t: +20 12 5113357 (mobile)
t: +20 27955666 (office)
Human bones on the desert surface washed from the ancient cemetery.

South Tombs Cemetery 2005

 

Contents
2005 survey
2005 bioarchaeology
2005 pottery


2005 survey

Barry Kemp
The periodic flooding of the wadi had washed human bone from the cemetery down onto the wadi floor and the desert plain beyond. Many of the bones lay visible on the surface and appeared to be in fairly good condition, sufficiently so as to make it worthwhile to collect them for expert examination. This task in effect launched work at the site. Over eight days in March (between March 7th and 15th, with no collection on Friday), six men were engaged to work in pairs, under the supervision of inspector of antiquities Raghib Abd el-Hamid Khalafalla.

Workmen collecting human bones from the wadi floor in 2005
Workmen collecting human bones from the wadi floor in 2005

As a first step a series of nine numbered white tiles were laid out at intervals along the wadi floor, from a point just beyond the cemetery down to the modern track which crosses the wadi mouth. Their exact positions were then ascertained by the GPS survey unit. For the desert plain in front, ranging poles were set up to mark the approximate course of the main channel.

Workmen collecting human bones from the desert plain beyond the modern path that crosses the wadi mouth
Workmen collecting human bones from the desert plain beyond the modern path that crosses the wadi mouth

Working in pairs the men criss-crossed the wadi floor between the numbered markers, collecting surface bones and bone fragments in large plastic trays, and also all sherds. They avoided collecting on the cemetery itself, which lies on a low terrace beside the wadi. By the end of the third day they had covered the ground between the nine markers. A short distance south of marker 9, on the west slope, their collection took in the bones from two very shallow graves scooped into the sandy side of the wadi. The bones are light brown in colour, in contrast to the whiteness of those lying exposed on the wadi floor. These burials might be more recent than the Amarna Period. From marker 9 the men crossed the modern path and continued the collection out on the desert plain, using the ranging poles as a guide. For this second stage they were instructed not to collect sherds, on account of the likely mixing with sherds from the large dumps that originate from the rock tombs and which are primarily Late Period in date. On the last day (March 15th) one pair of men returned to the wadi for a final collection, and on March 16th Jerry Rose, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, began his examination of the collection.

2005 Survey: Bioarchaeology

Jerry Rose

Introduction

A cemetery located along the wadi adjacent to the South Tombs was washed out in a past flood leaving the bones and pottery scattered along the surface of the wadi. This event offered the opportunity to examine the skeletal remains of the Amarna lower class inhabitants. The bones were collected along the wadi and its alluvial fan. The bones were sorted into groups of diagnostic bones and examined for indicators of minimum number of individuals, their age and sex, and evidence of disease. The preliminary results of this analysis are presented here.

Methods

Nine numbered tile markers were distributed south (1) to north (9) down the wadi adjacent to Tomb 25 in the South Tombs area. Tile 1 was situated adjacent to the southern portion of the cemetery located on the east wadi bank and tile 9 was located at the mouth of the wadi. The wadi alluvial fan was designated as the area “west of marker 9" that also corresponds to the area north of the tourist path that crosses the wadi at its mouth. All human bones and ceramic sherds were collected by a walking survey. The collections were marked by location such as between markers 1 and 2. On the last day the entire wadi was collected again and these final collections were labeled as between markers 1 and 7 or 1 and 9.

Two nearly complete skeletons were collected from the west wadi bank and have been labeled “next to marker 9" and studied separately from the wadi and wadi fan material. They clearly represent a distinct cemetery located at the wadi mouth and is distinct from the “South Tomb Cemetery”. In fact, there were so many complete bones and matching bones from the right and left side of the body (pairs), as well as epiphysis from growing bones of the same person in the 8-9 section material that these bones were selected out and assigned to this new cemetery.

