Close Encounters with an Archaeologist
Diana Craig Patch
Last season I began work in an area west of the Audience Pavilion, a large mud brick platform probably used by the king. When the Met worked there a hundred years ago, they dumped their archaeological debris to the west in huge mounds. A couple of years ago I noted chunks of carnelian and slag from kilns and decided last year to look for the zone where the glass making, carnelian carving, and faience manufacture were taking place. As you may remember, I recovered interesting material in the first squares I opened up in 2015, but did not find any undisturbed work zones before my disastrous fall (and broken arm) at the Luxor ferry that ended my digging season.
So this year, I decided to continue to explore farther afield from the Met dumps in an area that looked less disturbed. There are three small mounds that did not appear comparable to the Met dumps so I thought that perhaps windblown material had built up over some kind of ancient debris, creating small hills. A kiln of course was the hope. I began cutting a trench across one end to get a section so I could see the strata. The material was soft and sandy with some sherds, fragments of carnelian, and a few odds and ends. Some pieces are very interesting, and those you will be hearing about soon. I got down to tafla, the local word for desert surface, without any undisturbed strata, and I began to have a bad feeling about the little mound. At the last gasp of clearing the level, however, mud flooring and a chunk of white plaster appeared at the corner and encouraged, I decided to excavate the other half of the 5 x 5 m square.
The first two levels were worrisome as the material here was soft and full of different colored strata. I should have known. In the next level I found a glass bottle. It turns out I am carefully excavating a colleague’s dump. True, it seems that there is undisturbed material at the very bottom, but still!
The bottle is actually interesting, although clearly not informative of the time of Amenhotep III. The base –what survives– is heavy and the glass imperfectly made; the thickness varies up to 2 mm. It is stamped with Ste Badiot. So having my handy iPhone, standing in the middle of the Egyptian desert, I was able to find that this is the brand for Saint-Galmier Badiot, a French company that has produced mineral water from the Loire Valley since 1778. So the archaeologist that created this little heap was probably French. Not likely to be Lansing or White (the Met excavators), we are guessing it was Georges Daressy, the man who dug up the entrance to the King’s Palace. Why he piled his small spoil heaps so far from anything, in an area we had no idea he explored, is one of those archaeological mysteries. I have written Ste. Badoit to see if someone will look at the bottle and tell me the ranges of dates during which it was manufactured.
Saturday I go back to the little archaeological spoil heap to see if it really sits on top of remains from the time of Amenhotep III.
January 14, 2016