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Start of the 2008 season of excavation at the cemetery
View of South Tombs Cemetery at the end of excavation work.View of South Tombs Cemetery at the end of excavation work.

South Tombs Cemetery 2008

Wendy Dolling

Contents

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

1.2 Excavation aims

1.3 Site description

1.4 Methodology
2 The archaeological findings

2.1 Southern excavation area — Grid Squares G51–L51

2.1.1 Grid Square G51

2.1.2 Grid Square H51

2.1.3 Grid Square I51

2.1.4 Grid Square I50

2.1.5 Grid Square J51

2.1.6 Grid Square K51

2.1.7 Grid Square L51

2.2 Northern excavation area — Grid Squares F52–M52

2.2.1 Grid Squares G52/F52

2.2.2 Grid Square H52

2.2.3 Grid Square I52

2.2.4 Grid Square J52

2.2.5 Grid Square K52

2.2.6 Grid Square L52

2.2.7 Grid Square M52

2.3 New excavation areas

2.3.1 Grid Squares L53–M53

2.3.2 North-west sector of the wadi

3 Discussion of archaeological findings

3.1 Burial density

3.2 Burial orientation and spatial patterning

3.3 Preparation of the body for burial

3.4 Burial/funerary goods

3.5 Artefacts (Barry Kemp, Anna Stevens)

3.6 Concluding remarks (Barry Kemp)

3.7 Human bones from the South Tombs Cemetery (Melissa Zabecki)

4.0 Publications cited

The disturbed burial of Individual no. 58 after excavation of unit (12162). View site south.The disturbed burial of Individual no. 58 after excavation of unit (12162). View site south.

Appendix 1 (PDF 580k):
Register of individuals excavated during 2008, and list of units according to grid square.

Appendix 2 (PDF 1.18Mb):
List of Units according to Grid Square.

Notes to units when citing excavations:
The following conventions have been used when citing excavation unit numbers:
(000) for fill units
<000> for cuts
[000] for structures and underlines for surfaces.

Acknowledgements

The personnel of the excavation and associated research were as follows:

Archaeological Site Supervisors
Barry Kemp
Wendy Dolling

Field Archaeologist
Anna Stevens

Excavation Team

Hosni Osman Mehanni
Yahya Sadek
Bakr Amin
Abuzeid Azedin Abuzeid
Abdel-Hafiz Abdel-Aziz
Saleh Osman
Ahmed Mokhtar Mahmud
Mahdi Ahmed Abdel-Nazir
Hillal Mohammed Omar
Mohammed Abdel-Alim Hussein
Gamal Abdel-Halim Hassan
Ayman Shahata Fahmy
Mostafa Rabia Fathy
Abdel-Aziz Abu Aleaqa

SCA Inspector
Mr Ali Mustafa Mohammed el-Bakri

Physical Anthropology
Prof. Jerome Rose
Melissa Zabecki

Objects Registrar
Dr Anna Stevens

Pottery Analysis
Dr Pamela Rose

Artefact Conservation
Julie Dawson

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

The Amarna South Tombs cemetery is located on the sloping banks of a large wadi that cuts down through a low plateau to the south-west of the main city site. The mouth of this wadi exits on to the plain in the vicinity of a group of rock-cut tombs belonging to nobles of the Amarna Period, the South Tombs. Excavation at the site commenced in 2006; following on from the discovery of surface skeletal remains during a survey in 2005. In 2006 a 5m x 35m area was excavated on the eastern slope of the wadi, and a series of disturbed burials were identified. It was clear from investigations during this season that the cemetery continued to the north beyond the excavated area. Time constraints meant the investigators were not able to determine if the base of the archaeological deposits had been reached in all grid squares. In 2007 another 5m x 35m strip was excavated directly to the north of the 2006 area. During this second season an Amarna Period surface was exposed in a portion of the excavation area with a series of burial pits cut into this surface. Several of these burials were excavated during the 2007 season though a significant number of probable burials remained unexamined. It also became apparent that the base of the archaeological deposits had not been reached in much of the 2006 excavation area. At the completion of the 2007 season the excavation area was backfilled to protect the unexcavated burials.

1.2 Excavation aims

As has been previously noted (Dolling 2007) the South Tombs Cemetery is of particular significance within the archaeological record of Amarna due to its potential to illustrate the burial practices of a previously unrepresented group, the general populace or non-elite of the city of Akhetaten. Prior to commencement of investigations at the site archaeological evidence for New Kingdom burial practices at Amarna was restricted to that of the elite or noble residents. The methods of interment, burial material and any cult or ritual practice associated with the burials of the general populace of Akhetaten were unknown.

In 2008 investigations at the South Tombs cemetery focused on completing the clearance of the 2006 and 2007 areas of excavation. The strategy employed aimed to expose the Amarna Period surface in the entire area; locating and investigating any burials exposed by this process. Continuing the main objectives of previous seasons, in 2008 we aimed to determine the nature of the burial practices evident at the site, establish the base level of archaeological deposits and recover skeletal material for osteological analysis. Body orientation and containment, utilisation of grave goods, patterns of cemetery disturbance and the temporal relationship of disturbance and cemetery utilisation are all questions that ongoing excavation at the site aims to answer. An understanding of the physical layout of the cemetery and how it may have functioned as a place set within the broader landscape and social activity of the city is a longer term objective of the investigations. Analysis of this skeletal material is ongoing providing evidence for population demographics, paleopathology, age of death and physical characteristics of individuals buried at the cemetery. For findings from the analysis of skeletal material collected prior to 2008, see Zabecki (2007) Rose (2006a and b).

1.3 Site description

The excavated portion of the site is located on the eastern slope of the large wadi at the more southerly end of the cemetery. Here the east bank of the wadi initially drops relatively sharply downwards from the plateau, but at a distance of approximately 40–60 m from the current wadi floor the degree of slope flattens out and a relatively gentle slope continues downwards. Approximately 2 m from the floor of the wadi proper the surface again drops sharply to base level. As such the embankment provides a large open area, which would have served as a suitable space for a cemetery of significant size. The question of to what degree the current topography varies from that of the Amarna Period is not easily answered. Excavation undertaken to this stage does seem to point to a series of depositional and erosion phases. While the evidence is inconclusive, deposition seems to be the greater factor at work so that preserved Amarna Period archaeological deposits are buried beneath accumulated sand and gravel. The depth of this deposition varies significantly over the site. Excavation in a portion of grid square F52 during the 2008 season revealed the western limit of the wadi bank at the time when the cemeteries was in use. This illustrated that the current limit of the eastern embankment varies only slightly from that of the Amarna Period, with a deposit of loose fine-grained sand accumulated over the sloping end of the wadi bank. Based on survey findings, topography of the landscape and excavation results it is likely that the cemetery extends over much of this eastern side of the wadi. There is also a smaller area on the western embankment which is likely to be part of the cemetery. The western embankment has been identified as a potential site for future excavation. (For survey results, see Kemp 2003, 2005.)

During the 2008 season an area of 420 square metres was excavated, consisting of a series of contiguous 5m x 5m grid squares. The main focus of the excavation was on areas of the site that had been partially excavated in previous seasons, including grid squares G51–M51, investigated in 2006, and squares G52–M52, where excavation was undertaken in 2007. In addition, small-scale clearance was undertaken in grid squares I50, F52, L53 and M53, all of them areas previously not investigated.

1.4 Methodology

Site supervisors were responsible for the recording of all archaeological findings from their specific areas of excavation. Kemp supervised squares G51–L51 and L53–M53; Dolling supervised squares F52–M52. The resultant report is based on field records prepared by both.

The site was excavated manually and all spoil was sieved prior to being discarded. Each recognized deposit and or feature was given a distinct unit number using a sequential numbering system that applies to the entire site of Amarna. The South Tombs Cemetery is designated as Grid 14 within the Amarna site numbering system. The excavation grid is aligned to a site-north established during the 2006 season rather than true magnetic north. General discussion of location in this report relates to site-north; the exception is the orientation of burials which are described in relation to magnetic north (for a discussion of burial orientation, see Kemp 2006).

In order to maintain consistency with methods utilised in previous seasons bone groups were assigned an Individual Number (no.) when at least 50% of a complete skeleton could be determined to be articulated or clearly associated at the time of excavation. If a group of articulated and associated disarticulated bone was excavated from an original burial context, that is from within a discernable burial pit, then less then 50% of an individual may still be identified by an Individual no. The sequence of numbering continued from that used in 2007, identified individuals in 2008 commencing with Individual no. 40.

At completion of the 2007 season it became apparent that in some instances more than one person was buried within a single pit. It was also apparent that disarticulated bone from within a burial pit may have originated from adjacent burials and been scattered during disturbance of the site. With these variables in mind, a discussion with the physical anthropology team was undertaken regarding at what point skeletal material from potential multiple burials should be assigned a specific individual number. It was decided that if articulated or in situ skeletal elements from more then one individual were discernable at the time of excavation, then each individual would be given a distinct individual number. However if, as was the case in several of the investigated burial pits, disarticulated bone from within a single burial pit could only be definitively assigned to more then one individual during post-excavation analysis, then the skeletons would be numbered using an individual number and a suffixed alphabetical designation. For example, three individuals were identified during post excavation analysis of disarticulated bone recovered from burial pit <12174> and were designated as Individuals no. 62a, 62b & 62c. By contrast, articulated and in situ portions of two individuals were identified during the actual excavation of burial pit <11694>; that is, the archaeological evidence clearly indicated that these two individuals had originally been interred in this pit. These two people were designated as Individuals no. 41 and no. 42. For the purposes of unit numbering, all recovered skeletal material was considered to be an inclusion within a fill unit so that the unit number assigned to bones, including identified individuals, relates to the fill from which the bones were recovered.

In addition to the numbering of skeletons, a register of skulls was maintained to aid in determining the minimum number of individuals represented at the site. Skull numbering in 2008 commenced at 73. Those skulls that were clearly associated with a specific individual were labelled with both a skull and an Individual no. At the commencement of the 2007 excavation season analysis of 2006 skeletal material was incomplete so that the exact number of skulls represented in the assemblage was uncertain. Following consultation with Prof. Jerry Rose the number 40 was chosen as a starting point for the numbering of skulls recovered during 2007. The sequence of numbers continued in 2008 directly from the 2007 numbering system. As a result, within the total skull numbering system so far used at the sites there is a break in the skull numbering sequence so that no skulls have been numbered from 24–39. This makes a total of 71 distinct skulls identified over three seasons by the excavation team

Disarticulated bone that was clustered together but not contained within a burial pit was not assigned an individual number at the time of excavation. These bone clusters were given a distinct unit number to locate them in relation to any surrounding fill and burials. During post-excavation analysis some of these clusters were found to contain bone of an identifiable skeletal age and sex but not always from a single person. The physical anthropology team designated these skeletal groups as cluster individuals according to their specific unit number when appropriate, but they were not assigned a distinct Individual no. as, in many cases, only a relatively small percentage of the total skeleton was recovered. A number of the bones recovered from such clusters have been able to be associated with the burial of a formerly identified individual. All discussion of post-excavation analysis within this report is based on information provided to the author by Jerome Rose and Melissa Zabecki.

In determining the degree of weathering of any skeletal material a visual inspection was undertaken by the archaeologist at the time of excavation. Bone described within this report as ‘weathered’ is bone that appeared completely desiccated and bleached of colour from exposure to sun and/or wind. In addition, some bone had deteriorated further to become extremely brittle with the bone losing its structural integrity. Bones that had not undergone significant exposure retained a degree of moisture visible as a brownish colour of the bone and were less brittle. The term ‘bone’ as used in this report relates to human skeletal material unless otherwise specified. It is possible that some fragments of bone that were identified as human at the time of excavation may on analysis prove to be from other mammalian species.

The term in situ is used in this report to describe all archaeological deposits that could be determined to have been deliberately placed within or in association with the graves during the burial or funerary phase. It excludes all material that may or may not have been deposited in antiquity but was clearly the result of another phase of activity such as robbing or destruction at the site.

2 The archaeological findings

The findings are here discussed according to identified archaeological units. As much of this season’s excavation took place in areas partially cleared in previous years a brief discussion of findings from these earlier investigations is appropriate as it necessarily contributes to the interpretations of the 2008 archaeological findings. Results are discussed according to independent grid squares followed by a general discussion of the site as a whole.

2.1 Southern excavation area — Grid Squares G51–L51

This area was first investigated in 2006 (Ambridge and Shepperson 2006). It is the southernmost of the excavation areas and also includes a small extension into grid square I50, a previously unexcavated portion of the site. In 2006 a series of burials were identified the bulk of which were located at the eastern end of the excavation area in grid squares L51 and M51. At the western end of the area (grid square G51) a small brick tomb was also revealed. None of the burials excavated in 2006 were intact; in fact, there was a significant degree of disturbance evidenced across the entire area. At the completion of the 2006 season the excavators raised the possibility that the base of the archaeological material may not have been reached. Following excavation in the adjacent area in 2007 (grid squares G52–M52) it became apparent that this was in fact the case in at least a portion of the 2006 excavation area (Dolling 2007).

Prior to commencement of excavation in 2008 an assessment was made of the potential for unexcavated archaeological material having been preserved in the 2006 area. This assessment considered the depth of excavation reached during 2006 and the excavation findings in adjacent grid squares in 2007. The presence of excavated in situ burials in grid square M51 and correlation with the base of deposits in M52 suggested that there was little likelihood of additional material being excavated from M51. Of the remaining grid squares it was determined that there was a high probability that grid squares H51–K51 would contain unexcavated material with a slight probability of unexcavated material being preserved in L51 and G51. As a result a decision was made not to undertake further excavation in M51 but to continue investigations in the remaining grid squares, initially focussing on squares H51–K51 and then, as time permitted, squares G51 and L51.

