The Gurob Harem Palace Project

The Gurob Harem Palace Project (2005-14) was undertaken by a collaborative international team of archaeologists co-directed by Ian Shaw and Fredrik Hagen. We were studying the urban and funerary remains at the Late Bronze Age 'harem town' of Mer-wer at the site of Gurob (or Medinet el-Ghurob) in the southern Faiyum region of Egypt. The work continues in the form of a post-excavation Textiles Project under the auspices of University College London and directed by Jan Picton.

Gurob is currently being surveyed and excavated by a new expedition under the auspices of IFAO, and directed by Dr Marine Yoyotte.

What kind of site is Gurob, and how old is it?

The main area of settlement remains at the site can be clearly identified as the remains of an independent establishment relating to royal women (a 'harem-palace'), founded in the reign of Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) and occupied throughout the rest of the 18th Dynasty and presumably also for at least part of the Ramesside period. The inscriptions on stelae, papyri and various other inscribed artefacts from the main buildings at the site repeatedly include the titles of officials connected with the royal harem of Mer-wer. There was evidently a similar establishment at Memphis, but that site has not survived.

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What were the main aims of the Gurob Harem Palace Project?

Anna Hodgkinson recording Kiln 1, half-excavated in 2010
  • To excavate in selected areas of the town to find out more about Egyptian harems, palaces and domestic life,
  • To excavate selected parts of the cemetery in order to find out more about the burial customs and anthropology of the Ramessid population,

  • To produce a detailed modern corpus of pottery at the site. The vast majority of the ceramic material covering the surface of the site dates to the mid- to late New Kingdom, affording considerable potential to analyse chronological and functional patterns across the site through the study of such material,

  • To produce an accurate 1:1000 map of the site as a whole, combining GIS so as to allow our growing databases of ceramics, small finds and lithics to be mapped onto the visible surface features,

  • To create more detailed plans of the main points of archaeological interest in the settlement and cemeteries,

  • To use satellite photographs, geophysical methods and core-drilling to gain a better understanding of the subsurface material and architectural remains, as well as the relationship between the site of Gurob and its landscape and environment.

  • Hannah Pethen and Sarah Doherty surveying with a total station

    How long were we working at Gurob?

    Auger boring within the Palace excavation 2010

    Between 2005 and 2014 we undertook nine seasons of archaeological work at Gurob.

    See Reports for reports to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities on each of our annual seasons at Gurob, and see Publications for articles and books relating to our project. The Reports section of the website also includes the individual site diaries for the 2012 season, presenting daily personal reflections written by team members.

    Jan Picton drawing and registering small findsLike us on Facebook