The human bones were cleaned by dry brushing and examined. Each bone or bone fragment was examined for diagnostic characteristics of age and sex, as well as pathological lesions. The following diagnostic bones or skeletal elements were separated out for a second detailed analysis: brow ridges and superior eye orbits; temporal bones having a minimum of the external auditory meatus; occipital with a minimum of the protuberance; any parietal fragment that might exhibit porotic hyperostosis; all maxillary and mandibular fragments and all teeth; clavicle fragments greater than 50%; head and distal ends of humeri; head and distal ends of radii; some of the complete bones of the hands and feet; the odontoid process of the second cervical vertebrae; fragments of ilium if the sciatic notch and or auricular surface is present; the proximal end of the femur if the neck and lesser trochanter are preserved or the distal end if complete; the proximal and or distal ends of the tibiae if complete; the proximal and distal ends of the fibulae if complete; any bone fragment that exhibits a pathological lesion. All bones meeting these criteria were subjected to detailed examination one bone category (i.e., humerus heads) at the same time with all the fragments arranged on the work table. Most of the teeth had fallen out of the mandibular and maxillary fragments and only a few teeth were found while collecting in the wadi. The following information was collected by examination of the tooth sockets in the jaw fragments: tooth present at death, tooth lost before death, tooth abscessed due to decay or wear. The tags for these bags were marked “done”. All bone fragments not meeting the criteria listed above were replaced into their original bags and the tags marked “no information” meaning that no information has been collected from these bones.

Results

First the taphonomy or postmortem environmental history is discussed. This is followed by a description of each diagnostic bone portion used for calculating minimum numbers of individuals and determining any designations of sex and age. The data from the bones between markers 1-9 are presented first, then the west of marker 9 material and each section concludes with a combined calculation. These analyses are presented separately, but as no difference between the collections was found, they are combined for final interpretation. The final section provides the summary determination of minimum number and numbers of known sex and age. These numbers provide the basis for describing and interpreting the pathological lesions identified during analysis and presented in the next section.

A separate section presents the analysis of all the bones and skeletons collected from the west bank of the wadi labeled “next to marker number 9".

Taphonomy

Bones found between markers 1-2, 2-3, (no bones were found between markers 3 and 4), and 4-5 were either sun bleached white and crumbly or, if part of the bone had been buried in the sand, excellently preserved and brown in color. There were more diagnostic bones and bones in a good state of preservation in section 5-6, and the quality increases from 6-7 to the last section 8-9. The bones in the wadi fan (west of 9) were better preserved and had more diagnostic material than the collections south of marker 5.

Minimum Numbers

In the 1-9 collection the greatest number of unique adult bones is the temporal with 26. The largest number of female bones is 11 temporals, while the largest number of male bones is 13 frontals. This suggests that there are at least 11 females and 13 males in this collection. There are 6 unique juvenile femora. The maxillary teeth provide ages at death for 4 of these 6 juveniles of 5, 9, 11, and 15 years. Two juveniles’ ages at death must remain unknown. There is one infant represented by an ulna.

In the west of 9 collection the greatest number of unique adult bones is also the temporal with 29. As we have 2 juveniles of 17 years each and it is not possible to differentiate their temporal bones from the other adults, the total number of adults is reduced by 2 and the minimum number of adult individuals is 27. There are a minimum number of 8 females and 5 adult males. Again we have 6 juvenile femora, however the two 17 year olds would have had fused femoral heads and would not have been classified as juveniles, thus the number of juveniles must be increased by 2 producing a minimum number 8. Four of the eight juvenile ages are known from the teeth: 8, 10, 17, and 17. There are 2 infant clavicles for a minimum number of 2 infants. One infant age is known to be 1.5 years from the teeth.

Combining both bone collections provides that there is a minimum number of 53 adults with at least 19 females and 18 males. The pubic symphyses indicated that one male and one female were 35-39 years old at the time of death and one adult of unknown sex was 30-35 years old. There are at least 14 juveniles with the ages of eight of them known: 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 17, and 17 years. There is a minimum of 3 infants with one known to be 1.5 years from dental development. The demographic information indicates no difference between these two artificial collections (separated by a walkway built for tourists) and, thus, both collections should be interpreted as a single unit.

Paleopathology

All pathological and abnormal features observed in the skeletal collection are described in this section. The minimum number analysis above showed that there is no meaningful differences between the 1-9 and west of 9 skeletal collections and, thus, they are considered together for the interpretation of the paleopathology. As each category of skeletal abnormality is discussed the percentages of potentially effected people are presented by both the number of bones observed and the minimum number of 53 adults.

