The 2003 Field Season at El Hibeh
Dr. Carol Redmount, Director of the El Hibeh Expedition, and Ms. Joan Knudsen, Registrar for the expedition, presented an update on the just-completed field season at the El Hibeh excavation site in middle Egypt.
Carol Redmount opened the presentation by acknowledging ARCE for it’s support of her work in Egypt and thanking the Chapter for it’s annual contribution. The 2003 season ran from June 10th to July 17th. She reviewed the site, its location and its unique features for those who were unfamiliar with El Hibeh, and refreshed everyone’s memory on the work done during the 2002 season. She stated firmly that the ceramic corpus is definitely 3rd Intermediate Period, and there is lots of it. There has been little clearly stratified 3rd IP material excavated and analyzed in Egypt to date, so the work at this site may well “write the book” on the ceramics of the period, according to Carol. Her team had hoped to pursue detailed chemical analysis of the ceramic material using a very sophisticated, hand-held device that can do such analyses, but it contains a small radioactive isotope, so the Egyptian government would not allow it to be brought into the country.
During this season, the team continued mapping; continued monitoring the status of the 22nd Dynasty temple and the effect the fluctuating water table is having on it; continued surface surveys particularly of mortuary material, as well as investigation of the temenos area. GPS surveying continued and the topographical map constructed in 2002 was overlaid by a 50-meter grid across the entire site, facilitating the placement of concrete & steel benchmarkers at each grid intersection.
Clearly the fluctuating water table is wrecking havoc on the temple remains. The reliefs on the back wall surfaces continue to deteriorate. The vegetation, which was removed in 2002, was thicker than ever, with halfa grass obscuring what remains of relief blocks. The palm tree which was cut down in 2002 had returned, with not one but several trunks. The team did several corings to monitor the water table, and found it fluctuated 60 centimeter between low and high water mark. The wetting/drying/rewetting cycle is highly detrimental to the limestone which makes up the remains of the temple. The expedition has determined to officially recommend that cultivation near the tell be abandoned completely.
The temple had to be re-cleared so that work could proceed, and work continued in the temenos area with the expectation that excavation debris from a German expedition some years ago, and from more recent road construction was what would be removed. Removal of the vegetation revealed LOTS more mud bricks, stamped with the names of two High Priests of Amum [Menkheperre and Pinedjem]. Some sort of industrial area was also revealed but time ran out before exactly what it may be could be discerned.
Work was started in a higher area near the road, in hopes of recovering fragments with carved reliefs. Inclusion of a paleo-archeologist on the team this year, allowed work to being on the bones which are scattered all over the site but most especially in and around disturbed tombs outside the city walls. He was able to identify coffin fragments, body parts [human] and animal bones among the debris. He re-evaluated a female mummy which had been evaluated briefly last year, and other bodies partially intact.
Five new test pits were excavated, in order to evaluate the stratigraphy and provide information about what might have been going on it those area of the tell.
The “South Trench” outside the city wall provided occupational stratigraphy as well as ceramics similar to what had been previously found.
"NH-2” & “NH-2B”: NH-2 was excavated 3.5 meters down and hit bed rock. Lots of domestic debris was found; pottery, mud brick walls, and a floor associated with some sort of brick pier. Excavation was stopped at the floor. Dr. Redmount speculated that the area around “NH2” and “NH2B” were all built at about the same time.
“CH-A” is an industrial area of some sort. The excavators didn’t ever encounter water, and hit bedrock at 2.5 meters.
“CH-B” excavation hit mud brick almost immediately. It is probably of 3rd IP origin, though it was at first thought possibly to be Roman.
Carol summarized that:
The water table is still a problem
She continues to be impressed with the richness of the site
She was surprised to go down only 3.5 and 2.5 meters respectively and find town deposits virtually in tact.
The area investigated with test trenches seems to be the original founding area of the town. Possibly Osorkon had a residence at El Hibeh, and the town may have been “his town” at the site.
The whole site is built on an irregular outcropping of limestone.
The expedition is currently in the process of purchasing a villa across the river from the site, which will serve as a dig house and work/storage facility for the excavation’s materials.
Joan Knudsen, as Registrar for the expedition, deals with the material remains which are found during excavation. She informed the audience that 465 object had been catalogued during 2003, most of which were bone or stone, but faience, ceramic, metal cloth, wood, etc. were also found and catalogued. Joan discussed the record keeping methods used by the expedition and the manner in which objects are identified and handled once found.
Material found in the field is immediately bagged and tagged. When it is transferred from the field to the lab, it is first added to one of the material culture lists, based on what it is. Comments are added to the listing as various experts examine the object. When the object is fully defined and has been given appropriate registry numbers, it is added to the data base. Where appropriate, a Munsell color chart number is recorded for the object, and it is digitally photographed or scanned. The team found that laying objects directly on the scanner bed and scanning them often provided better results than digital photography did.
Bones coming in from the field were evaluated by the bone specialist, and lithics were analyzed for stone type and possible use of the object. Lots of stone bowl fragments were found among the year’s finds, as well as stone spindle whorls and loom weights. Such mundane objects as charcoal, slag and samples of soil are recorded and retained as well.
After discussing the handling of material culture objects by the expedition, Joan delighted the audience with an array of photos of the objects themselves. The intact pieces were of special interest to the Egyptian inspectors, and ultimately retained by them for transfer to a provincial museum. They included a bowl, a stone foot, a faience wadjet eye, a stamped brick and an unfinished Isis figurine.
— Nancy Corbin
For a membership packet either write
ARCE Northern California ChapterContact Joan Knudsen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on ARCE/NC events or by mail at P.O. Box 11352, Berkeley, CA., 94704-2352.
P.O. Box 11352
Berkeley, CA 94712-2352
or email Membership Director, Betty Bussey
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