EES Minufiyeh Survey RSS

In August and September 2012 Dr Joanne Rowland will again lead the Egypt Exploration Society's Expedition to the Minufiyeh Governorate, Egypt. During this season Jo and her team will be excavating and running a field training school for Egyptian MSA inspectors at the site of Quesna. For further information see



Do please watch our posts from Imbaba province during spring 2014:



Sunday 31st March 2013

Today marked the end of the re-analysis of the skeletal remains on site and the start of the analyses of the new (and old) data back at the house.  Scott and Larry headed back to base after second breakfast, together with Valentina to do some serious computer-work and they were still working hard when the remainder of the team returned home later in the afternoon!

Up at the site, Jo continued to draw the coffins, with only one single coffin vessel remaining to be drawn tomorrow, when she will also continue to input data onto the coffin recording forms, including details about the fabric of the coffins. It was also a day of much cleaning and re-organisation, as the coffins have been re-located for drawing and tomorrow and on Tuesday we begin the task of moving them back again into the back of the work rooms!

This evening - it being Easter Sunday of course - we had a special dinner with bbq chicken from Tawil Restaurant in Shibin el-Kom, followed by chocolate eggs from Germany.  Jo had meant to preserve the tradition of the hiding of the eggs but they had to chill off in the fridge as the bag had got rather melted in the sunshine - but they were much enjoyed nevertheless!

Again tonight the power was out - but thankfully back after about two hours.  We purchased a battery/chargeable light last week which has been well worth every LE!  It does rather concentrate the mozzies though - of which there are inordinate amounts this season. The water has also been out again and is looking like being out for 12 hours tomorrow - thankfully for most of the time we will be at the site, but we are hoping to recharge all vessels in the house with water if it comes on in the meantime! It has certainly been a more regular occurrence than in previous seasons, even recent ones.  At least there is a fast and furious supply of bottled drinking water!

Happy Easter everyone!


Everyone up at the Lab!

Saturday 30th March 2013

After a refreshing day off by all on Friday (variably involving Islamic Cairo and the Khan el-Khalili, and gentle shopping in Shibin el-Kom!) we headed back up to Quesna re-invigorated this morning for the final week of work of our spring season!  The workers joined us at 8am to finish the back-filling of the two small trenches from the season and also to re-fill parts of our earlier excavation trenches where the sand has inevitably shifted and where some of the shawals (covers) have become exposed. Everything was well covered by 11am and then we all had a final breakfast together - a very nice spread of fruit, cheese (three kinds today, including the very old cheese, ‘mish’), chipsies, bread and vegetables, washed down with some bottles of pop. We will, as ever, miss our workers, who only numbered six this time, including our first ever sieve lady, Fatieha, but they will be back with us again in September and October for further excavations in other areas of the site.

In the skeletal remains lab, Scott, Larry, Sara and Leanne worked hard on recording additional information from the dental remains and by the end of tomorrow, all post-excavation recording work will have been completed and then remains the final task of adding the new data to the already written skeletal reports.  Also in the lab, Valentina continued to work on the ceramics and, as with the skeletal remains, everything relating to the pottery will have been completed and nearly ready for the publication by the time we close the site up on Thursday 4th April!  It is really satisfying to be able to see everything coming together for publication.


The happy team in the lab!

Having overseen the final back-filling of the trenches, Jo moved once more up to the large work room to continue with the task of drawing the ceramic coffins and by the time we left today, there were only five remaining to be drawn and then some additional notes to be made concerning the fabric and type of the vessels. Mr Alaa, our conservator, is busy reconstructing the final coffins, and we are well on schedule to finish by the end of Tuesday. Then only the small finds remain to be checked and we will have achieved our goals for the season!!


Mr Alaa reconstructing ceramic coffins at the work rooms.


In the lab and in the field!

Tuesday 26th March 2013 
Today we had the osteological team - Larry, Scott and also Sara - in the trench to work on the probably final burial of the season! Scott took a whole range of photographs that are going to enable him to produce a 3-D view of the burial that we are all really looking forward to seeing later this evening or tomorrow! 
It was a truly Khamseen-y day - these are the winds that get very high at this time of year and can come on without much notice! So it was just as well that we had finished lifting the skeletal remains by about 1pm as it was getting too blustery to be able to work with the sand flying in our faces and we had to take the total station down as well!
This evening the power has gone out once again, so now we have a battery lamp so that we can see what we are eating and I am quickly preparing this tumblr posting before the battery on the computer goes out!
Sara and Larry in T9/14
Monday 25th March 2013 
Greetings from Quesna! We have a number of different areas of work now, with the team split between the lab and the trenches.  The osteological team is mainly in the lab, reviewing the skeletal remains from the excavations since 2007, obtaining further information that will help us better understand the health of the population. Leanne, a new team member, has been helping Scott and Larry sort through the material as well. This work is in preparation for the monograph on the cemetery.  Also Valentina continues to work on the ceramic material preparing the publication and will thankfully have time to look at some new material from the trenches from the end of the summer 2012 season as well as the current season. 
Work also continues in the field in T9/14, where a small excavation is uncovering and recording a small number of burials, which will also be included in the forthcoming publication, and in T17 where a brick structure is being investigated. The date of the current excavations is Ptolemaic to Roman.