All joint surfaces were examined for evidence of arthritis and other degenerative disease. No abnormalities were seen on the joint surfaces of 42 ulnae, 20 radii, 41 humeri, 14 acetabula (hip), 28 femora, and 18 tibiae. One glenoid surface of a right scapula (shoulder joint) shows destruction of the joint surface exposing the underlying trabecular bone (see Fig. 1). This one case suggests a shoulder joint arthritis rate of 2% (1/53). One right patella (knee cap) shows extensive pitting on the superior medial joint surface (see Fig. 2). There are only 13 patellae available for examination suggesting a 8% degenerative disease rate or 2% if the minimum number of 53 is used. Both these lesions show extensive pitting and destruction of the joint surface indicating prolonged and hard use of these joints. Terminal phalanges (most outer toe bone) of two big toes, and two middle toes show extensive lipping of the joint margins. This might have been caused by long term kneeling. In summary, very few joints show any deterioration indicating that work loads did not exceed normal limits for the joints and thus work loads were not excessive. The shoulder and the knee were the only cases of severe deterioration and they could even belong to the same person.

(Fig.1) Glenoid surface of a right scapula (shoulder joint) showing destruction of the joint surface exposing the underlying trabecular bone
(Fig.3) Glenoid surface of a right scapula (shoulder joint) showing destruction of the joint surface exposing the underlying trabecular bone

(Fig.2) Right patella (knee cap) showing extensive pitting on the superior medial joint surface 
(Fig.2) Right patella (knee cap) showing extensive pitting on the superior medial joint surface 

The vertebrae of the spine also show only a few signs of deterioration due to excessive work loads. Two cervical (neck vertebra) have three dimensional osteophytes (extra bone) along the margins of the body which also show compression of the body. One thoracic (vertebra with ribs attached) and two lumbar vertebrae (lower back) have small osteophytes along the body margins. Four lumbar vertebrae have three dimensional deposits of osteophytes that are sufficiently extensive to have a hook appearance(see Fig. 3). Two thoracic and one lumbar vertebrae have Schmorl’s nodes. These are areas in the body of the vertebra where the cartilaginous intervertebral disk (pad between vertebrae) has herniated into the bone (see Fig. 4). These nodes can be caused by carrying heavy loads, especially on the head or shoulders, or trauma caused by stumbling with a heavy lead or jumping from the roof of a building. Assuming that these vertebrae are from different people then the amount of back stress would range between 2 and 8% of the adult population. The amount of deterioration of the spine and evidence of back stress and trauma are small and do not indicate that heavy work loads were common.

(Fig.3) Lumbar vertebra showing three dimensional deposits of osteophytes that are sufficiently extensive to have a hook appearance
(Fig.3) Lumbar vertebra showing three dimensional deposits of osteophytes that are sufficiently extensive to have a hook appearance

(Fig.4) Thoracic vertebra showing Schmorl’s node where the cartilaginous intervertebral disk (pad between vertebrae) has herniated into the bone
(Fig.4) Thoracic vertebra showing Schmorl’s node where the cartilaginous intervertebral disk (pad between vertebrae) has herniated into the bone

(Fig.5) Radius with healed fracture of the proximal end, slightly misaligned after healing
(Fig.5) Radius with healed fracture of the proximal end, slightly misaligned after healing

There are three healed broken arm bones. One ulna (lower arm bone) of 42 examined has a well healed fracture indicating a 2% fracture rate. One radius of the 20 examined has healed fracture of the proximal end (closest to the elbow) that is only slightly misaligned after healing (see Fig. 5). The 41 humeri examined, one distal end of a right humerus (elbow joint) shows misalignment after healing (see Fig. 6). This misalignment would have interfered with normal functioning of the elbow. It is possible, but unlikely, that these three broken bones are from the same individual, but either way the fracture rate would vary between 2 and 6%. All of these fractures are most likely due to an accident involving the elbow and neither conflict nor falls. In contrast, there is one compressed circular fracture 5.5mm in diameter found on an occipital bone (back of the skull) that could only have come from interpersonal violence. This circular fracture and the crack in the bone radiating out from it are healed indicating that the blow causing the fracture occurred long before death (see Fig. 7). Based on 53 adults the trauma from conflict rate is 2%.

(Fig.6) Right humeri showing misalignment of the distal end after healing
(Fig.6) Right humeri showing misalignment of the distal end after healing

(Fig.7) Healed compressed circular fracture on an occipital bone. The radiating crack indicates that the blow causing the fracture occurred long before death.
(Fig.7) Healed compressed circular fracture on an occipital bone. The radiating crack indicates that the blow causing the fracture occurred long before death.