Excavation commenced with removal of sandy fill that had accumulated across the excavation area since the completion of the 2006 excavation. This fill included wind-blown sand and a degree of baulk collapse along the southern limit of the excavation area. When possible, the transition point between this accumulated fill and the underlying unexcavated deposits prompted a change of unit number. In practice, however, this was not always possible as the sandy fill level at which excavation ceased in 2006 was difficult to distinguish from the accumulated sand level. As a result, the uppermost fill units have a high probability of comprising a mixture of accumulated sand and unexcavated fill. Ongoing clearance across the entire strip of grid squares exposed a moderately compacted sandy surface into which a series of burial pits had been cut. This surface was clearly at a greater depth of excavation than that reached in 2006 and was contiguous with the cemetery period surface exposed in the adjacent 2007 excavation area. The overlying fill units and excavation of the revealed burials is discussed in detail according to grid square.

2.1.1 Grid Square G51

The uppermost fill covered the entire grid square and consisted of a combination of accumulated sand post-dating the 2006 excavation and backfill covering the brick tomb in the south-west corner of the square (12109). There was also a portion of the original unexcavated surface that was removed as the transition point was unclear. Following excavation of this unit, a natural sandy surface was exposed 12255 contiguous with the surface in to which burial pits were visible in the remainder of the excavation area. In the south-west corner of the square a cut <12256> interrupted this surface. This is an excavation cut made in 2006 to expose the brick tomb located in the south-west quadrant of the grid square. In 2008 some scattered bone could be seen protruding from the fill within this cut. It is unclear where this bone originated from but there had been a degree of disturbance at the site between the 2006 and 2007 excavation seasons, and the bone could have been displaced from adjacent areas at that time. It is also at least partially the result of ongoing baulk collapse along the southern edge of the grid square. As such, a decision was made to re-clear the area of backfill and any unexcavated bone. A series of loose sandy fill layers were excavated from the space surrounding the brick tomb: units (12139), (12163), (12166) and (12176), and a minor amount of bone was recovered.

In the north-east quadrant of the square a shallow cut or pit <12257> was exposed cut into the compacted surface 12255. This cut was rounded at the southern end but the northern end was poorly defined and may have been truncated. It is a shallow depression only 5–8 cm in depth with slightly inward sloping sides. It was filled by a continuation of the loose sandy fill that covered the entire grid square (12109). This cut does have the appearance of being a remnant of a grave pit but no in situ skeletal or burial material was found here so that it may not relate to an original burial. No further excavation was carried out in this grid square as, with the exception of the depression <12257>, there were no indications of unexcavated burials (Figure 55).

2.1.2 Grid Square H51

Clearance in this grid square commenced with the removal of accumulated sand (12073). There was a also a significant degree of baulk collapse along the southern side of the square that was cleared as part of this fill; material originating to the south of the excavation area proper is therefore likely to be included. At a point where there was a discernible increase in the degree of compaction of the sandy fill it was designated as a new unit (12082); this was felt to potentially mark the transition point to the unexcavated depth in the grid square. The excavation of this fill (12082) exposed a ridge of moderately consolidated sand (12091) running along the northern margin of the square, and patches of consolidated sand (12099) in the south east-and east of the grid square. Both these fill units were found to overlie a natural sandy surface 12134 into which at least one burial pit <12216> had been cut. Given the degree of compaction and lack of inclusions in units (12091) and (12099) it is possible that they are the upper horizon of the Amarna Period surface 12134.

At the junction of grid squares H51 and G51 a small cluster of bones (12140) was found surrounded by the fill unit (12091); only a portion of it excavated due to time constraints. In the north-east corner excavation of unit (12091) revealed a second larger cluster of disarticulated bone overlying remnants of plant-stem matting and a consolidated patch of mounded sand (12107). This deposit was seen to extend into the adjacent square H52 so that a decision was made to excavate this area as part of the same unit. Though not immediately apparent during the excavation of unit (12107), ongoing clearance in grid square I52 revealed a poorly preserved burial pit the western end of which is highly likely to have been represented by unit (12107); see square I51, fill (12160) and pit <12181> for additional details.

Pit <12216>

A distinct rectangular pit <12216> crossing the junction of grid squares H51 and I51 was revealed by the excavation of units (12082) and (12099). This pit cuts down into the surface designated as unit 12134. Two layers of loose sandy fill, (12215) and (12254), were cleared from this pit. There was a small amount of botanical material and a small fragment of painted gypsum plaster contained in the fill but no skeletal material or definite indications of a burial. The pit itself is clearly cut in a roughly rectangular shape with relatively vertical pit walls and flat base. It appears to be purpose-made rather than an intrusive cut and has a high probability of having been used or intended for use as a burial pit (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Pit <12216> at completion of excavation. View site north-west.Figure 1. Pit <12216> at completion of excavation. View site north-west.

2.1.3 Grid Square I51

The entire grid square was initially cleared of a loosely compacted sand deposit (12044) that included wind-blown sand that had accumulated since 2006 and a portion of previously unexcavated fill. At the completion of excavation of this unit several burial pits at a depth of excavation not reached during 2006 were exposed cut into a natural sandy surface 12258 (Figure 55). In the north-east corner of the grid square a slightly mounded area of compacted sand was also exposed (12106) directly overlying the natural sandy surface.

Burial of Individual no. 69a & b — pit <12132>

In the north-east quadrant a large burial pit <12132> was found that extended slightly into grid square I52. The uppermost fill (12133) comprised loose sand with scattered fragments of desiccated bone and a small amount of botanical material possibly plant-stem fragments. Several successive layers of sandy fill were removed (12202), (12203) and (12212). Floating within this fill were a series of large limestone boulders and a minor amount of disarticulated and fragmented bone. There was also a cluster of bar shaped fragments of gypsum, possibly parts of a window grill (12207) (object 38816; Figure 2).

Figure 2. Fragments of gypsum (possibly a window grille) reconstructed on site post-excavation. See also Figure 64.Figure 2. Fragments of gypsum (possibly a window grille) reconstructed on site post-excavation. See also Figure 64.

At this point in the excavation fragments of a decorated timber coffin also became apparent floating loose in the pit fill. Sandy layers containing decomposing organic matter, primarily termite-affected timber, were progressively excavated. Separate areas of the pit were designated with individual units in the hope of aiding in later reconstruction of the fragmentary coffin. These units include (12214), (12217), (12219), (12222), (12225) and (12227). Within fill unit (12219) the wooden face from this anthropoid coffin was found floating in loose sand (Figure 3). Though several cracks were present in the wood the face was well enough preserved to enable lifting of the artefact intact. On-site advice and assistance regarding lifting the fragmentary coffin was provided by the project’s conservator, Julie Dawson. The coffin clearly was anthropoid in form and though poorly preserved could be seen to have been decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions that were painted in cream colour on a dark background. The coffin fragments and wooden face carry the object registration no. 38819.

Figure 3. Wooden face of an anthropoid coffin resting in fill (12219) within burial pit <12132>. View site east. See also Figure 65.Figure 3. Wooden face of an anthropoid coffin resting in fill (12219) within burial pit <12132>. View site east. See also Figure 65.

Concentrated at the northern end of the burial pit was a cluster of disarticulated and partially articulated bone including an intact skull, no. 88. Though disarticulated the majority of the bones appeared to belong to one individual, and as they were clearly contained in the burial pit were designated as Individual no. 69a. The leg bones (femur, tibia and fibula) had been displaced but still remained partially articulated to each other presumably indicating that the body was not completely skeletonised when the burial was disturbed (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Two phases of excavation in burial pit <12132>.Figure 4. Two phases of excavation in burial pit <12132>.

During post-excavation analysis of all bone from the pit a second individual was identified and designated as Individual no. 69b. It is probably that Individual no. 69a was originally interred in the coffin as the majority of this individual’s bones were recovered from the base of the pit partially overlying the coffin base. The bones of the second individual were scattered throughout the pit at various levels and cannot securely be associated with the coffin. This is supported by the fact that Individual no. 69a is an adult while Individual no. 69b is a child of approximately 5 years of age. The coffin appears, at least originally, to have been made for an adult though adaptation for a younger individual or multiple burials within the coffin cannot be excluded given the degree of disturbance evident in the pit. Only a small portion of the coffin remained intact in its original burial position: this was the curving head-end of the coffin that was decorated with white and black bands. In the space between this end of the coffin and the western pit wall an intact ceramic vessel [12266] was found contained in a gravel and sand fill (12265) (Figure 4). This bowl had a slight crack in the rim but was otherwise intact and contained botanical material, as yet unidentified but possibly grains or seed pods. The bowl appears to be located in its original burial position and as such would have been part of the burial equipment associated with the burial of Individual no. 69a.

Burial of Individual no. 62a, b & c — pit <12174>

Located in the south-east corner of the grid square and crossing in to J51 a second burial pit <12174> was found again cut into the natural sandy surface 12258 (Figure 5). Several loose sandy fill units were excavated from this burial pit. Unit (12175), the uppermost fill, contained a minor amount of desiccated bone and a small amount of fragmentary botanical material; there was also a minor amount of fragmentary gypsum plaster. Lower levels of fill (12185), (12195) and (12198) contained increasing amounts of scattered skeletal material though none of the bones were undisturbed and most exhibited a significant degree of weathering. There were also fragments of plant-stem or stick matting, several large ceramic sherds and a possible mud jar stopper scattered through the fill. Two skulls were recovered floating loose in these layers: no. 93 and no. 95. At completion of clearance a large fragment of plant-stem matting was revealed resting up against the pit wall in the south-west corner.

Figure 5. Pit <12174> after excavation of unit (12175), showing disarticulated bone in unit (12185). View site south. (B. Kemp)Figure 5. Pit <12174> after excavation of unit (12175), showing disarticulated bone in unit (12185). View site south. (B. Kemp)

During excavation it was apparent that more then one individual was represented here as both infant and adult-size bones were identified on site. However, as none of the bone was undisturbed and could not be immediately associated with a specific body identification of individuals was based on post-excavation analysis by the physical anthropology team. Three distinct individuals were represented in the disarticulated bone: Individual nos. 62a, 62b and 62c. Of particular interest during ongoing analysis was that the skeletal remains designated as Individual no. 62a were in fact part of a previously identified Individual no. 7. Individual no. 7 was excavated in 2006 from square I50/I51 located to the south-west of pit <12174>. Though the skeletal evidence is less conclusive, Individual no. 62b has a high probability of being part of another skeleton, Individual no. 11. This burial was also excavated in 2006. In 2006 the partially preserved bodies of these individuals were excavated from what appeared to be their original burial position in a double grave lying side by side. Portions of the lower limbs of the two individuals were found in an articulated state wrapped in plant-stem matting, though the remainder of the skeletons had been disturbed. The process that resulted in the disturbed bones of these individuals being deposited in pit <12174> is uncertain. It is possible that the bones were incidentally deposited here during the disturbance phase at the site; if this is the case the pit must have been open at that time. The absence of any in situ skeletal remains within burial cut <12174> raises the possibility that this pit was never used for an original burial and itself may be the result of intrusive digging at the site. There is also the possibility that it represents a deliberate reburial of disturbed bone, given the well-formed nature of the cut (Figure 55).

2.1.4 Grid Square I50

Clearance of the overlying fill (12044) from the south-west corner of grid square I51 had exposed the head-end of two potentially in situ burials. These burials appeared to continue beyond the excavation area into square I50 and, as a result, a decision was made to extend the area of excavation into this square. A 3 m x 3 m square was opened in the north-west corner and loosely consolidated surface sand was removed (12131) followed by several lower layers of loose sand with variable amounts of limestone gravel, units (12136) and (12144). These lower fill levels contained minor amounts of desiccated bone and botanical material. A slightly more compacted sand and gravel layer (12150) was encountered at a depth of circa 80 cm below surface level. This thin deposit overlaid a moderately-compacted sand and gravel surface 12155 and two distinct burial pits cut into this surface. These pits were directly adjacent to each other and aligned approximately east–west.

Figure 6. Burial of Individual no. 57 after partial excavation of fill (12158).Figure 6. Burial of Individual no. 57 after partial excavation of fill (12158).

Burial of Individual no. 57 — pit <12159>

The northernmost of these two burials was that of a 16–20-year-old male (Individual no. 57) partially disturbed and contained within a relatively shallow oblong pit <12159>. The pelvic area seems to have been the focus of destruction, a relatively common feature of burials at the cemetery. The pelvic bones, femurs and hands were absent and the radius and ulna of both arms, though present, were disarticulated and lying loose in the fill along with some phalanges (12158). The in situ elements of the burial were lying in the supine position with legs extended and feet parallel to each other. Around the head and feet of the skeleton remnants of plant-stem matting were preserved. Once this matting was lifted the head could be seen to be wrapped in textile, most likely a length of cloth that had been twisted to a knot on top of the head. Traces of textile were also found on the torso and lower legs of the skeleton (Figures 6 and 7).

Figure 7. Individual no. 57, showing textile overlying skull and underlying remnants of matting. View site west.Figure 7. Individual no. 57, showing textile overlying skull and underlying remnants of matting. View site west.

Burial of Individual no. 59 — pit <12168>

The southernmost of the two pits <12168> contained another disturbed burial of an adult male, Individual no. 59, aged between 35–39 years. The pelvic area, femurs and lower torso of this individual were disturbed, some of the disarticulated bone lying loose in the fill (12167) within the burial pit. The head- and foot-end of the burial were undisturbed and remained wrapped in plant-stem matting which was particularly well preserved at the western or head-end (12170). In situ skeletal elements included the skull, thoracic vertebrae most of the ribs, upper arms, lower legs and feet (Figure 8). There were traces of textile surrounding the in situ skeletal elements. Post-excavation analysis indicated that the individual suffered from a significant amount of pre-mortem trauma with multiple healed and partially healed fractures present.

Figure 8. Burial of Individual no. 59 after excavation of unit (12167). (W. Dolling)Figure 8. Burial of Individual no. 59 after excavation of unit (12167). (W. Dolling)

2.1.5 Grid Square J51

Unit (12042), a deposit of loose sand, was initially removed across the entire grid square exposing a lower level of sand with minor gravel and a small amount of scattered desiccated bone (12055). This lower deposit seems to mark the level at which the 2006 excavations ceased; unit (12042) comprising-wind blown sand and some baulk collapse that had accumulated over this level. Excavation of unit (12055) revealed a sand-and-gravel surface 12065 into which a large rectangular burial pit had been cut <12272>. A second burial pit <12123> was located in the north-east corner of the square continuing into grid square J52 (see section 2.2.4 for discussion of findings in grid square J52).

