April 4th 2012: Anna Hodgkinson
For the last week I have been working in an area known as the “Industrial Area” at Gurob. This area lies to the northeast of the Palace enclosure and had first been identified by Brunton and Engelbach who mention the existence of some lime- and glass-kilns in the area west of the “Fort” building. Unfortunately they neither mapped this area, nor did they mention whether or not they excavated here.
On the surface many pieces of vitrified (molten) mudbrick (commonly misinterpreted as slag) can be found, as well as many stone tools, and in 2006 magnetometry revealed two large circular anomalies, which we decided to investigate. As my PhD in Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Liverpool deals with the production of high-status goods and the spatial distribution of production-related materials and finished goods in the royal cities of the New Kingdom, this opportunity to excavate what seems to be an original New Kingdom workshop setting was fantastic.
In 2009 we cleaned some of the surface and came across some eroded and partly vitrified, fired mudbricks, but were unable to obtain any further results, as we had no permission to excavate. In 2010, when we were first allowed to dig, one large circular mudbrick structure, now known as Kiln 1 was revealed and I had the opportunity to excavate half of this structure. In 2011 again no permission to excavate was granted, so I had to wait until this season to finally be able to investigate further.
Day two on site of 2012 was spent removing the backfill carefully placed around Kiln 1 in 2010. As the structure was fairly deep (1.1m) this took a while and required group effort. With the help of Sarah I subsequently began to clear the adjacent area and followed the vitrified mudbrick walls of the second kiln, now known as Kiln 2, to the East of Kiln 1. This structure is slightly smaller and has thicker walls. I intend to excavate this at a later stage, at the moment I am concentrating on the surrounding area and trying to figure out what associated structures might be present. To the east we came across a beaten or trampled mud floor, which is very thin and fragile. Due to this and its general irregularity in surface we first thought that this might have been a so-called paddling pit, a clay preparation area for pottery production, however, the once straight sides of this floor were soon revealed and this, together with this feature's proximity to Kiln 2 (only about 0.7m away) made us abandon this interpretation for now.
In fact, it is still not certain what this workshop was actually used for. Whilst Brunton and Engelbach decided on glass-working, which would be a very highly specialised and high-status industry it is also possible that these kilns were used for the production of pottery. We have no direct parallels from ancient Egypt as yet, some large kilns were excavated at Amarna by Paul Nicholson . The Amarna kilns were certainly able to produce glass, so this possibility would be welcome.
I will keep you updated!