The most common bone infections are caused by bacteria found throughout the environment such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus genera that are usually contracted through infected accidental scrapes and wounds. The bone is impacted when the person’s resistence is low due to poor nutrition and stress. One left tibia (lower leg bone) shows the new bone formation indicating active infection (periostitis) at the time of death (see Fig. 8). Another left tibia shows evidence of healed periostitis as does a fragment of a tibia and a long bone fragment that might be a humerus. These lesions show bone that is being remodeled indicating that the infection had been countered some months to years before death. The active infection rate is 6% based on 18 observed tibia or 2% based on a total of 53 adults. Counting all 4 infections including active and healed produces an infection rate of 8% based on 53 adults. This is a low infection rate that indicates a good diet and low stress.

There are two small lytic lesions where the bone had been removed by the inflammatory process (not necessarily bacterial infection) leaving a smooth cavity. One is found in the proximal joint surface of the second phalange of the big toe and the other on odontoid process of the second cervical vertebra.

(Fig.8) Left tibia showing the new bone formation indicating active infection (periostitis) at the time of death
(Fig.8) Left tibia showing the new bone formation indicating active infection (periostitis) at the time of death

When children suffer anemia from iron deficiency from either diets deficient in iron or infections that inhibit iron absorption from an iron poor diet the body responds with expansion of the red blood cell forming tissues housed within the bone (marrow). When this happens pitting is seen in the upper eye sockets (cribra orbitalia) or parietal bones of the skull (porotic hyperostosis). Cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis are also produced by the genetic anemias that protect against malaria: sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. These conditions can be seen in the healed state on the bones of adults. Seven of the 30 adult orbits examined had cribra orbitalia producing an anemia rate of 23%. Three of the 90 large parietal fragments had extensive large pits and thickening indicative of porotic hyperostosis. Using the minimum number of adults provides a rate of 6%. Minor pitting was common and observed on 23% of the fragments (20/90), but these have not been scored here as porotic hyperostosis. The anemia rate should range between 6 and 23%. Somewhere closer to the later figure is possibly the true rate. Dietary iron deficiency due to an iron poor diet, infection, or possibly parasitism during childhood are more likely explanations for this sample than the genetic anemias. We conclude that iron deficiency was a common childhood problem.

There was only one benign cancer found. An osteoma 6.4mm in diameter and 2.4mm in height is located just to the left of the chin of an adult (see Fig. 9).

One finger phalange is stained green indicating that this individual wore a copper alloy ring when placed in the grave (see Fig. 10).

(Fig.9) A benign cancer of osteoma to the left of the chin of an adult
(Fig.9) A benign cancer of osteoma to the left of the chin of an adult

(Fig.10) A finger phalange stained green by a copper alloy ring
(Fig.10) A finger phalange stained green by a copper alloy ring

In summary the paleopathology of this skeletal collection indicates that the work load was not significantly harsh. There is one shoulder and one knee with damage and 2-8% of the individuals with some back stress. The fracture rate also varies between 2 and 8% with one case of violence. The adult infection rate is low ranging between 2 and 8%. On the other hand the cribra orbitalia and frequent pitted parietal bones suggests that childhood anemia might have been a real problem.

Cemetery Next to Marker 9

Burial 1 is a 30-35 year old female whose skeleton is well preserved and unweathered indicating recent exposure in the wadi bank. The skull, maxilla and mandible are complete with 9 teeth missing after death. The postcranial skeleton is virtually complete except for the left clavicle and fragmentary scapulae, hands and feet. The third molars are congenitally absent and there is no decay or hypoplasias on the remaining teeth. Averaging the calculations of stature from the bones of the arms and legs provides a height estimate of 147.7cm. All the bones are free of pathological lesions except the spinal column. The vertebral bodies of thoracic vertebrae 2-12 and lumbar vertebrae 1-4 exhibit Schmorl’s nodes on both the superior and inferior surfaces. These occur when the intervertebral discs (cartilage between the vertebrae) herniate or protrude into the bone. These are caused by carrying heavy loads or trauma associated with compression of the spine such as jumping from a height. This clearly indicates that this woman suffered from back stress. The neural arch of the fifth lumbar vertebra is not fused to the vertebral body. Spina bifida occulta is a developmental defect which, in this case, has no health consequence.