Burial of Individual no. 55 — pit <12272>

This disturbed burial was contained in a large rectangular pit <12272>. The north-east corner of the pit appears to have truncated another burial cut <12046> that extends into square K51 and will be discussed in later sections of this report. Three successive fill levels — (12057), (12084) and (12124) — were excavated from the upper level of the pit and comprised loose sand with minor-to-moderate gravel inclusions and a minor amount of desiccated bone. With an increasing depth of excavation a level was encountered (12127) exhibiting a slight increase in compaction of the sandy fill, though the transition point to this level was indistinct. Once unit (12127) was cleared there was a discernable increase in the amount of scattered fragmentary and disarticulated bone contained in the pit (12141). In both this unit (12141) and the underlying unit (12153) there was an increased gravel content and some scattered plant stems probably from burial matting. No in situ bone was recovered from this pit. However, at base level and lining the central area of the pit was a partially preserved plant-stem mat (12273). This matting is of the type associated with many burials at the site and presumably indicates that an individual was once interred within this pit. A minor amount of ash and charcoal was noted contained within the sandy fill surrounding the eastern end of the matting (Figure 9). During post-excavation analysis the scattered bone recovered from this pit was identified as belonging to a female aged between 45–50 years of age (Individual no. 55).

Figure 9. Burial pit <12272> after excavation of unit (12153) and showing remnant of in-situ burial mat (12273) in base of the pit. (B. Kemp)Figure 9. Burial pit <12272> after excavation of unit (12153) and showing remnant of in-situ burial mat (12273) in base of the pit. (B. Kemp)

This burial pit varies from other pits so far excavated at the site primarily as it is significantly deeper, the base level being approximately 1.5 m below surface level. It also truncates another pit <12046>. This is unusual at the site as, despite the density of burials evident in other grid squares such as I52 and J52, no other burial pit cuts through an earlier burial. It was not possible to determine if the intersection of the two pits occurred during construction of pit <12272> or occurred during the later disturbance at the site.

2.1.6 Grid Square K51

Excavation in this grid square commenced with clearance of sand that had accumulated since 2006 and included a degree of baulk collapse along the southern edge of the grid square (12039). Though the transition point was not clearly evident, a thin layer of slightly more compact sand was identified (12050) which appears to represent previously unexcavated sandy fill. Clearance of this unit exposed a natural surface 12051, at which point two distinct burial pits became evident. Also exposed was an apparent straight cut edge or pit <12045> within the distinct surface 12051. This cut ran in an east–west line at the southern limit of the excavation area but could not be investigated further as it would be necessary to undertake significant clearance in the unexcavated grid square K50. It is potentially another burial pit as it is orientated approximately on the same alignment as two other nearby cuts that have been confirmed as burial pits: <12046> and <12063>. Without further excavation the nature of cut <12045> must remain uncertain (Figure 55).

In the north-east quadrant of the square an oval patch of slightly discoloured sand and an adjacent slight depression were also visible at the level of surface 12051. It was not possible to determine on surface examination if these anomalies represented a burial pit or some other feature. A decision was made to make a test cut into this quadrant, measuring 2 m x 3 m, to determine the nature of this discolouration and depression. Following excavation of c. 10 cm depth of moderately-compacted sandy fill (12121) there was no evidence of a burial cut or purpose-made depression so that excavation ceased in this area.

Burial of Individual no. 43 — pit <12046>

Figure 10. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 43 showing disarticulated bone exposed by the excavation of unit (12047) and intact matting at the western end of the pit. View site south.Figure 10. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 43 showing disarticulated bone exposed by the excavation of unit (12047) and intact matting at the western end of the pit. View site south.

This burial was contained in an oval burial pit <12046> that was oriented approximately east–west (according to magnetic north rather then site north). The westernmost end of the pit extends slightly into square J51 where it is truncated by the eastern end of burial pit <12272>. This burial (Individual no. 43) exhibited a significant degree of disturbance. The uppermost fill of the pit (12047) consisted of loose sand with fragments of plant stem or reed and a small amount of desiccated loose bone and human hair. Once this loose fill was cleared the partially articulated skeleton was exposed surrounded by disturbed portions of the burial (12058) (Figure 10). The head and torso had been disturbed, many of the rib bones, having been pushed down into the base of the pit, were fragmented and the head had been disarticulated from the cervical spine (skull no. 73). In addition, the pelvic area with the femur, coccyx, the left tibia and left fibula were all disturbed and lying loose in the fill. Ongoing clearance of loose fill and the disturbed portions of the burial (12058) revealed that the body had been laid in the grave wrapped in a plant-stem mat, the remnants of which lined the base of the pit (Figure 11).

Figure 11. Burial of Individual no. 43, showing undisturbed portions of the burial after partial excavation of unit (12058). (B. Kemp)Figure 11. Burial of Individual no. 43, showing undisturbed portions of the burial after partial excavation of unit (12058). (B. Kemp)

Though slightly misaligned, the right tibia and fibula of this body appear to be close to their original burial positions. The feet were absent though whether their destruction occurred during the grave robbing or during the cutting of pit <12272> is uncertain. Only the right humerus, left humerus and left scapula clearly remain in their original burial position. Impressions of the skull and body in the sandy base of the pit indicate that the body was interred with the head at the eastern end of the pit in an extended position (Figure 11). Post-excavation analysis determined that this individual is a 40–50-year-old female with at least 80% of the skeleton being recovered from the pit. Skull no. 73 was confirmed as belonging to this individual.

Burial of Individuals nos. 48, 49 and 50 — pit <12063>

A large rectangular pit containing the disturbed burials of three individuals was located approximately 1 m to the north of the burial of Individual no. 43. This second pit <12063> was also orientated in an east–west direction and was cut into the sandy surface 12051. The western end of the pit extended slightly into grid square J51. Fill within the upper level of the pit consisted of slightly compacted sand containing fragments of plant stems and some phalanges particularly concentrated at the eastern end of the pit. Clearance of this fill exposed two disarticulated skulls (no. 79 and no. 81), other scattered bone, significant amounts of plant-stem matting fragments, and a large mass of plaited hair lying adjacent to skull no. 79, all floating in a loose sand deposit (12071). During excavation, disarticulated bone from three individuals was noted; two adults and a probable infant. Once the disturbed levels of the pit were cleared the undisturbed portions of two adult skeletons were visible (12088). These individuals had been laid in the base of the pit upon plant-stem matting in the supine position, legs extended, and were lying next to each other with their heads at the western end. Individual no. 48, lying on the northern side of the pit, has been identified during post-excavation analysis as a 35–40-year-old female. Though the skull (no. 81) had been removed from this skeleton the torso and much of the lower limbs remained in their original burial positions. The left ulna and radius were articulated to each other and resting over the abdominal area. The left humerus was absent. The right humerus was present but the radius and ulna had been disturbed. Neither of the hands were preserved in situ. The coccyx and right pelvic bone had been removed as had the tarsal bones and phalanges of the left foot. The remaining bones of the lower limbs were articulated (Figure 12).

Figure 12. Burial of Individuals no. 48, 49 & 50. Preserved portions of the skeletons within the base of pit <12063>.Figure 12. Burial of Individuals no. 48, 49 & 50. Preserved portions of the skeletons within the base of pit <12063>.

The second adult skeleton, Individual no. 49, lay in the southern half of the pit-base, also resting on remnants of plant-stem matting, and has been identified as a 40–45-year-old female. This skeleton exhibited what seems to be the most common pattern of destruction at the site focussed on the head, hands and pelvic area. The skull (no.79) had been disarticulated and was found lying loose in the fill with some of the cervical vertebrae. The lower arms and hands, lumbar spine and coccyx had all been removed during the disturbance but the pelvic bones, legs and feet remained in their original burial position, the right foot resting slightly over the left. Fragments of an infant skull (Skull no.84) were found resting over the pelvic area of this individual. A significant number of disarticulated bones from the same infant had were recovered from the upper fill levels and surrounding the in situ portions of the adult burials. Post excavation analysis indicated that at least 50% of an infant aged at approximately 9mths was represented by these bones and was designated as Individual no.50. Given the relatively delicate nature of infant bones and the significant amount of the skeleton represented within the pit it is likely that the infant was interred within pit <12063>; the absence of any undisturbed bones does make this interpretation tentative. During excavation of residual fill (12119) from the base of the pit a small amount of botanical material, seed pods and possibly desiccated fruit, were recovered. This material was probably part of the original burial goods it is awaiting botanical analysis for specific identification of plant species.

2.1.7 Grid Square L51

Loose sand accumulated since 2006 was removed across the entire grid square (12142) exposing a slightly compacted sand level (12149), the probable level at which excavations ceased in 2006. The excavation of this fill layer (12149) exposed a gravel-and-sand surface 12259 into which two potential burial pits had been cut (Figure 55).

Pit <12251>

The southernmost of these two pits was found to contain a deposit of loose sand with a minor amount of gravel (12230). No cultural material or bone was contained in this fill which directly overlies the base the pit. The pit itself is oval in shape and though, in its preserved state, is only a maximum of 10 cm in depth it does resemble burial pits as represented elsewhere at the site (Figure 13).

Figure 13. Pit <12251> at completion of excavation. View site west.Figure 13. Pit <12251> at completion of excavation. View site west.

Pit <12253>

Located in the northern half of the grid square, pit <12253>, on excavation, was found to be a shallow depression filled with slightly friable sand (12252). Mixed throughout this sand was a powdery brown material, most likely decomposing organic mater. A few very small fragments of textile were also contained in the fill and a minor amount of plant-stem fragments of the type used in mats recovered from burials pits elsewhere at the site. The western end of this pit had an oval shape but the eastern end was poorly defined. This pit has been tentatively identified as the base of a burial pit, given the presence of decomposing organics, pit appearance and location, being cut into the Amarna-Period surface 12259. During the 2006 excavations Individual no. 19 was excavated in this approximate horizontal location but at a slightly higher level. It is probable that pit <12253> is the base of a pit that originally contained the burial of Individual no. 19 (Figure 55).

2.2 Northern excavation area — Grid Squares F52–M52

This area comprises the strip of grid squares running along the northern half of the excavation area. In 2007 this area, squares G52–M52, was partially excavated. During that season a compacted surface was exposed in parts of the excavation area, most notably in grid squares K52–M52. A series of distinct burial pits were revealed cut into this surface. Only a portion of these burials could be excavated due to time constraints, and in the remainder of the grid squares it was evident that the base of the archaeological deposits had not been reached. In 2008 excavation continued with the aim of exposing the Amarna-Period surface across all grid squares. The area of investigation was also extended slightly to include grid square F52, a previously unexcavated space.

2.2.1 Grid Squares G52/F52

During the 2007 excavations season this grid square was cleared down to a level where a distinct burial cut <11683> was apparent containing the disturbed burial of Individual no. 33 (11674). The burial was cleared during that season but time constraints prevented the completion of excavation in the remainder of the square. Some loose fill remained surrounding the exposed burial pit as well as a mounded deposit (11670) at the eastern edge of the square that was felt to potentially overlie a burial.

In 2008, following removal of backfill and some baulk collapse (12078) from the northern side of the square, a deposit of moderately compacted sand with a minor amount of gravel was removed across much of the square (12077) (unit (12077) is equivalent to unit (11681) noted in 2007 but unexcavated). This deposit lay over a more compacted deposit of sand and gravel, a distinct surface 12122. It is likely that both deposits are original surfaces that date to the Amarna-Period cemetery, the uppermost level (12077) having become slightly degraded from exposure to foot traffic during the 2007 excavation and therefore less compact. The burial pit <11683> was found to cut down through both these levels, so supporting their identification as an Amarna-Period surface. At this point a decision was made to extend the area of excavation immediately to the west into the eastern half of grid square F52 in order to determine if, as seemed the case, the cemetery surface dropped away into the wadi here, and to determine if any further burials remained unexcavated at the wadi edge.

In the south-east corner of grid square F52 a cluster of bones (12043) was visible at commencement of excavation eroding out of the sloping wadi edge. These bones were collected as a distinct unit number though the fill surrounding them is essentially equivalent to the sandy deposit (12087). This cluster of bones was located directly to the west of the position of a bone cluster (11643) excavated in 2007 and is likely to be an extension of this cluster. Given the degraded nature of the bones recovered as unit (12043) it may not be possible to establish a relationship with the bone recovered as unit (11643). Loose sandy fill (12087) was next removed from the eastern third of this grid square to a point where a continuation of the surface 12122 was encountered. As expected, this surface could be seen to drop away towards the wadi floor. There were no indications of burials in the exposed portion of the surface though it is possible that there may be burials at a greater depth within the wadi floor proper. A decision was made to cease excavation in grid square F52 at this point, as complete clearance of the unexcavated western portion of the square would have required the removal of a significant quantity of sand for which time did not allow.

In order to confirm the nature of the surface designated as unit 12122 a test cut measuring 3.5 m x 1.5 m <12267> was positioned in the south-west corner of grid square G52. Approximately 20 cm depth of this unit was excavated from within the test area and found to consist of moderately compacted sand with a minor-to-moderate amount of gravel. The gravel content varies through the deposit with some slightly more concentrated patches but no distinctly definable lenses. No cultural material or botanicals were contained in this fill. It was confirmed as a naturally-occurring deposit of sand and gravel. The excavation of this unit ceased at an arbitrary point when it was felt that adequate fill had been removed to determine the nature of the surface represented. The level at which excavation ceased was designated as unit 12271 but is essentially contiguous with and equivalent to unit 12122. (Note unit 12122 is also contiguous with and equivalent to unit 12268 in H52 and 12255 in G51).

Burial of Individual no. 58 — pit <12180>

In 2007 at the completion of excavation a mounded area of sand and fragmentary organic matter (11670) was noted at the junction of grid squares G52 and H52. At this time a skull (no. 59) was found protruding from the upper levels of the mounded fill and was collected to prevent deterioration. Time constraints prevented further clearance of the deposit so that the area was covered by cloth and then a layer of protective sand. Following the removal of this backfill in 2008 excavation of the deposit recommenced.

