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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amarna Spring 2017
Amarna Spring 2017
Return to the North Tombs Cemetery
Since early April we have been back at Amarna, examining the cemeteries of Akhetaten, our main focus the excavation of a large burial ground that lies in a picturesque wadi beside the North Tombs. This was the second season of work here, the first, in early 2015, having yielded some remarkable results. Almost all of the individuals recovered at this time were aged between around 7 and 25 years of age, their burials modest, with few grave goods and no wooden coffins. There were, in addition, a striking number of graves (nearly half) that contained more than one person. This led to the working hypothesis that we have a burial ground for a group of labourers who were conscripted on the basis of their youth and subject to such difficult working conditions – in part perhaps at the limestone quarries north of the city – that they were especially susceptible to disease and were dying at an unusually high rate (see reports in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology for 2015 and 2016, and our website, for more).
This year our goals were to expand the sample of burials and see if these patterns continued, whilst jointly investigating how large the cemetery was. A successful 7-week excavation season has just wrapped up, with over 50 new graves investigated and more than 80 skeletons recovered. One important discovery was an area that escaped disturbance by robbers, where we were able to excavate a number of intact burials that shed light on some finer details of burial practice. Here we could see, for example, that individuals in multiple graves were sometimes wrapped together in a single mat before interment, confirming that they were buried at the same time. Another area of the site yielded two very large graves with fragments of mudbrick that may be from superstructures, suggestive perhaps of slightly more elaborate burials. Otherwise, the trend for large numbers of multiple burials and a young population continued, supporting our initial hypothesis. It is also clear that this is a very substantial burial ground, containing several thousand individuals – a glimpse perhaps of the extensive labour force exploited by Akhenaten in his bid to create Akhetaten
Excavations underway. Clockwise from top left: excavating closely packed graves; Kelly Accetta lifts the skeleton of a subadult; Gretchen Dabbs plans an unusually large grave; Nick Brown records a grave that has been looted by robbers in the past, leaving a pile of disarticulated bone. Click here for more photos of the excavations.
The excavation team has now left, but the dig house remains a busy place. Gretchen Dabbs (Southern Illinois University) is recording the skeletal remains from the North Tombs Cemetery, and working with Jerry Rose (University of Arkansas) to iron out some final issues in advance of our forthcoming publication of the South Tombs Cemetery.  The large dataset of human remains from the latter, which was excavated from 2006–13, remains an invaluable source for ongoing research, with several graduate students gathering information from it for their dissertation projects. Lindsey Roberts (SIU) is examining the skeletons for traits that might help us understand whether the cemetery was organized according to family groups. Cheyenne Lewis (U of Ark) and Kaleigh Best (SIU) are undertaking 3D scanning projects, Cheyenne to examine cranio-facial structure as regards the possibility of constricted airways, and Kaleigh to explore sexual dimorphism in different areas of the skeleton. Erika Morey (U of Ark) is collecting data for her project on how diet, including the presence of grit in bread, affected tooth condition.
We were also pleased to welcome Amandine Merat (British Museum) who began a study of the textiles from the South Tombs Cemetery, whilst Anna Garnett (University of Liverpool) and Jacquelyn Williamson (George Mason University) continued work on their projects to study pottery from the Stone Village and relief fragments from Kom el-Nana respectively.
We thank the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the National Endowment of the Humanities, Amarna Trust, Pasold Research Fund and Egypt Exploration Society, amongst other bodies, for their support of this work.
Lindsey Roberts (left) collects measurements from skeletons excavated at the South Tombs Cemetery from 2006–13, as Kaleigh Best and Cheyenne Lewis (right) scan the collection for their dissertation research.

Our anniversary year
It is a great relief to be able to return to excavations in the year marking 40 years since fieldwork at Amarna recommenced. We hope you've been enjoying our Anniversary webpage where we are uploading images of work over the past 40 years and a series of blogposts celebrating Amarna and the research output from the site, most recently an overview of the history of the dig house.
Amarna Fund 2017
Our anniversary year also marks the launch of the Amarna Trust's Annual Fund, through which we seek to secure a future for the Amarna Project. Returning to the site after a long absence highlights the precarious balance that exists between the needs of ever-growing local communities and those of the antiquities site. Despite the best efforts of the authorities, the ancient city is under immediate threat across several fronts from urban and agricultural growth. We invite you to join us as we build an international community of supporters to help protect Amarna into the future through conservation, outreach and excavation. Please consider joining one of our giving circles, showing your support through a small monthly gift, or making a one-off gift.

Thank you for your support,
Barry Kemp & Anna Stevens

--   Sent from my Linux system.

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