Burial 2 is a 20-25 year old female. The skeleton is well preserved with no weathering and is only missing the skull, proximal half of the left humerus, the first cervical vertebra and most of the bones of the hands and feet. There is no decay on the mandibular teeth, but there is one hypoplasia on the premolars indicating childhood stress when she was about 3 to 4 years old. The height, determined by averaging the statures calculated from the arm and leg bones, is 158.1cm. There are Schmorl’s nodes on the superior and inferior surfaces of the seventh thoracic vertebra indicating back stress possibly from carrying heavy loads. There is a growth of bone on the distal left humerus measuring 6mm wide and 7 mm high. There is a lytic lesion near the medial end of the right clavicle and a smaller one on the left clavicle. As these are located at the attachment of the costo-clavicular ligament they are most likely associated with muscle strain/injury.

Burial 3 is the partial skeleton of a 6-10 year old child consisting of a left humerus, proximal right radius and ulna, pelvis, fragments of both lower legs and the left shoulder.

Burial 4 consists of a cervical vertebra, tibiae, fibulae and humeri not belonging to either Burials 1 or 2. The tibia produces a height estimate of 159.3 if a female and 162.9 if a male.

Burial 5 is the proximal half of a femur from a 6-7 year old child.

Burial 6 is the left ilium of a 8-9 year old child.

Cemetery Survey & Examination

On 21 March two additional cemeteries were examined for their potential to yield results. The cemetery at the North Wadi had many robbed graves on both sides of the wadi. The many bones left on the surface indicated that these graves have been heavily robbed and that the graves are densely packed. Excavations along the margins of the robbed areas should yield good results. The cemetery adjacent to the North Tombs also had many holes from grave robbers. There were fewer bones on the surface suggesting that the graves are not so densely packed or not so extensively robbed. This cemetery has greater potential to yield good results from excavation. The analysis of the South Tombs bones show that significant information can be obtained from the Amarna skeletons. The extensive ongoing grave robbing at the other two cemeteries encourages salvage excavation of what is left. Furthermore, there are some portions of the South Tombs cemetery still intact and these should be excavated to supplement the analysis of the washed out bones. The materials adjacent to Marker 9 are in excellent condition and should be excavated as they are slowly eroding out of the wadi bank.

Conclusions

The analysis of the South Tombs skeletal material washed out into the wadi yields the following demographic profile: 53 adults with 19 females and 18 males; 14 juveniles between the ages of 5 and 17; and 3 infants. Arthritis and degenerative joint disease of the spine and joints indicates that in general work loads were not excessive. Only 2 to 8% of the adult population exhibits arthritis. Broken bones that have healed are also only 2 to 8% of the adult sample. These trauma of the elbow region are most likely due to work accidents. There is one healed fracture of the skull that indicates violence. The adult infection rate is between 2 and 8% which is relatively low with no severe infections being observed. Childhood anemia rates could range between 6 and 23% and indicate that there was a significant problem with childhood diet and iron deficiency. Thus life for the common residents of Amarna appears to have been satisfactory with no extremes of work or stress.

The second cemetery next to marker 9 yielded the remains of six individuals. Two adult females and one child are well preserved, while the adult and two children are represented by fragments. Spinal stress in the adult females is the only remarkable observation.

2005 survey: the pottery


Pamela Rose
During the 2005 season, a surface collection was made of material in a wadi behind the South Tombs, which had previously been identified as containing much-disturbed burials. It was collected in batches between regularly-spaced markers, numbered from the easternmost end; a general sweep of the area, to recover any pieces missed during the batch collections, was labelled as coming from between markers 1 and 7. An area in the plain outside the mouth of the wadi was designated ‘west of marker 9’. The material consisted mainly of human bone and potsherds.