The upper level of fill was given a distinct unit number (12162) but essentially was equivalent to unit (11670) identified in 2007. On excavation this sandy fill was found to directly overlie a disturbed burial lying within a shallow cut <12180> (Individual no. 58). Once the limits of the pit were more clearly defined the fill was given a new unit number (12165) (Figure 14).

Figure 14. The disturbed burial of Individual no. 58 after excavation of unit (12162). View site south.Figure 14. The disturbed burial of Individual no. 58 after excavation of unit (12162). View site south.

This upper fill layer contained disarticulated bone, fragments of plant-stem or reed matting and a small number of textile fragments. Disarticulated bone included multiple ribs: many fragmentary, a sternum, mandible, humerus, and some vertebrae; the bone generally clustered in the central area of the pit. Clearance of this disturbed bone and surrounding loose sandy fill exposed the undisturbed portions of the burial (12171). Articulated portions of the skeleton were resting on a plant-stem mat which also curved up the sides of the pit and presumably originally covered the top of the body, as fragments were recovered from the overlying fill. A deposit of slightly compacted coarse-grained sand surrounded the bones. The upper part of the skeleton from the level of the base of the thoracic vertebrae had been completely disturbed. On the left side the humerus, radius and ulna remained articulated but both the hands and the entire right arm had been removed from the base of the pit. The lower half of the body including the lumbar vertebrae, pelvis and both legs were found articulated and resting within the burial pit. The body was lying in the supine extended position but with the right hip slightly elevated so that the body was rotated to the left side. The feet were extended with the left foot resting slightly over the edge of the right foot. The pit in which the body was resting is cut down into the Amarna-Period surface 12122/12268 and has a relatively narrow rounded base (Figure 15).

Figure 15. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 58 after excavation of unit (12165) (W. Dolling and K. Kuckens).Figure 15. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 58 after excavation of unit (12165) (W. Dolling and K. Kuckens).

The narrowness of the pit possibly explains the slightly rotated position of the body as there appears to be inadequate space in the base of the pit for the body to have been laid flat. All recovered bone was completely skeletonised the articulated bone being less desiccated than the disturbed bone. There were textile fragments overlying and underlying the articulated portions of the skeleton. The textile was very delicate and tended to crumble to powder. No obvious seams were visible in this cloth but the poor state of preservation means it was not possible to determine if it was a garment or a length of cloth. Post-excavation analysis confirmed that skull no. 59 and the disarticulated bone were from the same individual as the in situ skeletal elements. This individual has been identified as a 30–35 year old male.

2.2.2 Grid Square H52

During 2007 a similar depth of excavation was reached in grid square H52 as was reached in G52. Two relatively poorly defined burial pits were found here: pit <11707> containing the disturbed burial of Individual no. 29, and pit <11706>, also with a disturbed burial, Individual no. 35. At the completion of the 2007 excavation season there was some loose fill surrounding these burials that did not appear to represent the base of potential archaeological deposits. A third skeleton (Individual no. 23) was identified as in situ though no burial pit was discernable in the soft sand surrounding the remains. In 2008 the upper level of loose fill (12062) was removed across the majority of the grid square exposing a natural sandy surface 12268 in the western half of the trench and in patches along the eastern margin of the grid square. Overlying the remaining areas of the grid square was a deposit of slightly friable fine-grained sand (12148). It was not immediately apparent whether this deposit represented a naturally occurring deposit contemporary with the cemetery or post-dated burials at the site. The decision was made to excavate down into this fill, this process revealing a distinct burial pit <12161> in the north-east quadrant of the square, cut into a continuation of the surface already revealed in the remainder of the grid square 12268.

Burial pit <11707>

This pit was first noted in 2007 and was partially excavated at that time. A disturbed burial was recovered from the pit (Individual no. 29) consisting of a cluster of disarticulated bone and an associated partially articulated burial including the legs and pelvis of a 35–39 year old female. Partially overlying the skeletal remains were a number of relatively large fragments of painted gypsum plaster. During the 2007 excavation it was difficult to accurately determine the exact limits of the pit as the fill was very similar to the surrounding sand; this was particularly true of the northern end of the pit. Time constraints prevented complete excavation of this area and it was evident that further excavation should be undertaken in the vicinity of this pit.

In 2008 excavation of loose fill (12062) surrounding and partially overlying the northern end of pit <11707> more clearly demarcated the limits of this burial cut (Figure 16).

Figure 16. Grid squares G52 and H52 after excavation of unit (12062), showing burial pit <11707> with fill unit (12143) and mound (12162) overlying the burial of Individual no. 58. View site south.Figure 16. Grid squares G52 and H52 after excavation of unit (12062), showing burial pit <11707> with fill unit (12143) and mound (12162) overlying the burial of Individual no. 58. View site south.

Some fill remained in the base of the pit and on clearance was found to consist of slightly friable sand with patches of discoloration (brown to grayish-brown) presumably from decomposing organic material (12143). There were also a few small fragments of decorated gypsum plaster comparable to that previously recovered surrounding the burial of Individual no. 29. Once the pit was completely cleared it was revealed to be an oblong shape with relatively vertical walls and a flat base (Figure 55). The pit depth as visibly preserved was only 8–10cm. Given the fact that the burial itself would have protruded from the top of a pit of this depth it is likely that at least a portion of the pit’s depth was not discernable in the loose fill surrounding the pit or had eroded away prior to deposition of this loose fill (12062).

Burial pit <11706>

Pit <11706> was identified in 2006 as a discoloured, slightly mounded patch of sand with a central depression, the remnants of a pit containing the disturbed burial of Individual no. 35. In order to confirm the identification of this feature as a purpose-made burial cut a decision was made to excavate this small mound in 2008. When excavated it was apparent that the fill comprising the edges of the pit was contiguous with, in effect equivalent to, the surface identified as unit 12268 so that the depression in the centre of the feature cuts down into the surface.

Burial of Individuals nos. 60 and 61 — pit <12161>

The excavation of unit (12148) revealed an oval pit <12161> which on excavation was found to contain the disturbed burials of two individuals. The upper level of fill within this pit consisted of loose fine-to-coarse-grained sand with a minor amount of gravel and some fragments of plant-stem matting (12169). At a depth of between 20 and 40 cm below the top of the pit a slightly friable sandy fill was encountered containing scattered disarticulated bone (12177). As excavation progressed it became apparent that an adult and an infant were represented in the disturbed skeletal material. The infant bones, though disarticulated, were generally clustered in the central pit area slightly more to the south than the north side of the pit. The main exception was the fragmented infant skull (Skull no. 91) which was scattered through the more easterly end of the pit. The adult bone was more randomly spread, though some bones such as the radius and ulna were resting next to each other. An intact adult skull (no. 92) was also found floating in this fill. Within the sandy matrix surrounding these disarticulated bones were scattered fragments of plant-stem matting, a few pieces of textile and some human hair. The removal of all disturbed bone and associated fill exposed the undisturbed portions of the two individuals. The adult burial (Individual no. 61) was preserved as the lower half of both legs including the patella and the left femur, and has been identified as 22–30-year-old female. This articulated portion of the skeleton was lying in the original burial position with feet extended and left toes resting slightly over the right toes at the eastern end of the pit. The limbs were wrapped in plant-stem matting though this mat was only partially preserved due to the burial’s disturbance and a degree of decomposition (Figure 17).

Figure 17. Two phases of excavation of the disturbed burial of Individuals no. 60 & no. 61.Figure 17. Two phases of excavation of the disturbed burial of Individuals no. 60 & no. 61.

Of particular interest is the position of the infant burial (Individual no. 60). Post-excavation analysis has identified this individual as of approximately 2 years of age. The articulated lower legs (tibia, fibula and feet) of this infant were found tucked in against the southern edge of the pit. The legs were positioned with the toes pointed to the south-east in an extended position and the legs were aligned with each other. This appears to be the original burial position of the infant, bearing in mind the concentration of disarticulated infant bone directly to the north of the articulated portions of the skeleton. Remnants of plant-stem matting lining the wall of the pit surround the in situ elements of the infant burial. The matting appears to be one contiguous piece that lines the pit wall and continues down into the base of the pit. As such it underlies the bodies of both individuals. It is likely that these two individuals were interred at the same time, as later interment of the infant would have necessitated at least a partial unwrapping of the adult burial (Figure 17). Traces of textile were recovered in the immediate vicinity of both individuals but were too poorly preserved to identify a textile type at the time of excavation. All bone recovered from this pit was completely skeletonised, the disarticulated bone exhibiting variable states of weathering or desiccation. The articulated bone was only moderately desiccated.

It is also of interest that the position of this burial pit directly underlies the location of Individual no. 23. This disturbed burial was excavated in 2007 and consisted of the articulated coccyx, pelvis, legs and feet of a 20–35 year old male. No visible burial pit was discernable in association with this individual but it was surrounded by a cluster of large limestone boulders forming a rough perimeter around the body, and was identified as an in situ burial at the time of excavation. Also during excavation it was thought that the nature of the loose sand surrounding the burial may have prevented the identification of any distinct grave cut (Dolling 2007). Given that this burial can now be shown to directly overlie a burial pit containing the skeletal remains of Individuals no. 60 and no. 61 it is possible that all three individuals were interred within one pit, the upper levels of which were not visible in the less compacted sand layer. An alternative possibility is that the burial of Individual no. 23 represents a later burial phase.

2.2.3 Grid Square I52

This square was only partially excavated in 2007. The depth of excavation here was less than that achieved in adjacent grid squares due to time constraints. At the completion of the 2007 season a loose-to-slightly friable sandy fill covered much of the grid square (11684). At the western edge of the square a mounded area of sand, gravel and limestone boulders was exposed (11685). At the eastern edge of the square another mounded area of sand was exposed, the upper level of which could be seen to contain disturbed bone and some fragments of matting (11646). Both these mounded areas were identified as potential burial pits but could not be excavated, being exposed in the final days of excavation. They were covered by protective cloth and sand at the closure of the 2007 season. In 2008 excavation recommenced in this square removing the loose-to-slightly-friable sandy fill covering much of the grid square (11684). Scattered fragments of plant stems, some human hair and desiccated bone fragments were contained in this deposit. Following excavation of unit (11684) a distinct sandy surface 12217 was revealed in the western half of the grid square. In the eastern half of the square a slightly friable sandy deposit (12110) was exposed that seemed to fill a depression in the surface 12217 though the exact transition point between the two deposits was not easily discerned. Excavation of unit (12110) confirmed that it overlaid surface 12117 and also two previously unidentified burial pits: <12192> and <12206>. At this point in the excavation it was evident that the surface and its associated burial pits were contiguous with the cemetery surface exposed in adjacent squares. (Surface 12217 is contiguous with and equivalent to unit 12268 in H52). Excavation focused on clearance of the revealed burial pits.

Burial of Individual no. 51 — pit <12093>

In 2007 a concentration of gravel-rich sand and limestone boulders was noted at the western margin of the grid square but remained unexcavated. Following the clearance of sandy fill (11684) surrounding and partially overlying this deposit (11685) the limits of a distinct oval pit were revealed. It became apparent that unit (11685) was mounded directly over and continued down into this pit <12093>. Given the previously unidentified limits of this fill a decision was made to give it a new unit designation (12090) specifically related to the 2008 excavation season. On excavation this fill consisted of sand with a moderate gravel content and a large number of moderately large limestone boulders. These large stones had perhaps originally been used to cover or mark the burial pit. The gravel-rich fill and the majority of the loose floating boulders were mounded up at the northern end of the burial pit; the deposit did cover the whole pit space.

Figure 18. Burial pit <12093> after excavation of unit (12094), showing limestone boulders and fragments of timber resting on top of unit (12102). View site north-west.Figure 18. Burial pit <12093> after excavation of unit (12094), showing limestone boulders and fragments of timber resting on top of unit (12102). View site north-west.

At approximately 25 cm below the top edge of the pit small patches of a brownish powdery material begin to be apparent. A decision was made to change the unit number at this level though the exact transition point between the pit fill units was not sharply defined. This lower fill level (12094) was a mix of slightly friable fine-grained sand with a minor amount of coarser sand and gravel-sized limestone fragments. Brownish smears of decomposing organic material were found throughout this fill, most likely fragments of termite-affected timber. Several limestone boulders were found floating within the sand. At the western end of the pit a particularly large boulder was revealed and a cluster of moderately-sized boulders were visible at the eastern end of the pit. Surrounding this boulder large fragments of timber or bark were lying in the fill (Figure 18).

At this point in the excavation the fill was designated as a new unit (12102) as it seemed to mark a concentration of disturbed stones and burial material in the form of decomposing timber, and as such may be separated from the higher fill levels that had perhaps accumulated after the main disturbance of the burial.

Figure 19. Burial of Individual no. 51 (12116) within degraded timber coffin [12118], base of pit <12093>. View site west.Figure 19. Burial of Individual no. 51 (12116) within degraded timber coffin [12118], base of pit <12093>. View site west.

Ongoing clearance of the sandy fill and large limestone boulders revealed the remains of a disturbed skeleton (Individual no. 51) (12116) within a poorly preserved timber coffin [12118] (Figure 19). The largest boulder at the western end of the pit was resting directly on top of the skull of the individual possibly explaining the damaged state of this skull. In the small space between the western end of the coffin and the pit’s western wall a group of in situ ceramic vessels were found. These vessels were covered by and surrounded by sand and gravel fill (12102) indistinguishable from the fill surrounding and covering the remnants of the wooden coffin. Six vessels were recovered, each given a distinct unit number. Two small-to-medium sized jars (units [12111] and [12113]) were recovered upright with their rims covered by inverted small dishes (units [12105] and [12112]). These jars were standing side by side. Neither contained any obvious contents but a small amount of loose sand in the base of each jar was collected for analysis. On the north side of the group of vessels two shallow bowls were found, the uppermost [12104] was an intact vessel containing botanical material in the form of seeds and/or grain and possible fruit. Beneath and slightly to the north a second shallow bowl was found [12114]. Though this vessel was broken, the fragments were still aligned and it also contained botanical material that on visual inspection compares to the material contained in the first bowl (Figure 20).

