our team up to the site for the day - Prof. Salima Ikram from the American University in Cairo. This season’s findings in the falcon necropolis have been very ‘full’ in terms of mummified remains, if still rather perplexing in terms of how the structure was built and how tall the walls would have been in the past.  Salima, ably assisted by Alex, Katherine, Sebastian, Mr Alaa and Hatem, lifted a number of mummies and also up in the work room x-rayed a select few so that we can identify species without disturbing the original bandages - this can be very interesting in terms of finding out whether whole birds, or other animals, for e.g. shrews, were wrapped, or whether there are random selections of bones and even twigs, as we know sometimes occurred.

Jo and Salima trying to understand T15!

It was very interesting to witness the set up and use of the x-ray machine, but of course we all had to wait outside the work room while the actual images were being carried out - with Salima only permitted, wearing a heavy protective lead apron. The results will be known and submitted in our report for the end of the 2014-15 seasons, and hopefully published shortly afterwards!!

Hatem helps Salima Ikram to assemble the x-ray equipment

It was great to welcome Salima on site once again, and we also look forward to her working and discussing together with Lisa Yeomans next spring!


Into the last week or so!

Friday 11th September 2014 

Hatem and Jo writes on the week just past at Quesna: The days go by. Hours pass. The minutes keep on ticking - and why is the time going so quickly, as ever.  It always seems to speed up towards the end of a season and as the time is running out some very interesting information is also coming out.


Tass ready to descend!

In the last days of our work in T5 & T15 there have been a lot of interesting discoveries in terms of our understanding of the structures, their function and also through the objects found, we understand much more than before, and after post-excavation analysis, this information will be even more - but we will have to be patient and wait for this.

Am Yassin searching for mud seal impressions

In T15, Katherine and Alexandra have been working with Am Yassin with interesting seal impression finds coming up mainly in the sieving from the excavated material. This really proves the immense value of sieving everything coming out of the trenches and of using fine enough mesh to catch everything that might come up!  Am Yassin has an incredible eye for catching the smallest detail on a small fragment of mud - but this information, once deciphered, will bring so much new knowledge that will help us prove or disprove the various theories about the origins of the falcon necropolis … did Djed Hor Pashed really found this…


Alex and Katherine on the sieves

Over in T5, Jo and Tass have been very fortunate in having able assistance not only from Hatem, but also from Sara and Asmaa from the Minufiyeh office in Tanta.  They have helped during the eastern section of the mastaba tomb and also helped very much with the sieving of finds in the afternoon. Sometimes there is much excavated spoil to deal with and it can be a much better use of resources to place all the spoil onto a sheet (shawal) in the morning while the workers are with us, and then sieve this quietly in the afternoon when there are fewer people about and less distractions.  From the sieve tiny fragments of animal bones come up, tiny fragments of stone, bronze, but added together and compared with other contexts, they are all helping very much to build up a much clearer picture of the activities that occurred at Quesna from the Old Kingdom and also the Ptolemaic period.


Rais Omer at work inside the mastaba tomb

As the penultimate week of work closes, the Old Kingdom mastaba becomes very clear in terms of our understanding of the different phases of building, and of which areas were used for which activities.  It has taken a long time and involved a lot of comparative work too, and much scratching of our heads, drawing, taking of levels, but slowly it really starts to make sense.  Who knows what will happen in the very last days - with the backfilling due to commence to protect the structure on Sunday. Will we find out the name of the tomb owner(s), will we establish a finer idea of the chronology …


Up, up and away!

Saturday 30th August 2014

It is hard to believe that we are now into the last two weeks of our work at Quesna and that it is almost September!  We will be grateful as the temperatures start to decline, but we have kept the sunscreen business going these past two weeks!

Today we welcomed back Esmaa for the day, who was training with us in 2010 when the Old Kingdom mastaba tomb was last open! She was quite amazed at the difference between the two seasons and we really have made amazing progress and are getting much closer today to solving some outstanding queries!!  It was great to see Esmaa and she got involved in the work for the day, which was so fitting given that she was there almost at the start of our work on this tomb!

In T15, Alex and Katherine were busy today as they finished the drawing of a complicated section, and our conservators, Luciana and Mr Alaa were assessing ways of lifting material from the galleries in a block. Sebastian and Luciana were also hard at work in the conservation ‘lab’ documenting finds from this year as well as previous years - taking some more photographs of the shabtis found in 2010 that will appear in the Quesna I volume on the Ptolemaic - Roman cemetery!

This afternoon got very exciting as we launched Bluebell the kite for the second time and attached Tass’s camera in the cradle beneath Bluebell for a test run of the Kite Aerial Photography (KAP)!  The results are actually not bad at all for a first run and we took video today as we are having some difficulties with the automatic trigger on the camera!  We will have another go tomorrow and get the knack of keeping it still with changing wind speeds - which is challenging, particularly on the edge of the gezira!


Final adjustments being made to the cradle for the KAP by Tass, with Ramadan and Hatem holding the strings!


Esmaa with Tass and Hatem by T5!


9-14th August 2014 

Apologies for our lengthy silence but we have had terrible problems with the internet connection which may (or may not) be connected to what were very frequent power cuts.  These power cuts have lessened considerably in the last couple of days so we are hopeful for the internet, the fans and lights to keep running as we nearly reach the last two weeks of the current season.