Rais Omer and the local workforce uncovering the structure in T17
Jo is dividing her time between the trenches and the work rooms where she has been drawing the ceramic coffins, also for the publication.  There is a really wide range of types and it will be very interesting to start to compare these with those found at other sites in the Delta and beyond.  The double barrel type are by far the most common amongst those that we have found in the past 6 years!
Sunday 24th March 2013 
Today we had to say goodbye to Tass, who was already working with us along the desert edge back in February!  It was very sad for everyone to see him go but of course he will be back again in the summer!  Before leaving, Tass helped Jo take all of the levels with the total station in T9/14 and T17 and we nearly had to prise him out of the trench to get into the taxi!  There was, as usual, a long farewell ceremony - a snapshot of which is below!

Back at Quesna and in Shibin el-Kom

Wednesday 20th March 2013

Today was our first working at home day. Work on the pottery catalogue is underway and back-ups of data from previous seasons were being made to keep an additional copy on an external hard driver that will be used by all team members for photo-downloads during the season.  We also worked on our presentations for this weekend’s Third Delta Survey Workshop being held in Cairo at the British Council.  It will be a great opportunity to find out more about our colleagues’ work across the Delta and to compare notes on typologies, methods and various aspects of our research.


Visa extensions were also obtained and generally a productive day was had by all – we will head back up to the site at 6.45am tomorrow morning and set to our various tasks – which will include preparing space for the osteologists who are flying in on Friday morning.


Tuesday 19th March 2013 

 Today was our first day back up at Quesna and we were absolutely delighted to welcome back our old policeman from several seasons ago, Mr Hassan, who has sadly been recouperating from a broken leg.  It is excellent to have him around once more.  We were also very pleased to meet with the site guardians (gaffirs) who look after the site for 24 hours every day, rotating by shifts.  Three of our local workers came up to site to join us and help to re-organise the work room and clean it out a little bit and then we set to the task of bringing together the ceramics from the cemetery that will be looked at by Valentina Gasperini over the course of this short season, complementing the work of Ashraf el-Senussi.  The main task for this season is to conduct additional analysis on the human remains excavated between 2007 and 2013 and a very limited excavation will be made in Trenches 9 and 14, to excavate just a couple of burials to complete the area.


Our policeman, back in action.

The task ahead!


The small 4 x 4m trench was laid out at around lunchtime today and excavation started immediately.  The workers will be with us again on Thursday. Wednesdays are being spent engaged in non-site preparation tasks for the book to ensure that we have sufficient time to organise texts and images as we go along.  Today we also wrote the list of ceramic coffins that we need to draw this season and will also get straight to this task first thing on Thursday morning.


Monday 18th March 2013

On Monday 18th we arrived at Tanta having completed a first season in Imbaba province (a review of the season is coming soon to Having met our good colleagues at the Taftish in Tanta and completed the necessary paperwork to mark the opening of this short season, the small team – Tass, Rais Omer and his colleagues from Quft, and myself, headed down to Shibin el-Kom to set up the apartment which we will stay in for the next three weeks.  The journey from Tanta to Shibin was made on the local train as our 4WD and luggage stopped in Shibin for unloading!  The train turned out to be an excellent choice as it was, if anything, quicker than the car and a chance to talk to some very friendly fellow travellers on the way!


Back in Shibin we are now in one of our ‘old’ apartments from last summer. As there are only ever a few apartments that are furnished, we tend to circulate between about five different flats over the years.  It is now our 7th season living in Shibin el-Kom, so we know most of the local shop owners and a lot of the families in the area, so it was nice to renew old acquaintances!


The situation in Shibin is calm, however, there are electricity outages and also occasional disruptions to the water supply.  These are thankfully not every day, and it is reminiscent of the UK in the 1970s, when power cuts were a frequent occurrence.  Thankfully tonight the power was only out for about 15 minutes and the water for 5!





The last week!

3rd October 2012

The days following the Ambassador’s visit have been busy, and also those just before.  We had another special visitor last Thursday (27th September) - Salima Ikram - who spent the day with us, and particularly with Lisa Yeomans, to look through the recently analysed animal bones, as well as textiles from the falcon gallery and our small finds from the season. Salima also came down into the falcon gallery trenches and had some very interesting observations regarding the depositing of bird mummies and subsequent rituals an application of various liquids/resins.  The day really put a lot into perspective, given Salima’s wealth of experience in other bird and animal necropoli.