Figure 20 Ceramic vessels at northern end of the pit <12093>, from left to right, bowl [12104], inverted dish [12112] and jar [12111]. View site south.Figure 20 Ceramic vessels at northern end of the pit <12093>, from left to right, bowl [12104], inverted dish [12112] and jar [12111]. View site south.

A partially disturbed skeleton of a 10–14 year old individual of indeterminate sex was lying within the exposed coffin [12118]. The torso of the body had been disturbed with many of the ribs disarticulated and fragmented but still within the coffin (Figure 21). All the vertebrae remained articulated to the skull and along the entire length of the spine to the coccyx. The thoracic vertebrae do appear slightly pushed out of alignment probably during the disturbance of the burial. The head was at the western end of the coffin and was rotated to the right side of the body. It was not possible to tell if this rotated position was the original burial position or if the head had been slightly moved during the disturbance. Other bones lying loose within the coffin include the pelvic bones, the right humerus and some phalanges. Two phalanges aligned to each other lay against the right hip area probably marking the original position of the right hand. The radius and ulna of both arms and the entire left hand were disturbed. The legs remained in their original burial position with textile fragments adhered to the bone. This textile was clearly wrapped around and over the lower limbs. There were also fragments of poorly preserved textile underlying the skull and torso. Both of the legs were extended with the right foot partially overlying the left. Surrounding the articulated and disarticulated bone within the coffin [12118] was a deposit of slightly friable sand with a minor amount of gravel and a large amount of decomposing organic material, evident as brown flecks (12116). The coffin itself had been severely affected by termite activity. The wood structure had been lost so that it was primarily preserved as a powdery brown material. It quickly became apparent that it would not be possible to remove this coffin intact. As a result a decision was made to draw and photograph the coffin in situ and then backfill the burial pit. There was no indication that the coffin had been decorated but, given its poor state of preservation, there is a possibly that any such decoration has been destroyed. It seems to have been a simple rectangular box. Some of the large fragments of decomposing wood from the overlying disturbed fill are probably from the lid of the coffin.

Figure 21. Burial of Individual no. 51, showing in-situ ceramic vessels and partially disturbed skeletal remains. (W. Dolling)Figure 21. Burial of Individual no. 51, showing in-situ ceramic vessels and partially disturbed skeletal remains. (W. Dolling)

Burial of Individuals nos. 64 and 65 — pit <12145>

In 2007 a mound of sand with some desiccated bone was partially excavated (11646). Fragments of bone including vertebrae and long bones were recovered but due to time constraints the complete depth of the deposit was not cleared. In 2008 excavation recommenced designating the unexcavated portion of the visible mound as unit (12120). Minor amounts of desiccated bone and fragments of plant material were contained in a matrix of fine-grained sand.

Once this deposit was cleared a distinct oval pit became visible <12145> (Figure 22). Upper fill level of the pit proper consisted of sand with a moderate amount of scattered gravel-sized limestone fragments (12182). A large amount of brown grass-like material, possible halfa grass, was contained in the fill, particularly concentrated in the south-east portion of the pit, and several large fragments from ceramic vessels. Beneath this fill a slightly more compacted deposit of gravel-rich sand was encountered (12186). The transition point between the two fill levels was not distinctly demarcated. Disarticulated and desiccated bone was found scattered through this fill level including a skull (no. 94), femur, scapula, coccyx and multiple ribs. At this point the presence of two sternums within the fill indicated that the pit potentially contained more then one burial.

Figure 22. The junction of grid square J52 and I52, showing partially excavated burial pit <12145>, with fill unit (12182), and unexcavated pits <12128> and <12129>. View site south.Figure 22. The junction of grid square J52 and I52, showing partially excavated burial pit <12145>, with fill unit (12182), and unexcavated pits <12128> and <12129>. View site south.

At the southern end of the pit the removal of unit (12186) exposed the articulated lower legs and burial matting of two individuals (12189). The legs were lying side by side with the feet at the eastern end of the pit. Preserved bone of both individuals was wrapped in independent mats constructed of some type of plant fibre or plant stem. The plant material used to make these mats appeared to be more fibrous in nature then the plant-stem type used most commonly at the site. The matting surrounding the northernmost burial (Individual no. 64) slightly overlies that of the southern burial (Individual no. 65). However, as the pit is relatively broad in comparison to the majority of the pits at the site it was most likely originally constructed to contain the two burials so that both individuals were presumably interred at or around the same time. A minor amount of coarse-grained sand was preserved surrounding the bones and burial matting (12189). No in situ skeletal remains or burial material were preserved at the western end of the pit where unit (12186) directly overlaid the base of the shallow pit. Individual no. 64 was identified at the time of excavation as the articulated tibia, fibula and foot of both legs, the legs lying beside each other, the left toes slightly overlying the right. Post-excavation analysis has determined that the skull (no. 94), a significant proportion of the upper torso, the remainder of the leg bones and the arms of Individual no. 64 were included amongst the disarticulated bone floating loose in the pit. This individual has been identified as a 12-year-old juvenile.

Figure 23. Pit <12145>. Detail of in-situ lower legs and associated matting; Individual no. 64 (foreground) and Individual no. 65. View site west.Figure 23. Pit <12145>. Detail of in-situ lower legs and associated matting; Individual no. 64 (foreground) and Individual no. 65. View site west.

Individual no. 65 was also lying in the base of the pit on the southern side and adjacent to Individual no. 64. The legs of this burial were extended; the right leg was crossed over the shin area of the left leg with feet flattened though the phalanges were bent under slightly, possibly due to lack of space at this end of the pit. Individual no. 65 has been identified during post-excavation analysis as a 40–45 year old female. A number of the disarticulated bones from the pit fill were able to be associated with this individual, including humeri, the left femur and pelvis, the coccyx, phalanges and some vertebrae (Figures 23 and 24).

Burial of Individual no. 66 — pit <12192>

Figure 24. Undisturbed portions of the burial of Individuals no. 64 and no. 65, with associated matting, in pit <12145>. (W. Dolling)Figure 24. Undisturbed portions of the burial of Individuals no. 64 and no. 65, with associated matting, in pit <12145>. (W. Dolling)

The burial pit <12192> containing the disturbed skeleton of Individual no.66 was exposed in 2008 by the excavation of sandy fill from the eastern half of the grid square (12110) (Figures 25 and 26). The upper level of the pit was cleared of sand including a minor amount of scattered pebble sized limestone fragments (12191). Fragments of ceramic, plant stem matting and fibre rope were found floating in this fill. At the northern end of the pit a mass of disarticulated bones was also revealed surrounded by this fill. The bones were markedly desiccated some quite brittle and could not be lifted without breakage particularly the ribs. Other bones identified in this cluster were a clavicle, several vertebrae, a mandible, sternum, coccyx, and long bones of the arm. There were also a few irregular lumps of greyish brown mud possibly brick or mortar fragments though no original faces were visible. Underlying this disturbed level were the in situ portions of the burial. Only the legs were preserved in their original burial position located at the eastern end of the pit in a supine extended position with the feet lying side by side. Ongoing clearance of the in situ elements of the burial and surrounding fill (12199) revealed the body had originally been wrapped in a plant stem mat the impressions of which remained in the base of the pit, though much of the matting had decomposed. All bone recovered from this pit was completely skeletonised; in situ skeletal elements were only moderately desiccated in comparison with the disturbed bone. A small steatite cowroid bead (object no. 38645) was found floating in sandy fill in the base level of the pit.

Figure 25. Burial of Individual no. 66 after partial excavation of unit (12191), showing disturbed bone and in-situ legs beneath matting (12199). (A. Stevens)Figure 25. Burial of Individual no. 66 after partial excavation of unit (12191), showing disturbed bone and in-situ legs beneath matting (12199). (A. Stevens)

Burial of Individual no. 68 — pit <12206>

Figure 26. Burial pit <12192> after excavation of unit (12191), showing impression of matting at base level. Pit <12206> is visible in the rear of the photograph. View site south.Figure 26. Burial pit <12192> after excavation of unit (12191), showing impression of matting at base level. Pit <12206> is visible in the rear of the photograph. View site south.

The disturbed burial of Individual no. 68 was contained in an oval burial pit <12206> on a similar alignment and positioned between two other burials pits: <12192> and <12145> (Figures 27 and 28). Burial pit <12206> was first revealed in 2008 by the excavation of unit (12110). The uppermost level of the pit fill (12201) consisted of loose fine-grained sand with a minor amount of gravel and coarser-grained sand. A small amount of desiccated bone was found floating in this fill. Once this deposit was removed a cluster of disarticulated bone became apparent concentrated at the western end of the pit and surrounded by a similar deposit of sand with minor gravel (12205). Disarticulated bone included a skull (no. 96), ribs, scapula, a humerus, sternum, mandible, vertebrae and unidentified long bones. The skull was crushed on the temporal area but the damage here looks recent and may have inadvertently occurred during excavation from pressure of foot traffic on the overlying fill. There were also a large number of plaited braids in the vicinity of the skull. In the north-west corner of the pit a length of apparently hollow wood was recovered that was filled with an unidentified substance. This object tapers to a rounded point at one end; the other open end has a fine wooden stick protruding from it. This object has significant weight indicating that the substance contained in the hollow area may have a portion of a metallic element such as lead. Though it requires further study the object has tentatively been identified as a kohl-tube and applicator (object no. 38640). Beneath the disturbed level of fill portions of the skeleton remained articulated in the original burial position (12208). The body was found lying in the base of the pit on remnants of a decomposing plant-stem mat, this mat also wrapped around the lower legs and presumably originally around the entire body. Traces of textile were found over and under the articulated portions of the skeleton. Undisturbed portions of the skeleton include the lower spine: two thoracic and all of the lumber vertebrae articulated to the coccyx, the pelvic bones, both of the legs and the feet. The bones were only moderately desiccated but completely skeletonised; several have breaks or cracks in them. The skeleton was lying in the supine position, feet crossed at the ankle area, the right leg over the left with heels down and feet extended. The feet were located at the eastern end of the pit. During post-excavation analysis the disarticulated bone and the in situ bone were all found to belong to a single individual identified as a 25–30-year-old female.

Figure 27. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 68 after partial excavation of unit (12205), showing disarticulated bone overlying undisturbed portion of the burial (12208). (W. Dolling).Figure 27. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 68 after partial excavation of unit (12205), showing disarticulated bone overlying undisturbed portion of the burial (12208). (W. Dolling).

Following excavation of the skeletal remains and matting a deposit of slightly compacted sand and gravel was revealed filling the base of the pit (12210) (Figure 29). During excavation this deposit was also visible filling the space between the edges of the burial mat and the pit wall and as such must represent purposely-laid fill placed in the pit at the time of the interment. No artefacts were recovered from this fill. At the northern end of the pit a small undercut area in the pit wall was exposed. This space was filled by a continuation of the disturbed fill unit (12205). It is a slightly arched space. It was not possible to determine if this cut was a deliberately-made space and part of the pit’s original construction or was the result of intrusive digging.

Figure 28. Burial of Individual no. 68, undisturbed skeletal elements (12208) after excavation of unit (12205) and upper layer of matting. (W. Dolling)Figure 28. Burial of Individual no. 68, undisturbed skeletal elements (12208) after excavation of unit (12205) and upper layer of matting. (W. Dolling)
Figure 29. Burial pit <12206>, following removal of skeletal remains (12208), showing impression of matting in base of pit (12210). View site south-east.Figure 29. Burial pit <12206>, following removal of skeletal remains (12208), showing impression of matting in base of pit (12210). View site south-east.

Burial pit <12181>

In 2007, during exactions in the south-east corner of square H52, a cluster of desiccated and disarticulated bone was recovered from loose sandy fill and designated as unit (11616). Post-excavation analysis identified most of these bones as belonging to a 17–20-year-old individual of indeterminate sex. Though an apparent base of the bone cluster was reached by the end of the excavation season a deposit of loose sandy fill continued to a greater depth and raised the possibility of additional archaeological material being preserved here. During 2008 in the adjacent grid square H51 clearance of sandy fill (12091) revealed a cluster of bone and plant-stem matting (12107) that continued slightly into grid square H52 directly beneath the location of the previously excavated bone cluster (11616). Subsequently excavation was undertaken in the south-west corner of grid square I52. Here a deposit of loose sandy fill (12160) was cleared containing a small amount of fragmentary bone and some fragments of plant-stem matting and was found to directly overlie the remnants of a burial cut <12181>. The cut was preserved only to an approximate depth of between 5 cm and 8 cm but had the impressions of matting and fibre rope in the base, clearly indicating its original function as a burial pit. At the time of excavation this pit was found to terminate at the junction of H52 and I52 (Figures 30 and 55). Reviewing the description of disturbed bone, matting and slightly consolidated sand excavated as unit (12107) from H52 and H51 earlier in the season it is highly likely that the pit originally continued into both these grid squares. It is probable that disarticulated bone from units (11616) and (12107) are from an individual/s that had originally been buried in the underlying pit <12181>. Post-excavation analysis indicated that at least a portion of the bone recovered from unit (12107) could be associated with the cluster individual from unit (11616).

Figure 30. Burial pit <12181> at the junction of four grid squares at the completion of excavation; grid square I52 in the right rear. View site north-west.Figure 30. Burial pit <12181> at the junction of four grid squares at the completion of excavation; grid square I52 in the right rear. View site north-west.

