Amara West 2016: Into the tombs at last!
Michaela Binder, bioarchaeologist, Austrian Archaeological Institute
After an excruciating wait of ten months we are back in the cemetery at Amara West, where we will finally be able to enter the burial chambers of the pyramid tombs we discovered last year.
The three large pyramid tombs are located in the New Kingdom elite cemetery of Amara West, on the desert escarpment overlooking the ancient town and (now dry) river channel. Over the course of eight weeks, the team consisting of bioarchaeologists Michelle Gamble, Sofie Schiodt, Mohamed Saad and myself documented the remains of each pyramid and chapel, and excavated the shafts carved into the schist bedrock up to 7m in deep. However the chambers – at least partly looted in ancient times – themselves were considered to be not stable enough to ensure secure work within the burial chambers. Therefore, we are returning this year supported by structural engineer Daniel Chulia who will construct pulleys and structural shoring to allow us to enter the burial chambers.
Based on the finds made in the shafts last year, expectations are high. The size and location of the tombs already indicate that their owners were important people. In tomb G320, inscribed faience shabtis name Paser, the Deputy of Kush known to have been resident at Amara West in the reign of Ramses III. The Deputy of Kush was the most senior pharaonic official in Upper Nubia during the New Kingdom.
This tomb is therefore likely to be his place of burial. A number of large inscribed sandstone blocks with enigmatic reliefs of Osiride figures, depicted frontally, were found in the shaft. Their function is yet unclear but perhaps with more elements to come from inside the tomb, this riddle can be solved as well.
For the other two tombs, the names of the owners are not yet known. However, as both feature pyramids of considerable size that exceeds all those known at Amara West so far we can assume that they were of no lesser status than the Deputy Paser.
Over the upcoming 8 weeks, the same team will continue the work we started in 2015. With pulleys and steel shoring, we will slowly excavate the chambers and hopefully reveal more about the identity of the tomb owners and the way they chose to be buried. This is also set to be the last of the cemetery seasons: have we saved the best for last?
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