2012 Site Diary

April 20th 2012: Jan Picton and Ian Shaw

This will be our last diary from the field, or from Cairo in fact. So we thought we’d tell you about our time at the Kom Aushim magazine.

Normally, much of the sorting of finds would take place on site and, once recorded, they would be left there in one of the bunkers. Then the few remaining pieces would go to the Magazine for storage and future study, and any complete pieces registered and accessioned. However, as our time on site was cut short and the quantity of material was more than ever before due to the textiles, bones, etc from the looted tomb we delivered the material to the magazine on Saturday afternoon hoping that we could negotiate for more storage space and for work space.

We are very grateful to Mustafa Faisal, director of the magazine, and his staff for making us welcome and permitting us to take over the Inspectors’ office for two days.

In the event, we concentrated on five aspects. Making sure that photography of all the objects was complete. Particularly, in making sure that any new information we found as we sorted material was photographed so that we have a complete record – for our own purposes and to send to various specialists as we ask for help.

Sorting out assorted bundles of reed matting to record the various types of plants used and the fibres used to fasten them.

Sorting and photographing the coffin boards, particularly joints and dowelling (Geoff Killen beware!)

Redrawing an area of the painted cartonnage based on a new understanding (with the kind help of John Taylor of the British Museum) of the overall design and trying to establish what fragments we have that might fill any gaps. This is vital as the paint flakes off just looking at it! Consequently, the photographs and drawings we make now may be the only record. It is another reason why we would really like to get a specialist to look at it – and the rest of the textiles – very soon.

Finally, Tine spent a lot of time playing jigsaws with the plaster fragments. One of the advantages of visiting the magazine is that we were able to look at the coffins found by the SCA at Lahun a few years ago that date to the same period as our fragments. That, and some internet research, gave us a better understanding of our material.

Tine's plaster jigsaw

There is a huge difference in attitude between us trying to extract information from fragmentary material and making sure that it is well recorded and the SCA and Magazine staff who only consider intact material as having any value. This is not meant in a derogatory sense – they suffer from an embarrassment of riches and if they stored every fragment of artefact found they would have run out of space a century ago. We get excited by a broken figurine because it’s the first time we have found an example of that type at Gurob (woman on a bed with a small figure lying ‘top to tail’ alongside her) – our inspector laughs at us all the time as he thinks we’re mad!

Jan and Tine

Adel Mondy is our inspector and he has been enormously helpful and, with his trainee assistant inspector, Ahmed, has cheerfully participated in all our work this year and has made our lives much easier. He also gave up his Sham al-Nassim holiday, as did Mustafa Faisal, so that we could work at the magazine.

We hope you’ve enjoyed following our work and exploits this season. Don’t forget that this year’s Gurob Conference takes place in Liverpool on the 29th July where we will be talking about this season’s work, so lots of good stuff.

The Friends of the Petrie Museum trip to the Museums of the North West is timed to coincide with the conference so you could enjoy an Egyptological feast!

Earlier in the month there is also a fund raising study day on July 14th kindly hosted by the TVAES on Harem Palaces Unveiled. Ian and I will be speaking on the history of the site and the Egyptian ‘harem’.

And, of course, your membership subscriptions to the Gurob Harem Palace Project, your donations and support are what makes the Project possible. We are immensely grateful.