Pit <12223>

Pit <12223> was located at the junction of four grid squares J51, J52, I51 and I52 but is discussed here as one unit. Edges of this pit were first noted in grid square I52 following the excavation of units (11684) and (12110) but it was not excavated until a comparable depth of excavation was reached in the adjacent grid squares. Loose sand overlying and directly surrounding this pit was then cleared in two levels — unit number (12220) and (12221) — to a point where the limits of the pit were clearly definable on all sides. In these upper fill layers there was a small amount of desiccated bone including a femur and a vertebral segment; there were also some fragments of wood with possible painted decoration, though these fragments were very poorly preserved. The upper fill level of the pit proper (12226) consisted of slightly friable fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand with a moderate amount of small limestone pebbles. A desiccated pelvic bone and a few other small bone fragments were found floating in this fill. The only other inclusions were a very minor number of plant-stem fragments and a few small probable seeds of an as yet unidentified botanical species. At a significant depth of excavation into this clearly defined pit there was an increased concentration of limestone pebbles, in particular at the more westerly end of the pit. It also became apparent that this deposit (12229) filled a recessed or undercut area at the eastern end of the pit. The transition point between units (12226) and (12229) was not clearly definable. Inclusions within the unit (12229) were a small amount of bone (vertebrae and phalanges), a lump of grayish-brown mud with no original faces and a cluster of botanical material which at the time of excavation seemed to be a mixture of seeds or fruit such as dom-nuts and possible grains. This botanical material was contained in the sandy matrix of unit (12229) but was clumped against the north pit wall approximately halfway along the pit’s length.

Figure 31. Pit <12223>, showing the recessed area at the east end of the pit. View site south-east.Figure 31. Pit <12223>, showing the recessed area at the east end of the pit. View site south-east.

At completion of clearance the pit was found to be clearly defined with relatively vertical sides and a flat base. It is oblong in shape and has a distinct recess or undercut area at the eastern end. This undercut space is well formed, follows the line of the pit edge relatively smoothly and has slightly arched walls and roof (Figures 31 and 32). No artefacts were recovered from the fill here but it does appear to be a deliberately-made portion of the original pit. The very minor amount of bone recovered from this fill precluded the identification of an individual associated with this pit. In fact, it is by no means certain that the pit ever contained a burial. Its shape and size is indicative of a burial function but there are no in situ elements such as matting or timber coffin fragments within the pit. If it was used for a burial the entire burial including the body and any associated containment material such as matting or a coffin must have been removed in a relatively controlled manner so that fragments were not left behind in the pit.

Figure 32. Plan and section views of pit <12223> at the completion of excavation. (W. Dolling)Figure 32. Plan and section views of pit <12223> at the completion of excavation. (W. Dolling)

2.2.4 Grid Square J52

During the 2007 excavation season this square was cleared to a point where a distinct sand and gravel surface 11686 became apparent. Within this surface a series of pits or depression were visible filled with loose sandy fill. These deposits were unable to be investigated due to time constraint but had the appearance of burial pits. In 2008 excavations in this square initially focussed on these patches of loose sandy fill with the aim of clarifying the location of any underlying burial pits. A total of six definite and two possible burial pits were revealed as well as an irregular depression of an indeterminate nature.

Burial of Individual no. 46 — pit <12081>

At the end of the 2007 season a small depression was noted within the exposed sandy surface 11686. Fragments of plant-stem matting were lying on the upper level of this depression (11673). These matting fragments were lifted but no further excavation was possible. At the time it was suggested that this may mark an infant burial. Recommencing excavation in 2008 a deposit of loose-to-slightly-friable, medium coarse-grained sand (12080) was cleared from within what was revealed as a small shallow pit <12081> (Figure 33). The fill surrounded a disturbed infant burial including a cluster of disarticulated and fragmentary bone and the partially preserved in situ bones of the lower leg, both tibia and one fibula. All skeletal material was moderately desiccated, the disarticulated bone was particularly fragmentary and brittle.

Figure 33. Burial of Individual no. 46 after excavation of disarticulated bone and overlying fill (12080). (W. Dolling)Figure 33. Burial of Individual no. 46 after excavation of disarticulated bone and overlying fill (12080). (W. Dolling)

Lining the base and edges of the pit and underlying the in situ bones was a plant-stem mat, the stems woven together with fibre rope. In the base of the pit underlying the matting a compacted yellowish-brown deposit was noted (12083). Around 3 cm depth of this deposit was excavated and it was then determined to be a natural surface, in effect the pit base which had become discoloured by decomposing organic matter. Though less then 50% of the individual was identified at the time of excavation, the preserved bone was clearly contained within its original burial pit and as such was designated as Individual no. 46. Post-excavation analysis has assigned an age of 9 months to this infant.

Burial of Individual no. 47 — pit <11699>

In the central area of the grid square a probable burial cut <11699> was identified at the completion of the 2007 season but remained unexcavated until 2008. Unit (12086), the uppermost level of fill from this pit, was excavated consisting of fine-to-coarse-grained sand with a moderate amount of gravel-sized limestone fragments. A small number of plant-stem fragments were found floating in this fill. The removal of unit (12086) revealed a slightly more compacted sandy fill with several large limestone boulders embedded within it (12089). There was a discernable increase in the amount of gravel contained in this fill and a minor amount of fragmentary ceramic. This deposit continued down into the pit to a depth of approximately 35 cm below the pit edge. At this point a cluster of disarticulated bone and flecks of brownish organic matter contained within gravel-rich sand became apparent (12092). The bone was concentrated at the western end of the pit and included a skull (no. 84), two pelvic bones, radius, ulnae, scattered phalanges, vertebrae, scapulae and a sternum (Figure 34).

Figure 34. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 47: disarticulated bone within burial pit <11699>. (W. Dolling)Figure 34. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 47: disarticulated bone within burial pit <11699>. (W. Dolling)

Though none of these bones were articulated at least 50% of an individual appeared to be represented here and was designated as Individual no. 47. Post-excavation analysis has identified this individual as a 20–25-year-old female. Removal of the sand-and-gravel fill surrounding these skeletonised bones exposed a poorly preserved mat or coffin-like object lining the base of the pit and surrounded by a thin layer of fine-grained sand (12100). This burial container was badly deteriorated by termite activity but appears to have been constructed of a combination of reed or hollow plant stems and a more fibrous grass-like material. There were also small fragments of what may be decomposing wood or bark in the base of the pit. Samples of the material were collected from the northern end of the pit for later analysis but the majority was so degraded that it crumbled to fine particles on any attempt to lift it. The decision was made to leave the remaining material in the base of the pit and to cover it with backfill.

Burial of Individual no. 53 — pit <12126>

Figure 35. Two phases of excavation of the burial of Individual no. 53.Figure 35. Two phases of excavation of the burial of Individual no. 53.

An oval patch of loose sandy fill first noted in 2007 (11700) remained unexcavated until 2008 when the clearance of 2–5 cm of this fine-grained sand revealed a relatively narrow ovoid pit <12126>. The top of a weathered skull (no. 86) was also visible protruding from the upper level of pit fill (12125). This deposit was excavated and found to fall easily away from the pit edges. It consisted of sand with a minor amount of gravel and inclusions of fragmentary textile and plant-stem matting. This relatively shallow deposit overlaid a cluster of disarticulated bone concentrated at the southern end of the pit and surrounded by a slightly more compacted sand-and-gravel deposit (12135). The base of the disarticulated skull was resting in this deposit (Figure 35). Other disarticulated bone identified included humeri, two scapulas, fragmentary ribs, a mandible, cervical vertebrae and scattered phalanges. Once this deposit was cleared the undisturbed portions of the burial were visible (12138). The body was lying in the prone extended position; most of the spinal column was articulated to the ribs though the matting originally covering this portion of the burial had been removed. From the pelvis to the feet a plant-stem mat remained in situ wrapped around the body (Figure 36).

Figure 36. Burial of Individual no. 53 (12138), northern end of pit <12126>, showing textile fragments around lower legs after the removal of matting. View site east.Figure 36. Burial of Individual no. 53 (12138), northern end of pit <12126>, showing textile fragments around lower legs after the removal of matting. View site east.

It is clear that the disturbance has focussed on the head area with minor disruption of the torso by removal of matting and the upper arms. The disturbance of the scapula, occurring on a body in the prone position, made these bones uppermost. The lower arms of the burial were in their original burial position, bent at the elbow, hands resting over the pelvic area; the right hand slightly over the edge of the left hand. The prone position of the burial is probably at least partially responsible for the non-disturbance of the hands. A small number of the right ribs had been disturbed but the left side of the rib cage was intact. The legs were lying side by side, the feet extended so that the heels were uppermost and the top of the feet were resting flat on the base of the pit, the left foot slightly over the right. Textile fragments were preserved overlying the skeletonised bones. This textile was in the best state of preservation around the feet and lower legs, where it could be seen to have originally wrapped around the lower limbs probably as a single length of cloth. There were also fragments preserved around the femurs, hip and torso. The textile was very desiccated, with much disintegrating to a powdery state. Some samples were recovered. Plant-stem matting was well preserved at the northern end of the pit where it could be seen to be constructed of a series of stems woven together with twisted fibre rope.

Burial of Individuals nos. 54a and b — pit <12128>

In the south-west corner of the grid square an irregular patch of loose sandy fill (11703) was visible at the completion of the 2007 excavation season. This deposit was excavated in 2008 and found to overlie a slight, probably natural depression in the extreme south-west corner of the square and a small rectangular pit <12128> to the north of this depression. An adult long bone and several small limestone boulders were visible protruding from the upper level of this pit (12146). On excavation a number of additional desiccated bones were recovered floating in this fill the majority of which appeared to belong to an infant. Some small fragments of wood and fibre rope were also contained in this layer. The lower level of the pit was filled by a slightly friable deposit with a moderate amount of gravel and an increased amount of scattered disarticulated bone (12147).

Figure 37. Burial pit <12128> with vessel [12156] at base level. View site south.Figure 37. Burial pit <12128> with vessel [12156] at base level. View site south.

Although the majority of the recovered bone appeared to belong to an infant there were a small number of identifiably adult bones. During excavation at least 50% of an infant was represented amongst the bone, including a fragmentary skull (no. 90), bilateral femurs, multiple ribs and vertebrae, a fragmented scapula and bilateral tibias. This skeleton was designated as Individual no. 54a. Post-excavation analysis determined that the majority of this infant’s skeleton was represented here. The major missing elements were the coccyx, facial bones and some phalanges. The bones have been identified as those of a 1–1.5-year-old infant. The remaining bone belonged to an adult of indeterminate age and sex and was designated as Individual no. 54b. Only a minor amount of adult bone was recovered and it is extremely unlikely that an adult was ever buried in this pit given the pit’s dimensions. The more likely explanation for the presence of the adult bones is that they originate from another disturbed burial in the vicinity of the pit.

Once the disturbed bones and associated fill (12147) were excavated, the pit could be seen to narrow abruptly to form an inner section in which the impressions of a timber or bark coffin was evident. A small northern ledged area was present at the junction of the upper and lower portions of the pit. Some fragments of timber with white gypsum plaster adhering to them had been recovered from the disturbed fill (12146, 12147). Also visible pressed in against the edge of the inner pit were small traces of white gypsum. The sandy edges of the pit are stained a grayish-brown colour in this lower area. The walls of the lower portion of the pit have a slightly curving profile and a distinctly smoothed appearance from something adhering or fitting snugly into the pit. There were also impressions of rope or string pressed into the pit walls. The archaeological evidence suggests that whatever the form of burial container used it had been tied together with fibre rope and had at least slightly flexible sides. It also seems to have been constructed of a combination of materials including timber, possible bark and gypsum. In the base of the pit a loose deposit of gravel and limestone pebbles was encountered (12151) (Figures 37 and 38). Embedded slightly into this deposit in the north-west corner of the pit was a small ceramic dish [12156]. The fill (12151) does appear to be a deliberate deposit associated with the original burial but it was not possible to determine if the vessel was deliberately placed here at the time of the infant’s burial or had fallen into this location during the disturbance phase.

Figure 38. Burial pit <12128> at the completion of excavation. (W.Dolling)Figure 38. Burial pit <12128> at the completion of excavation. (W.Dolling)

Burial of Individual no. 63 — pit <12129>

In the north-east quadrant of the grid square a roughly oblong area of loose sand had been identified in 2007 (11678). At this time a skull (no. 71) was exposed in the upper c. 5 cm of this mound. The skull was significantly weathered and a decision was made to collect it at the completion of the excavation season; the area was then backfilled. In 2008 this loose sandy fill was excavated (11678) and found to be a relatively shallow deposit of 3–5 cm that, once removed, exposed a distinct oval pit <12129>. The upper fill level of this pit consisted of fine sand with a large number of gravel-to-pebble-sized limestone fragments and a few larger limestone boulders (12172) (Figure 39). Fragments of plant-stem matting, textile, ceramic and bone were recovered from this fill. At a depth within the pit where there was a discernable increase in the amount of bone and plant-stem matting a decision was made to commence a new excavation unit (12178). This unit was found to fill the lower level of the pit and contained both disarticulated and undisturbed portions of an adult burial (Individual no. 63). Surrounding and underlying the disturbed burial was a deposit of slightly friable sand with a moderate amount of gravel. Fragments of plant-stem matting, textile and several large ceramic fragments were recovered. A matchstick found floating loose in this fill. Its presence here is difficult to explain as there are no other indications of the burial having been disturbed in recent times. The pit had been exposed over several days which raises a faint possibility of contamination of the fill. However, the match was at a significant depth within the pit, surrounded by the fill unit (12178).

Figure 39. Burial of Individual no. 63 after excavation of unit (12172). (A. Stevens)Figure 39. Burial of Individual no. 63 after excavation of unit (12172). (A. Stevens)

Much of the body had been disturbed, only the left leg and pelvis remaining articulated. Unlike the majority of the bone recovered from the site the skin of this leg was preserved partially covering the bone. There was no underlying tissue preserved and the preservation of the skin is probably the result of natural desiccation rather than deliberate mummification, as the skin does not appear discoloured by resin. Also lying in their original burial position were the left and right humerus, the left ulna, the scapula, clavicles and most of the ribs and vertebrae. The skull was not preserved, but an impression in the underlying sand marked its original position at the western end of the pit. From impressions in the base of the pit and the position of the in situ bones, the body can seen to have been lying supine with legs and feet extended, the position of the hands being uncertain. Lining the base of the pit was a poorly preserved plant-stem mat.