Salima, Lisa and Jo in discussion in the falcon necropolis

Saturday of course, was the Ambassador’s visit and on Sunday it was back to business as usual and a hive of activity in T5, T14 and the falcon necropolis (T12, 13 and 15). The groups swapped over between conservation and ceramics, but also the students continue to spend the period until 10.30 - the second breakfast - in the trenches, drawing with Tass in T15, as well as taking levels and filling in excavation context sheets, and drawing and lifting burials in T14 with Larry.

One of the students drawing in T15.

One of the pottery classes underway

One of the students setting up the EES total station

There has really been great progress in T14 in the cemetery. After today there are only a very few burials to lift, and then Larry and Sara will move into the ‘Lab’ on Saturday to conduct the post-excavation analysis which stands to give us additional information as to any diseases or other medical afflictions that the individuals had. The work finished in T5 today – in the area of the Old Kingdom mastaba tomb – where we had been investigating the area around the structure – and in T15, the students have now finished planning the contexts that they uncovered themselves, and work has also been completed, with the exception of final plans in T12 and T13. It is nice to see everything coming together!

There have been several comings and goings this week as well. On Sunday morning we greeted a new conservator, Jennifer Booth, from Oxford, who has been carrying out sterling work in the cemetery, as she has become responsible for the consolidation of the skeletal remains and has helped with lifting and recording of the burials as well.  Last Thursday we also said goodbye to the last of the group from Berlin. We all drove in to hear Tass’s lecture on the process  of Neolithisation in Egypt – held at the Netherlands Flemish Institute on Zamalek, and from there the students returned to Berlin. We also had to say farewell – just until next year – to Lisa, and we are very excited about the possibilities that we have for further analysis in the falcon necropolis.


Jennifer mixing Paraloid (consolidant) together with Larry (filling in recording forms!) in T14

After the day off, we will only have three remaining days of the 2012 fieldschool, and the majority of this time will be spent with a field trip, during which the wider topic of cultural heritage management will be explored, a topic introduced already by Tass in the Saturday lectures two weeks’ ago. On Monday – the exam! This would normally have taken place on Saturday, but it will be a public holiday for October 6th, and the university will be closed!


A special visitor!

Saturday 29th September 2012

Today was a very special day.  We welcomed the British Ambassador to Egypt, James Watt, together with his wife and a colleague from the Embassy in Cairo. We toured the site with our visitors, starting in the area of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) excavations from the 1990s – the mausoleum – the discovery of which led to the site being registered. We explained the history of the site – both its archaeological discovery, as well as its ancient history, to our visitors and they were also able to see the excavations in progress – with Larry and his colleagues and students working in T14 in the cemetery and Tass working with the Quftis and local workers in the T12 in the falcon necropolis.

The start of the site tour, by the mausoleum

The Ambassador was very interested in all aspects of the work that we are doing, the various methods and specialists and there were many interesting questions throughout the day. We were delighted to see so many of our colleagues from the MSA up at Quesna and we are very grateful to everyone who helped with the organisation of what proved to be a very successful day including the local police force and of course the guardians at Quesna.

After the site tour, we had a nice sandwich lunch, which gave us a chance to talk in more detail with the Ambassador and his wife, together with Mr Abdullah Abd al Hassan, head of the Central Delta and our colleagues from the Minufiyeh office.  We then also looked at some of the fragments of objects that we have found recently, some of the more complete ceramic vessels that we have found and also the ceramic coffins.  The Ambassador was delighted to meet the fieldschool students and also the instructors, our local workforce and of course the Quftis.

Together with the fieldschool students and Mr Abdullah Abd al Hassan (far right) after lunch

The day did not end at the site, however! We all then left in convoy to the University of Minufiyeh, where we were warmly welcomed by the President and Vice-President, together with our colleagues in the Faculty of Archaeology. The Ambassador was presented with a commemorative plaque, as was Jo. There then followed an interesting discussion on the inter-disciplinary nature of archaeological work, before we all moved in to join the students  - both the fieldschool students and also a larger group of students from the Faculty of Archaeology – where the weekly lectures were being held. We had a lovely introduction from a member of the Faculty, and after brief speeches of thanks by the Ambassador and Jo, the lectures on ceramics – by Mandy and Ashraf, followed by that on conservation, by Mr Alaa rounded the day off very well.

In the Faculty at Minufiyeh University


Teaching in the lecture room and in the field!

Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd September 2012

At last the weather has changed and autumn has arrived with a cool breeze. This helped to speed up the excavation of the burials in the cemetery.  Several more graves and burials were drawn, measured and the bones lifted for further analysis today.  Work in the sacred falcon galleries continued with a new thick layer of mummified remains being discovered. In the afternoon the fieldschool continued apace with lectures being delivered at Minufiyeh University in Shibin el-Kom. These lectures consisted of an overview of the various concepts used in cultural heritage management (Tass), zooarchaeology (Lisa Yeomans), bioarchaeology (Larry Owens) and planning and section drawing, along with the use of the single context methodology (Tass). The use of the Harris Matrix in graphically depicting the site stratigraphy was explained in great detail, and also why it represented one of the greatest leaps forward in archaeological practice in the past 40 years. Another monumental jump in archaeological practice, Petrie’s Sequence Dating was also covered in the series of lectures delivered on site. Larry Owens, in his series of on-site lectures, has been covering not only human anatomy, but methods of excavating and recording burials.

On Sunday Mandy Mamedow arrived and from Monday after breakfast, half the students will have intensive tuition in pottery analysis with her and Ashraf el-Senussi and the other half will have an introduction to conservation techniques with Mr Alaa. The emphasis is on recording, in the written, drawn and photographic media. To illustrate some of the concepts of cultural heritage management field trips to nearby sites are hoped to be arranged in the coming two weeks!


All systems go in Trench 14!

Thursday 20th September 2012

Today was a busy day - particularly in Trench 14 in the cemetery. The students and teaching staff are working well on defining, drawing, photographing and lifting the burials. Ashraf continued working through the pottery - clearing all of the freshly excavated material before the end of the day - and Alaa continued to join two of the recently excavated ceramic vessels, as well as joining the team in T14 to lift ceramic coffins in the afternoon. As part of the process, Alaa chalks the pieces of the coffins with the major join marks to facilitate reconstruction in the lab and then Alaa and the students lifted the pieces and carried them on boards back up to the working rooms. Lisa pushed ahead with the animal bones and is doing a great job and bringing us some very interesting new information relating to the species and the number of birds present in certain contexts!

In the falcon gallery, the students were busy drawing with Tass, and are really starting to pick up the key skills involved in planning as well as in drawing sections - skills that are crucial for everyday excavation.

The afternoon finished with the lifting of a small number of ceramic vessels in the field, which involved the bandaging and then taping of one of the vessels in order to remove it as safely as possible and also to keep as much of its contents as possible intact!

On Monday the students will be split into two groups - with the first group joining Mandy Mamedow and Ashraf Senussi to learn about the identification, analysis, dating and drawing of ceramics, and the other group with Alaa Shawkee to learn about basic conservation methods in the field and in the laboratory. The students will maintain contact with the day to day excavations, since they will stay in the field until the second breakfast at 10.30! They will then have the opportunity to develop very important skills which will help them in their future work and also give them a greater chance to work with other missions. They will be working both on previously excavated material, but also on material that they have been excavating this season!

On Saturday we sadly have to say goodbye to two of the participants - Stephanie and Jacqueline, who head back to Germany. They have been great members of the team and given their all during the excavations! We will, however, welcome another team member, Mandy Mamedow on Sunday to teach ceramics together with Ashraf.

Larry Owens and two of the fieldschool participants in discussion over one of the coffin burials

Hannah fine-sieving the sediment excavated from the grave that she has been working on. Although the workers carry out much of the sieving during excavation, it is important that everyone participates in all areas of work to better understand the full process. We also all take it in turns at some point to carry muqtufs (baskets) and sieve during the afternoons once the workers leave at 12.30!


A day of planning!

19th September 2012

Today was a day for drawing!  The students in the falcon gallery - with Tass - are doing a very good job of planning the single contexts which they were responsible for excavating during the past 10 days. Most of them have actually picked up the basic skills involved in planning relatively quickly, which is great to see and which will serve them very well in their future work too.

Stephanie and Karim, who were excavating a dense bird bone layer for Lisa yesterday, completed their work and Stephanie moved up to join Larry’s team in T14 in the Ptolemaic-Roman cemetery, while Karim stayed on in the falcon gallery to plan the newly excavated T15 with Tass’s team.

Up in the workrooms, Ashraf continued to sort through large bags of ceramics from both T14 and 15, with Mr Alaa taking care of coffin reconstruction as well as the reconstruction of two nearly complete ceramic vessels - which is quite rare for us!

Lisa continued to wade her way through a large amount of bones, finding some new interesting probably man made features, and some of the students from T14 registered and labelled their finds and the human remains, which are subsequently passed on to the different specialists for analysis. It will be interesting next week when the students are split into two groups - one for ceramic and one for conservation - and they get to learn even more about the material from the contexts in which they have been working.

It is great to see the international team working so closely together, with everyone focussed intently on the work that they are doing. Tomorrow we will start to move the students into the opposite trenches, so that they will all have worked in both the cemetery and the falcon necropolis.

Tass and his students discussing how to implement the Harris Matrix for recording stratigraphy