2006 Dig Diary: Week 8
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Here is the site at the start of our last full week of work. The upside-down wheelbarrows (left foreground) are lying on the level of burnt debris in square 5. Behind the rear wheelbarrow is a brick wall running east-west across the center of the area. The brick-lined feature uncovered last week is behind the colossal statue on the left.
Here you can see three phases in the history of this part of the site. In this photo, you are looking west along the remains of a mud brick wall that ran across the northern part of square 3. This is the third and latest phase. The wall was built atop the thick pottery-filled layer of burning that covered much of the excavation area (phase 2). Under this layer is a square feature made of baked brick and stone (phase 1).
These phases are clearer in theis photo, which shows the north side of the brick square under the north side of the wall.
The brick wall and debris in the preceding photo were documented, photographed, and removed so we could find out what lay beneath them. The brick and stone square was four courses deep and may once have contained a decorative tree or plant; it could also have been a small well. To its left you can make out remains of a round ceramic bin that revealed some interesting pottery. The two workmen in the left of the photo are working on newly-found mud brick walls. Let's take a closer look at these walls.
We have the remains of two rooms (foreground) whose east wall adjoins the wall around the large brick-lined feature (rear) and may be part of the same complex. On the right is a wall associated with the vaulted rooms built against the pylon. The light area in the right foreground is probably another brick wall, not yet defined. Are all these features contemporary?
No. Again, we have at least three phases. The latest phase is the wall with bricks burned in the fire that ravaged this area of the site. This wall runs east-west and is parallel to the north wall of the 2nd vaulted room in square 2. Below this wall is a layer of earth mixed with pottery and ash. The east and west walls of the newly found rooms clearly run under this layer, the east wall (left) preserved to a greater height than the west wall.
Somewhat to our surprise, we uncovered paving that seemed to extend from the east side of the East Porch under the west walls of squares 3 and 4 (left). To trace the paving we had to begin dismantling these later walls.
Here we have removed part of the west side of square 4. Again, several phases are visible. The paving (right) was covered by a layer of earth and stone chips (under the meter stick), probably the result of the dismantling and breaking up of the porch. Above the chips is a fairly thick layer of earth, visible on the left and in the rear. The west wall of square 4 (lighter earth in rear of photo) was built atop this layer. It clearly postdates the period when the East Porch was in active use.
The site at the end of the week. We have reached a fairly uniform level across the area, and the features described above are all clearly visible.
Pottery remains one of the most important means archaeologists have for dating what they find. It is everywhere—from palaces to tombs to mud brick houses. We collect pottery from each distinct feature, such as a floor or an area of burning, in individual, labeled baskets. Changes in style, decoration, manufacture, and even types of clay provide a general context (e.g., 3rd century A.D.) that can be refined by association with other materials from the same area, such as inscriptions (relatively rare except on major buildings) and coins, which tell you the earliest possible date for a phase (a 1991 dime couldn't have been dropped in 1989, but might have been dropped in 2002). The shards in the foreground of this picture have been washed and are waiting to be sorted, drawn, and photographed for study back home. The baskets in the background are yet to be dealt with.
Last week we lifted the fallen ram. What was left of the ram's original base lies behind the meter stick in this picture. Very little is left, so we will have to build a new base almost from scratch. The remains of a small chapel lie just to the east. Some of the new sandstone blocks we'll use to rebuild the base are stacked in front of the next ram in the row.
By the end of the week the new base is almost ready. What was left of the old base has been incorporated into the new one. The walls and foundations are sandstone and the core is composed of baked brick and cement. As always, moisture barriers have been included in the construction.
The blocks we get from the quarry are of a standard size that must be trimmed to fit the new base. All this work, such as the rough trimming of large blocks shown here, is done by hand.
This photo shows delicate work done with a chisel and hammer in progress. These techniques are probably not much different to those used in antiquity, although today's tools are made of iron and steel rather than bronze.
Tina and Khaled, assisted by Mohammed, reattached what is left of the ram's head this week, the last task before the sculpture is lifted onto its new base.
The last course of the Lepsius Gate was lifted into position this week as well. Khaled and Mohammed check to be sure the blocks are all level and even. Once the top block has been lowered into place all the blocks will be mortared. Then we'll apply a finishing coat of mortar tinted to match the stone, as we did in Chapel D.
Not all work takes place at the site. There is a conservation area in the dig house where Tina and Lisa can work on small finds. It's fairly primitive, but it at least has lighting and a worktable, and is out of the sun and dust.