The pit itself is a deep oblong cut with relatively vertical walls and a flattish base. At both ends of the pit there are small undercut recessed areas (Figures 40, 55). At the more easterly end of the pit this recess was easily defined during excavation, the fill falling away from its edges. At the westernmost end of the pit the recess was less easily defined but was evident as the matting underlying the burial continued into this space, terminating at the back wall of the recess. Fragments of ceramic vessels were found in or around both areas. These spaces seem to be deliberate cuts formed as part of the pit’s construction perhaps to contain ceramic vessels. The western space may have been made as an alteration to accommodate an unanticipated length of the wrapped burial.

Figure 40. Burial pit <12129> at the completion of excavation, showing recess at the western end of the pit. View site north-west.Figure 40. Burial pit <12129> at the completion of excavation, showing recess at the western end of the pit. View site north-west.

During excavation there were indications that perhaps more than one individual was represented in the disarticulated bone recovered from this pit. Post-excavation analysis identified the majority of the bone as belonging to Individual no. 63, a 45–50-year-old female. However, a small amount of the desiccated bone contained in the uppermost fill layers (11678), including skull no. 71 excavated in 2007, could not be assigned to this individual. This raises the possibility of more than one individual originally having been interred in this pit. It is also possible that this unassigned bone may have originated from one of the surrounding pits.

Burial of Individuals nos. 67a, b, c and d — pit <12123>

In the south-east quadrant of the square and extending slightly into grid square J51 a loose patch of sand was noted in 2007 and excavated in 2008 (11702). Once this deposit was removed an oval pit <12123> was revealed extending into square J51. This pit had a small depression extending from the north-east edge. The fill of this depression was first excavated (12194) — loose sand with minor gravel — exposing a gently curving hollow, dipping towards the pit edge. The upper fill of the pit proper consisted of loose-to-slightly-friable fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand (12193). Disarticulated and fragmentary bone was found scattered through this fill, as well as small lengths of human hair, a few pieces of charcoal and a few small lumps of grayish-brown mud. The bones were slightly more concentrated at the eastern end of the pit where several small groups of vertebrae were found, with two to three articulated vertebral segments in each group. These groups of vertebrae do not necessarily relate to each other. There was also a relatively large amount of fragmentary botanical material, both plant stems and other more fibrous material.

Once this level of fill was removed the undisturbed portions of the skeleton and associated matting were revealed (12200). At the time of excavation it appeared that at least two individuals had been buried in this pit. On the western side of the pit the lower legs and part of the torso of an individual were preserved (Individual no. 67a). Articulated skeletal elements included the left tibia and fibula and most of the left foot; the epiphysis of the right tibia was preserved but not the bone shaft or fibula; there were also some of the right phalanges lying adjacent to the left foot. The femurs and pelvis were disturbed but most of the torso (vertebrae and the right ribs) were in situ. The left side of the rib cage was disturbed though some scattered ribs were recovered. The skull had been removed but an impression in the pit base was visible where pieces of hair were lying, marking the original location of the head at the more easterly end of the pit. This skeleton has been identified as a juvenile aged between 9 and 12 years of age. Also preserved were an articulated fibula and tarsal bone of a second individual resting on the base of the pit and surrounded by fragmentary matting. These bones were designated as Individual no. 67c during post-excavation analysis, and have tentatively been identified as coming from a juvenile aged between 17 and 20 years. Though embedded amongst the matting at the base of the pit, the bones of Individual no. 67c were less definitively identifiable as in situ burial components. Additional bones of this individual, including ribs, vertebrae and a pelvic bone, were recovered from the upper fill level in the pit (12193). In post-excavation analysis, at least two additional individuals were identified from the disarticulated bone and could be distinguished from Individuals no. 67a and no. 67c, based on age and skeletal morphology. Individual no. 67b has been identified as a perinate. Preserved portions of this individual include skull fragments, long bones, vertebrae and ribs. Individual no. 67d has been identified as an adult, possibly male, and was preserved as a femur, lumbar vertebras and some ribs (Figure 41).

Figure 41. Burial pit <12123> showing mat/basketry and in-situ bone in the base of the pit (12200). (W.Dolling)Figure 41. Burial pit <12123> showing mat/basketry and in-situ bone in the base of the pit (12200). (W.Dolling)

At least four different types of matting or basketry were recovered from this burial pit. Individual no. 67a was wrapped in a plant-stem mat of the type commonly found at the site but was also partially covered by a more fibrous material. Tightly woven matting or basketry of several weave types was also recovered from the base of the pit and requires further study. These more tightly-woven mats overlie the burial of Individual no. 67a at the eastern end of the pit and cover much of the northern portion of the pit. The degree of disturbance makes it difficult to determine the exact relationship of the mats to the interred individuals. It does seem most likely that the various individuals were wrapped in separate matting and then placed in the pit. If so, it would account for the significant variation in matting type exhibited here.

The question still remains whether all four individuals identified during post-excavation analysis were originally interred here. At the completion of excavation the pit in its preserved state was only a maximum of 45 cm deep, with maximum horizontal dimensions of 170 x 85 cm. It was more oval in shape than the majority of pits so far identified at the site, resembling most closely pit <12145> in which two individuals were clearly buried side by side. It is, however, difficult to see how one adult and two juveniles could have all been easily placed lying side by side in the base of this pit. If all were interred here it is likely that the burials at least slightly overlaid each other, as seems to be suggested by the remnants of matting. The location of the perinate burial is less of a difficulty, as only a small amount of space would have been required to accommodate it. There is also a possibility that one of the individuals was pregnant at the time of death. Given the relatively fragility of the bones of a perinate and the significant quantity recovered from pit <12123> there is a high probability that this Individual (no. 67b) was originally buried in this pit. However, the adult (Individual no. 67d), given the relatively small amount of bone recovered, may have been not been buried here. The fact that the lumbar vertebrae were found in an articulated state within the disturbed fill does give some support to pit <12123> being the original burial location of this individual. The presence of articulated bone at base level of Individuals no. 67a and 67b indicates that they were both originally interred in the pit.

Pit <11701>

Directly north of pit <12123> a curving depression <11701> was first noted in 2007 that appeared to be filled with loose sand. The excavation of this fill (12108) in 2008 exposed the limits of the pit. It is an irregular cut that curves in an arch following the approximate line of the adjacent pit <12123>. The south, north and east edges of the pit are relatively well-defined; the western end is poorly defined, fading away indistinctly. Pit <11701> cannot be securely identified as a burial cut due to the absence of burial remains and its irregular shape. The only material recovered from the sand-and-gravel fill of the pit (12108) were a few small plant-stem fragments (Figure 55).

Potential burial pit <11705>

This burial pit was first noted in 2007 when it could be seen to be filled with loose sand and to continue in to grid square J53. At the time it was tentatively identified as a burial pit. No further investigation was undertaken of this feature during 2008 as a decision was made to leave it unexcavated until such time as the adjacent square J53 is cleared. During 2008 gradual baulk collapse along the northern limit of the grid square meant this pit was not visible at the completion of the season. See 2007 final plan for pit location.

Potential burial pit <12275>

An area of loose sand with protruding limestone boulders in the north-east corner of this square could be seen at the end of the 2007 excavation extending into grid square K52 (11704). This deposit was excavated in 2008 (12072) and found to consist of loose medium-to-coarse-grained sand with minor gravel inclusions. The excavation of this fill exposed the southern end of a probable burial pit <12275> that continues northwards into the unexcavated area (J53 and K53). The decision was made not to undertake further excavation here until such time as the entire pit could be exposed in future seasons (Figure 55).

2.2.5 Grid Square K52

Grid square K52 and L52 were the focus of excavation during the final stages of the 2007 season because here a distinct sandy surface 11660 and a series of burial pits was exposed. Several of the burial pits in K52 were excavated during that season revealing the disturbed burials of Individuals no. 28, 27a, 27b and 34. Five additional potential burial cuts were noted but remained unexcavated at the end of the 2007 season. During 2008 four of these cuts were investigated and confirmed as burial pits. The fifth cut <11657> located at the northern edge of the square, though probably a burial pit, continued beyond the area of the current excavation and so remained unexcavated.

Figure 42. Two phases of excavation of burial pit <12069>.Figure 42. Two phases of excavation of burial pit <12069>.

Pit <11657>

A mound of gravel and pebble-rich sand running along the north-east corner of the site (11658) was identified in 2007 (11658). At the eastern end of this mound a distinct circular pit had been excavated containing the contracted burial of Individual no. 28. In 2008, on re-examination of this mound, the western end was found to be less compacted then the remainder. A decision was made to clear a portion of this fill to determine if it overlaid the natural surface as a distinct deposited mound or if it was contiguous with the surface; that is, a natural deposit. The removal of the slightly friable area of sand and pebbles at the western end revealed a more distinctly compacted portion of the mound terminating further east than the original limit of the deposit (11658). The clearance of a portion of the mound (11658) does seem to suggest that is was deliberately piled here rather then being a naturally occurring deposit. This fill was also found to overly the eastern end of a potential burial pit <11657> first identified in 2007 and cut into the natural surface 11660. This pit appears to be oval in shape and is orientated east–west. As the northern edge of the pit is located directly beneath the baulk, however, and subject to ongoing baulk collapse a decision was made to leave this area unexcavated in anticipation of clearance of the adjacent square K53 in future excavation seasons (Figure 55).

Burial of Individuals nos. 44 and 45 — pit <12069>

A mounded area of sand was revealed in the north-east quadrant of the grid square in 2007 (11639). At that time some loose fragmentary bone was visible protruding from the more southerly end of the mound and was collected. On excavation in 2008 this mound was found to consist of a matrix of fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand with moderate gravel and pebble content and to be only slightly compacted. During clearance of this fill the disturbed burial of an infant (Individual no. 44) became apparent (12067) (Figures 42 and 43). A cluster of disturbed disarticulated and fragmentary infant bones was found overlying the remnants of a plant-stem mat. Disarticulated bone identified during excavation was limited to a few fragmentary ribs; much of the other bone being very small fragments that were not recognizable in the field as distinct bone types. The only undisturbed portions of the burial were the tibia and fibula of the right and left leg and a partially-preserved right pelvic bone. These bones were positioned so that the feet would have originally been at the south end of the burial and were resting on top of the plant-stem mat. The matting was comparable to that used in many of the adult burials at the site consisting of plant stems or reeds tied together with fibre rope. There were also fragments of textile adhering to the matting and presumably originally wrapped around the infant as a cloth or garment. This burial was located in the central area of the mound resting in a slightly hollowed-out depression. During post-excavation analysis Individual no. 44 was identified as an infant of approximately 1.5 years of age.

Figure 43. Burial of Individual no. 45, showing the cluster of botanical material behind the skull. View site south.Figure 43. Burial of Individual no. 45, showing the cluster of botanical material behind the skull. View site south.

Ongoing excavation of unit (11639) peripheral to the infant burial exposed an underlying oval pit the upper fill of which (12068) directly underlies the infant burial and contains the slightly hollowed area in which the infant burial had been placed. Unit (12068) was found to consist of compacted sand with a moderate gravel content and is the relatively undisturbed original fill of the burial pit <12069>. This fill surrounded the burial of a second person; a juvenile designated as Individual no. 45. The phalanges of both feet were slightly disturbed with some toes recovered loose in the fill. With this exception the remainder of the burial was undisturbed, with the body lying wrapped in matting at the base of the pit. Once the top level of matting was removed the articulated skeletal remains were visible. The body had been interred in the supine extended position with the head at the more northerly end of the pit. The sternum was disarticulated from its anatomical position and had been pushed down between the ribs into the right chest cavity resting against the thoracic spine. The right rib cage was also slightly flattened. These abnormalities may be the result of pressure during interment or wrapping of the body, the absence of breaks in the ribs suggesting the dislocation occurred prior to significant desiccation. The neck was slightly bent so that the head was tilted towards the chest. The arms were bent at the elbow, hands resting over the pelvic area and lying side by side. The legs and feet were extended and aligned beside each other. All bone was completely skeletonised with some long bones and ribs desiccated to the point of being brittle.

The matting surrounding the body overlapped itself along the north, right side by approximately 15 cm. This matting was constructed of plant stems tied into a mat with fine twisted fibre rope. Thicker lengths of fibre rope surround the matting as a whole and were knotted in place. At the head of the burial slightly east of the top of the skull a small cluster of what appeared to be plant seeds or grain was lying on a layer of fragmentary textile on the inner side of the matting. There were also several additional seeds or fruit, as yet unidentified, recovered from the slightly compacted sandy fill that surrounds the skull and fills the eastern end of the pit. Also recovered floating loose in this sandy fill was a piece of worked wood, this object is as yet unidentified but consists of a flat roughly rectangular piece with a circular handle-like extension at one end (object no. 38357).

There was a significant amount of textile preserved, underlying and covering the body, though this textile tended to crumble to powder when brushed or on any attempt to lift it. It could be seen to have extended up and over the head to cover the entire body and also the wrapped around the feet. The textile is in a better state of preservation around the head, where it was bunched around the neck and shoulder area, and may in fact be several layers of cloth. Excavation of the burial continued, removing the body, overlying textile fragments and the surrounding sand and gravel fill. Once the body was lifted a small metal and wood object was visible lying in the base of the pit within the matting and covered by a remnant of textile. It consists of a flat and slightly flaring copper/bronze blade with a wooden handle. The object was located on the southern side of the pit beneath and slightly to the side of the skulls left check area (Figure 44). Its excavated position indicates that it must have been wrapped in the matting with the body after the individual had been wrapped or covered with textile. The object is a woodworker’s adze or chisel (object no. 38538). During the New Kingdom an adze was used in the opening of the mouth ceremony its position here adjacent to the head area of the burial is as such probably deliberate (Roth 1993).

Figure 44. Two phases of excavation of the burial of Individual no. 45 in pit <12069>.Figure 44. Two phases of excavation of the burial of Individual no. 45 in pit <12069>.

The matting within the base of this pit was removed along with a thin layer, less then 1 cm, of sand directly underlying the mat (12068). A layer of ashy sand was then visible lining the base of the pit (12074). This deposit covered much of the pit base but was absent at the extreme south end. Once excavated it was found to consist of circa 50% fine grained sand and 50% fine ash. There was also a minor amount of charcoal fragments, all less then 0.5cm in size, and a few pebble sized limestones contained in this fill. The deposit was between 1-3cm deep and the actual edges of the pit are blackened at this point. There were some patches of the pit base that seemed more compacted then the remainder of the pit however, the evidence for burning within the pit is by no means conclusive it is possible that the ash was deliberately deposited here. A sample of this material was collected for botanical analysis which with the exception of the charcoal did not contain any visible cultural material.

