2012 Site Diary

April 9th 2012: Tine Bagh

Today we ended work an hour earlier than normal in order to visit the site of Sedment which is close to Gurob (to the south, see the map from digital Egypt: http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/maps/046ihnasya.html). It needed a special permit from the authorities as it is a so-called 'closed site'. The name of the site has for a long time had a magical sound to my ears for several reasons, but let me first tell you about the history of the site.

Sedment was first explored by the Swiss egyptologist Edouard Naville in the 1890ies and he claimed that the site was exhausted at that point. Petrie certainly didn't hold Naville in high regard, but when C. Curelly and M. Loat gave it a go in 1904, excavating there for Petrie, they didn't find much either. Still, when Petrie returned to Sedment 1920-21 and was helped by Guy Brunton a great number of tombs from various periods were revealed. Many of the tombs dated to the 1st Intermediate period and Petrie was of the opinion that the site was the cemetery for Herakleopolis where the rulers of the 9th and 10th dynasties resided. Herakleopolis, modern Ehnasiya, is about 7km from Sedment and since there are also tombs at that site many scholars today believe that it is more of a local cemetery.

Tents in a tomb in Sedment where Petrie and his team stayed 1920-21 © Petrie Museum, University College London

Be that as it may Sedment still yielded much important material from the 1st Intermediate period as well as from many other periods. In connection with Gurob the tombs from the New Kingdom are of great interest as comparison. At the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen where I work as a curator we have finds representing the Archaic Period (a coffin with finds), the late Old Kingdom (a wooden statue of Meryrahashtef, another is in the British Museum and one in the Cairo Museum), the 1st Int./very early Middle Kingdom (two coffins, wooden tomb models and a selection of pottery) and the New Kingdom, 18th dynasty (fine cosmetic spoon where the rest of the finds from the same tomb is in the Petrie Museum) and 19th dynasty (octagonal pillar from tomb). Among other finds from Sedment the Petrie Museum also holds a large corpus of Sedment pottery from the 1st Int. period and it is of utmost importance for our understanding of the pottery of the period. I have worked with pottery from Tell el-Dab'a (see previous diary) and from the town of Abu Ghalib in the Western Nile Delta and both sites are comparable to Sedment in terms of pottery as well as scarabs and seal impressions. Sedment is what can be termed a type site.

Lena, Kamal and Liz in a tomb

The cemetery, or rather cemeteries, of Sedment covered a large area and we visited what is known as Gebel Sedment, meaning the mountain of Sedment. The 'mountain' was full of shaft tombs and tombs with parts of the upper offering chamber(s) were preserved as well, all cut in the rock. To tell the truth, the site itself is not very conspicuous, but bearing in mind the many important finds that were revealed here and can now be admired in many museums it was still very much worth the effort. In the future when I hear the word Sedment it will no longer have this almost mythological sound. I now know to where the Sedment pottery, models, coffins, ushabtis, cosmetic spoon, sandals, stone vessels, scarabs etc. etc. belonged.

The Gurob team's visit to Sedment

Read more about Sedment from Digitalegypt.
Most of the Sedment finds in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek can be viewed here.