The pottery collected represents disturbed material now lying in the wadi bottom, and originated in burials along the northern wadi edge. The greatest quantities came from the west end of the wadi, particularly from the area between markers 7 and 8, as would be expected from the washing of pieces down the wadi that must have occurred over time. The condition of the material ranged from a few pieces that were reasonably fresh, in that both form and surface were well preserved, suggesting therefore that the material had not been exposed for long on the surface, to sherds so eroded that only the fabric was identifiable. Most lay between the two extremes, and consisted of pieces from which most or all of the surfaces had been weathered away, but the general form was still identifiable. Few joins could be made within batches, owing to the condition of the sherds, and only one or two joins were noted between batches. Almost all the pottery was of late 18 th dynasty date: the only exceptions were four late Roman sherds, two of which came from the area between markers 7 and 8, and two from the general collection between markers 1 and 7. Three Late Period ribbed marl jar sherds were also found, two from between markers 7 and 8, and the other from the area west of marker 9. These presumably derive from the reuse of the South Tombs (French in AR3, 147-188).

No obvious variation can be observed in the distribution of vessel types in the batches. The vast majority of the fragments are of Nile silt clay, and very few marl clay and imported sherds are present; marls and imports are certainly more scarce than in an equivalent surface collection made in the city itself. Most of the sherds belong to small closed-form jars. There is striking absence of large jar forms. Only one rim sherd was noted from a large siltware biconical jar or zir (Group 16, see AR1, 135-138), and such a robust form should, if originally present, survive better on the surface than many of the forms that were recovered. The scarcity of open forms also appears genuine. Such rims could be expected to survive in large numbers, since the greater rim area breaks into correspondingly more sherds than is the case for closed forms, but in fact relatively few were found.

(Fig.13) Biconical siltware jars. L –R: sherd numbers 120000, 120006, 120020. Scale 1:4 (Fig.13) Biconical siltware jars. L –R: sherd numbers 120000, 120006, 120020. Scale 1:4

Amongst the siltwares, the most common form found is a small biconical jar, apparently usually, if not invariably, red slipped, and with a rim diameter of 10-12 cm (Figure 13). A few examples of similar but slightly larger jars were identified (Figure 14).

(Fig.14) Biconical siltware jars. L –R: sherd numbers 120022, 120005. Scale 1:4 (Fig.14) Biconical siltware jars. L –R: sherd numbers 120022, 120005. Scale 1:4

(Fig.15) Vase with modelled rim. Sherd number 120017. Scale 1:2 (Fig.15) Vase with modelled rim. Sherd number 120017. Scale 1:2

Other small red-slipped forms included vases with modelled rims (Figure 15), and fragments of what were probably vases similar to COA1, pl. XLIX, XXIV/1018; small, probably globular jars with short flaring rims (Figure 16); several examples of small ‘drop pots’, some with incised lines around the body as decoration (Figure 17); vases with everted rims (cf COA1, pl. L, XXVI/1013); and the rim of an unusual small hole-mouth jar (Figure 18). Unslipped ‘beer jars’ (Group 18, AR1, 135-138) are present but less common than the biconical jars. They can be most easily identified from their characteristic poorly-finished bases, rather than their rims, which can be confused with those of globular jars if the surface is lost. A rough count of bases indicates the presence in the surface collection of a minimum of 49 jars belonging to vase/biconical jar forms, and 11 from ‘beer jars’.

(Fig.16) Small jars with short flaring rims. L –R: sherd numbers 120007, 120009. Scale 1:2 (Fig.16) Small jars with short flaring rims. L –R: sherd numbers 120007, 120009. Scale 1:2

(Fig.17) Small ‘drop pots’. L –R: sherd numbers 120003, 120226, 120010. Scale 1:2 (Fig.17) Small ‘drop pots’. L –R: sherd numbers 120003, 120226, 120010. Scale 1:2

(Fig.18) Rim of a small hole-mouth jar. Sherd number 120180. Scale 1:2 (Fig.18) Rim of a small hole-mouth jar. Sherd number 120180. Scale 1:2

Blue-painted vessels are present, but their frequency of occurrence is unclear because of surface erosion. Such decoration occurs, as elsewhere in the city, principally on biconical jar forms, of both long and short-necked types (Figure 19), as well as on a form otherwise unattested at Amarna (Figure 20). The same form also occurs in the cemetery area with what appears to be a plain white slip (Figure 21). Where the decoration is sufficiently preserved to examine, it appears identical to that commonly found at Amarna. Black linear decoration occurs on a bottle (Figure 22). A more unusual form is attested by a few sherds from a miniature siltware amphora with handles.