To backtrack for a minute to last week, our inspector, Hatem, wrote some notes on our progress…

As the days go by, the excavations continue!The last week saw us working in 3 places , T5 (Old Kingdom mastaba), T15 (the Falcon necropolis ), and in T18 (in one of our old work areas for 2010).

Sara, Asmaa and Hatem drawing in T5

Despite the very warm weather, everyone pulled together, particularly the workers and our Quftis workforce, to ensure that the final remains of the backfill were removed and that sufficent sand sacks (shawals) were placed around and within the structure to prevent the sand from falling down into the trenches T5 and T15 .

Dr.Joanne sets the total station up every day in order to take the levels of each new context including the top and bottom levels as we progress with the work, as part of our the recording system. Alex and Katherine have also been learning how to set up, orientate and use the total station, so they will also be able to do this in the coming weeks as it gets even busier!

There has been much painstaking work on the sieve in both T5 and T15, but especially T15 where tiny fragments of bird and other animal bone have been extracted together with other tiny fragments of finds.


Backfill out and full steam ahead!

Thursday 14th August 2014

Clearing Backfill from Trench 5

This has been a very busy, but very successful week!  We have been able to remove the backfill from the falcon gallery trenches (T15) and also the Old Kingdom mastaba (T5) is virtually ready for new investigations.  It has of course involved a large amount of woman and man power to remove the backfilled sand from our former excavations in these areas, and this has been due to the work of our local workforce and our team from Quft!

The weather has remained hot throughout the week, although we have had some luck with cloud cover which has made things rather more pleasant!  An early start each morning means that the first 2-3 hours of the day are relatively cool, and the majority of heavy work is carried out only until 11am. Today was the first day of real new investigations in the falcon gallery, with interesting new finds of falcon mummy material to add to that from our previous seasons!  We are already anticipating Salima Ikram’s visit in early September and think she will be rather interested already in what we are finding!

In addition to our local workforce, we are now a team of 4 from Quft, 3 from the Delta (including Hatem, our inspector, and one of our conservators and archaeologists) and four currently based in Berlin! The team will grow again on Saturday as we will welcome our colleague from previous seasons, Larry Owens, and two new colleagues!

Mr Alaa, our MSA conservator, has been cleaning some of the copper alloy finds from the falcon gallery from 2012 with great results, and hopefully there will be new material from this season’s investigations for him to work on too!  Today he has also been attending to cracks in the mud-brickwork of the falcon gallery, to stabilise and prevent damage to the structure.


Returning to old ground, with high expectations!

By Hatem:

Season summer 2014:
The excavations return … in 6 of August was the start of this season in quesna … Dr. Joanne Rowland and her team are back again to complete what they began in previous seasons …. especially  the spring 2010 season when a new mud-brick structure was uncovered and further investigation confirmed that the broken ceramics sitting on top of the structure were beer jars which could be dated to the late 3rd to early 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.

This was the first structure that had been found at the site to pre-date the Late Period.. Until now it has not been possible to reach the burial shaft and investigate whether there might be some remains which indicate the identity of the owner of the tomb, for instance broken sealings. So we will work this season to see if we can identify the owner of the tomb.

Jo and the head of Minufiyeh province for the Ministry of State for Antiquities, Emad el-Shayib  


6th-7th August 2014 Starting work

By Tass:

The summer season at Quesna has begun. The Quftis have arrived and we are getting the site ready for more members of the team to arrive in the next few days to begin the excavations this Saturday 9th August. The research centre has been cleaned and the excavation equipment brought out of storage. Our inspector, Hatem, has joined us from the start of the work - as is usual for all missions working in Egypt, and he will also be posting with the team on tumblr!


Hatem el-Tablawy (our inspector), Jo and our Rais -  Omer Farouk el-Quftawi

Today, as well as arranging all the paperwork involved in recording the excavations, a trench was located in the north-eastern part of the site where we worked in 2010, Trench 18. This trench has been located here to test an anomaly that Kris Strutt had located using magnetometry a few seasons ago. There is no indication as to the age of this anomaly on the surface, but it may well be another mud-brick structure from the geophysical signals.

Trench 18 is not the main focus of this season’s work. The main focus is on is continuing in the Old Kingdom mastaba that was first discovered in 2010. As such, we began to remove the backfill today to reveal the covering that we placed over the structure to protect it. This process will take several days, and will also involve the re-establishing of the trench using the total station surveying equipment!

Work will also continue in the Sacred Falcon Galleries, investigating the relationship between the different abutting parts of the structure. Later in the season Salima Ikram will come and analyse some more of the falcon and shrew mummies, and it is hoped that we will find some new examples to show her as well as some interesting new sealings, or figures from caskets, such as the giant elephant shrew that we recently published in JEA 99 (2013), and which Jo spoke about at the EES Animal Mummies study day in London last month.

Domestic life in Egypt is a trifle more difficult this year - what with the frequent power cuts and the higher prices of food and petrol - but we are not letting these obstacles get in the way of the archaeology. The residents of Quesna and Shibin el-Kom (where we are living) seem to be glad that we are back. Things are generally as they were earlier in the year, although our favourite restaurant - Adrianno’s - sadly has not made it through these tough times and will be sorely missed by us all.  Life is very difficult for people on a daily basis, moreso in the hot and humid days of August with electricity cutting out all cooling devices in people’s homes and offices.  Benzine prices are not far off double what they were a few months ago, and this impacts upon nearly everyone in some way or other.