(Fig.19) Blue-painted biconical jar. Sherd number 120110. Scale 1:2 (Fig.19) Blue-painted biconical jar. Sherd number 120110. Scale 1:2

(Fig.20) Blue-painted jar. Sherd number 120008. Scale 1:2 (Fig.20) Blue-painted jar. Sherd number 120008. Scale 1:2

(Fig.21) White-slipped siltware jar. Sherd number 120004. Scale 1:2 (Fig.21) White-slipped siltware jar. Sherd number 120004. Scale 1:2

(Fig.22) Bottle with black linear decoration. Sherd number 120002. Scale 1:2 (Fig.22) Bottle with black linear decoration. Sherd number 120002. Scale 1:2

Open siltware forms are less common than closed types. The most common shape encountered is a large dish (Figure 23), but this may be due to the better survival of its thicker walls; other forms include flat-based red-slipped bowls well known from all areas of the city (Group 5, AR1, 135-136) and, more rarely, carinated bowls.

(Fig.23) Siltware dish. Sherd number 120001. Scale 1:4 (Fig.23) Siltware dish. Sherd number 120001. Scale 1:4

Fragments from marl clay vessels are rare, and include very few diagnostic pieces. This probably reflects a genuine absence from the cemetery area, in that their harder fabric is less susceptible to erosion, and so should survive more readily than the silt fragments. Sherds come from a variety of small-sized forms, of which the most conmmon seem to be pilgrim flasks. There are only a few fragments from large closed-form vessels. Amphorae are represented by handle stumps and bases, and a few body sherds may come from ‘meat jars’ (Group 13, AR1, 135-138) There are also fragments of large bowls (Figure 24).

(Fig.24) Large marl bowls. L–R: sherd numbers 120155 + 120141, 120170. Scale 1:4 (Fig.24) Large marl bowls. L–R: sherd numbers 120155 + 120141, 120170. Scale 1:4

More exotic sources are reflected in a fragment from a gourd-shaped vessel of western oasis origin, and several sherds of Canaanite amphorae. Most of the latter come from the lower body of a single vessel, the base of which is coated with resin; a few fragments come from two other such vessels, each represented by only one or two body sherds.

Very little pottery with possible ritual associations has been identified: no offering pots nor dishes with out-turned rims of the type often used for burning resin are found, although it is possible that such thin-walled forms may have disappeared through erosion. A few fragments may come from the narrow tubular part of an offering stand. There is no evidence for the use of gypsum coatings on vessels, such as were noted in chapels at the Workmen’s Village (AR3, 111). One of the siltware jars has a deliberately-made post-firing hole in the lower body (Figure 25), which may be evidence for the deliberate ‘killing’; several other vessels appear to have holes in their bases or lower walls, but it is impossible to say whether these are man-made or are due to the effects of weathering.

(Fig.25) Siltware jar with deliberate post-firing hole. Sherd number 120328
(Fig.25) Siltware jar with deliberate post-firing hole. Sherd number 120328

Several sherds had clearly been used for digging, presumably during the robbing of the graves. One of these is from a marl clay ‘meat jar’, and three others are from a marl fabric that may be 18 th dynasty or Late Period in date. In general, however, spade sherds cannot be identified with confidence because of the effects of erosion.
The collections from the areas between markers 3 and 4, and between areas 8 and 9, both contained small groups of coarse handmade siltware sherds which seem to derive from pottery coffins. They are crudely made, and particularly poorly finished on the interior; the exterior is smoothed and there is evidence on a few sherds of the application of a red slip. One handmade sherd, which does not seem to belong with either of the groups mentioned above, has a much-eroded modelled feature on the exterior, perhaps a hand. The sherds from between areas 8 and 9 preserve the oval end of a lid and part of the top (Figure 26); the overall size suggests the coffin may have been for a child. The other group forms part of a semi-circular tube with a break pattern that suggests it had a flat end; this is of a larger size than the group previously mentioned, but is without other distinctive features.

Publications cited

AR1 = Kemp, B.J., ed., 1984. Amarna Reports I. Occasional Publications 1. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

AR3 = Kemp, B.J., ed., 1986. Amarna Reports III. Occasional Publications 4. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

COA1 = Peet, T. E. & Woolley, C. L. 1923, The City of Akhenaten I: Excavations of 1921 and 1922 at el-Amarna, London: Egypt Exploration Society.

 
 

Website first posted September 2000; last updated November 2010 | enquiries concerning website: email bjk2@cam.ac.uk