The pit itself was relatively shallow and narrow with sloping sides and a slightly rounded base. The body was slightly squashed into the pit the shoulders being pushed up and inwards to fit into the base of the pit; possibly displacing the sternum and right ribs. Though a degree of erosion of the pit depth is possible it is probably not significant given the presence of significantly deeper pits in the vicinity cut into the same surface and the presence of the infant burial at the upper level of the mound (see burial pit <12075>). The infant appears to have been buried deliberately buried on top of the juvenile being placed in a very slight depression and then covered by gravely fill. As such the mounded area which initially marked these two burials may differ little from the original appearance of the grave. Being undisturbed the burial of Individual no.45 is in the minority at the site as to date only one other individual no.42 has been found undisturbed. The other similarity between the burial of Individual no.45 and Individual no.42 is that they were both interred in multiple graves with their bodies underlying the disturbed burial of another individual. (Individual no. 42 was buried within a deep a pit <11649> beneath the disturbed burial of Individual no. 41, grid square L52.) It is possible that robbers locating the upper burial did no not investigate to a further depth accounting for the non-disturbance of the lower burials.

Burial of Individual no. 52 — pit <12075>

Excavation of loose sandy fill (11656) (a deposit first noted in 2007) exposed a burial pit <12075> slightly to the south-east of the burial of Individuals nos. 44 and 45. Once the limits of the pit proper were visible a new unit number was allocated to the fill. This upper level of the pit (12076) contained loose-to-slightly-friable sand with a moderate amount of gravel and a minor amount of pebble-sized limestone fragments (12076). At a depth of 10 cm a slight brownish discolouration of the sand was evident particularly noticeable at the east end of the pit. From this depth onwards, the fill was designated as unit (12130). On excavation this lower deposit of sand was found to have an increased content of gravel and pebbles as well as a minor amount of scattered bone and fragments of plant-stem matting. The excavation of this fill revealed the disturbed burial of an adult (Individual no. 52) resting in the base of the pit and surrounded by a continuation of the sand and gravel-rich fill (12137) (Figure 45).

Figure 45. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 52 after the excavation of the upper pit fill (12130). (A.Stevens)Figure 45. Disturbed burial of Individual no. 52 after the excavation of the upper pit fill (12130). (A.Stevens)

There was a significant amount of brown powdery material within the sandy matrix surrounding the skeleton, presumably decomposing organic material. The pelvis, coccyx and most of the hands and legs had been removed. Preserved at base level in the pit were the skull, located at the western end of the pit and turned approximately 45? to the north. Given the significant disturbance evident in the pit it is possible that the position of the skull is slightly dislocated from the original burial alignment though it does remain articulated to the cervical spine and, as such, to the torso. The hair on the skull of this individual was particularly well preserved, of a moderate length and with some plaited sections. The upper rib cage was slightly twisted and collapsed down with some ribs lying disarticulated. The arms were resting by the side of the body; only a portion of the right hand was preserved; the left hand was not present. With the exception of both patella (which were lying in the base of the pit, adjacent to what would have been the originally leg position), all of the leg bones had been removed. Both feet remained in situ at the eastern end of the pit lying side by side. There were remnants of textile underlying the body and partially preserved around the skull. The textile was stained dark brown or possible burnt. Beneath this textile layer, a plant-stem mat lined the base of the pit and, though fragmentary, most likely originally wrapped up and around the body, to judge from the significant amount of fragmentary matting recovered from the disturbed fill layers and comparison with less disturbed burials. With the exception of the matting and textile no artefacts were recovered from this burial cut.

Pit <12075> is oval in shape with relatively vertical pit walls and a slightly rounded base, and was cut into the natural sandy surface designated as unit 11660 down to a depth of 70–80 cm below surface level. There is a shallow scoop or cut into the surface at the northern edge of the pit which may relate to the disturbance of the burial. No other damage to the pit walls was discernable.

Burial of Individual no. 70 — pit <11650>

During 2007 a deposit of loose sandy fill (11649) was exposed in the south-west corner of the grid square. On excavation, this fill was found to cover a burial pit <11650> extending into grid square K51. It was at this time that it first became clearly apparent that the depth of excavation during 2006 had not reached the level of the distinct surface 11660 exposed in grid square K52. As a result a decision was made to cease clearance of this pit until future excavation season/s when additional clearance could be undertaken in grid square K51.

In 2008 following the excavation of sandy fill (12050) from grid square K51 the eastern end of pit <11650> was visible cut into the natural surface 11660/12051. Upper fill of loose fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand (12079) was cleared from the exposed pit. A minor amount of scattered bone including a rib fragment and three cervical vertebras were recovered. At a depth of 5–8 cm a more compacted sand layer was apparent containing brownish smears of decomposing organic matter (12211). This lower level of fill also contained fragments of plant-stem matting, pieces of human hair and more disarticulated bone. There was also a moderate amount of gravel contained in the sandy matrix. Within this fill in the central area of the pit a cluster of disarticulated phalanges and carpals was found. Additional disarticulated bones recognised during excavation included rib fragments, a small number of vertebral segments and a radius. Once this layer was cleared the undisturbed portions of the burial were revealed (12213) (Figure 46).

Figure 46. Burial of Individual no. 70 after excavation of unit (12211). (W.Dolling)Figure 46. Burial of Individual no. 70 after excavation of unit (12211). (W.Dolling)

Lying in the base of the pit at the eastern end were the articulated lower legs, including the patellas, tibiae, fibula and feet of an individual (Individual no. 70). Two distinct layers of plant material were found wrapped around the limbs and also partially preserved in the reminder of the pit. The outer layer consisted of a mat constructed of plant stems and fibre rope of the type most frequently represented at the site. The inner layer consisted of long segments of a flat grass or reed-like material as yet unidentified. This inner layer is not definitely woven into a mat and may in fact just be lengths of plant fibres laid around the body. There were fragments of fibre rope underlying this layer that may have been used to tie the material in place. Once the matting was removed from the top of the burial the legs were seen to be wrapped in textile which continued down and over the feet. There were also fragments of textile remaining in the base of the pit in which the impressions from the femurs were visible. It is apparent that the burial was lying in the prone position, the heels of the feet upwards and toes pointing down and slightly to the south side of the pit. In addition to the lower legs, the left humerus and the right ulna remained resting in the base of the pit directly on the inner matting and most likely in their original burial position, indicating that the right arm at least was bent at the elbow. Post-excavation analysis has identified this individual as an adult female of indeterminate age.

Burial pit <11698>

Figure 47. Detail of burial mat (12224), showing construction method, base of pit <11698>. View site south.Figure 47. Detail of burial mat (12224), showing construction method, base of pit <11698>. View site south.

This pit was also identified at the completion of the 2007 and seen to continue into grid squares K51 and L51; thus the pit remained unexcavated. In 2008 clearance of sandy fill was undertaken in squares K51 and L51, revealing the limits of an approximately east–west orientated oval pit <11698>. The northern edge of this pit was exposed during excavation of test cut A <12070> in grid square L52, where the pit could be seen to be cut down into the natural surface 11660. The upper fill of this pit consisted of slightly friable sand with a minor-to-moderate amount of gravel, a few small ceramic sherds and one fragment of bone (12103). At the eastern end of the deposit there was also a concentration of plant-stem matting fragments. A lower level of fill was distinguished owing to the presence of greyish-brown smears of decomposing organic material and an increased concentration of fragmented plant-stem matting (12218). This level of fill was also slightly more compacted, though the transition point between the two fill levels was not distinct. Inclusions recovered from this fill consisted of plant-stem fragments, a few small charcoal pieces and a small amount of desiccated bone, including a mandible, rib fragment, teeth and a few phalanges.

The excavation of unit (12218) exposed the base level of the pit where the remnants of a plant-stem mat (12224) were preserved lining much of the slightly curving pit base. As sufficient samples of the plant stem had been collected from the overlying fill to allow botanical identification a decision was made to leave this mat in place. It was constructed of lengths of plant stem of variable lengths and widths tied together with twisted fibre rope (Figures 47 and 48). Traces of textile were visible adhering to the surface of the mat. The absence of any significant bones within the pit fill precluded the identification of an individual from this burial. The presence of the in situ matting does indicate that it was used as a grave which, based on the size of the pit, is most likely to have been an adult or possible a juvenile.

Figure 48. Burial pit <11698> at the completion of excavation. (W.Dolling)Figure 48. Burial pit <11698> at the completion of excavation. (W.Dolling)

2.2.6 Grid Square L52

In 2007 a sand-and-gravel surface 11687 was exposed in the majority of this grid square. Three disturbed burials were excavated from this square in that season. At the western edge of the square and extending into K52 was the burial of an adult (Individual no. 39). To the south-east of this burial, and interred in a shallow oval pit, was another adult burial (Individual no. 36), and in the north-east quadrant was located the burial of an infant (Individual no. 37). There was also a large cluster of bones, unit (11617), containing nine skulls and the remains of at least three partially articulated individuals (Individuals nos. 30, 31, 32; skulls nos. 61–9). In the central area of the square an oval patch of loose sand was identified as a probable burial pit but remained unexcavated due to time constraints. In addition, two areas of loosely-compacted fill remained un-investigated, one along the northern edge of the square (11672) and the other (11697) filling an apparent hollow in the south-east corner.

In 2008 the loose fill from the northern side of the square was cleared and designated as unit (12061). The matrix of this fill consisted of sand and a moderate amount of gravel, and was found to directly overlie a continuation of the sandy surface 11687 partially exposed in 2007. No artefacts or other inclusions were recovered from this fill.

Loose sand, identified as unit (11697) in 2007, was given a distinct unit number for 2008 (12052). This deposit, located in the south-west corner of the grid square, was excavated. The deposit had a matrix of fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand, was slightly friable and overlaid an apparent natural depression in the sandy surface 11687. Given the relative similarity between the natural surface and pit fill in some burials, a decision was made to excavate down into this area of the square to eliminate the possibility of the depression marking a burial. A test area – test cut A <12070> - was laid out measuring 1.5 m north–south by 2.5 m east–west. Here a continuation of the surface 11687 was clearly visible dipping down into a hollow. At the base level of this hollow a slightly less gravelly sand deposit 12085 was visible, but was not clearly definable as a separate unit. The test cut was also positioned so as to deliberately truncate a burial pit <11688> excavated in 2007 in order to view this pit’s relationship to any exposed deposits. The upper level of the surface 11687 was excavated from the test cut; here designated as unit 12060 to isolate any finds to the test area. This deposit was cleared down to the level of the slightly less gravelly sand 12085. Unit (12085) was then cleared down to a point when it could be seen to overlie an extension of the gravelly sand of unit 12060. Both these deposits seem to be naturally occurring topographic features. Unit (12085) was seen in section to underlie the sandy surface 11660, although the transition point was not clearly demarcated. It also seems to fill a depression in the more gravelly sand layer 12060. The burial pit <11688> clearly cuts down into the later deposit, unit 12060, and a second burial pit in the south-east corner of the test area <11698> clearly cuts down into the surface 11660 and so must post-date the accumulation of unit 12085. It is likely that the variability in gravel content and degree of compaction evident in these deposits is due to the natural accumulation and weathering patterns at the site. The hollow probably represents a small wadi that had become filled with compacted sand prior to the interment of the Amarna-Period burials. As such, all three deposits 11660, 12060 and 12085 are naturally-accruing sand-and-gravel fill that are essentially contiguous with each other and predate the construction of the burial pits.

Burials of Individuals nos. 41 and 42 — pit <11694>

The burials of these two individuals were recovered from a single deep oval pit <11694>; the pit was first noted in 2007. The upper level was filled with a very loose deposit of fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand with a moderate amount of gravel-sized limestone fragments (12054). A small number of plant-stem fragments and a few small pieces of textile were recovered from this fill. At a depth of about 20 cm below surface level a more compacted gravel-rich layer was encountered (12056). A cluster of disarticulated bone, concentrated at the more easterly end of the pit, was contained in this fill. In this cluster was a skull (no. 75) lying on top of a mandible along with a large number of vertebrae and ribs clustered around the skull. Other bones recovered from this disturbed fill (12056) include a scapula, two clavicles, two humeri and two femurs. At the time of excavation these bones appeared to represent a single person and so were designated as Individual no. 41. A large piece of twisted fibre rope was also recovered from this fill (Figure 49).

Figure 49. Burial pit <11694> with disturbed bone of Individual no. 41 (12056). View site south.Figure 49. Burial pit <11694> with disturbed bone of Individual no. 41 (12056). View site south.

Clearance of the pit continued, removing the remainder of the upper pit fill (12056) exposing the undisturbed portion of the burial of Individual no. 41. Lying articulated and partially wrapped in preserved textile were the lower legs, tibiae, fibulae and most of the tarsals and phalanges of what has been confirmed in post-excavation analysis as belonging with the overlying disarticulated bones designated as Individual no. 41, identified as a 12-year-old juvenile. These skeletal elements were resting in the south-east portion of the burial pit and directly on top of the undisturbed burial of a second juvenile: Individual no. 42 (Figure 50).

Figure 50. Two phases of excavation of the burial of Individuals no. 41 and 42.Figure 50. Two phases of excavation of the burial of Individuals no. 41 and 42.

The toes of the lower burial (Individual no. 42) were exposed protruding from matting at the more westerly end of the pit. With this exception the burial remained undisturbed wrapped in its original matting and surrounded by a small amount of sand and gravel (12059). The matting was constructed of lengths of plant stems tied with fibre rope. Around the shoulder region of the burial a thicker fibre rope was preserved, holding the matting in place. The upper level of matting was removed exposing the underlying body. Individual no. 42 was lying in the prone position, face down with legs crossed, the right leg uppermost at the time of excavation, and both feet extended. The right pelvic bone was disarticulated from the coccyx and pushed backwards so that it partially overlaid the left pelvis; the femurs remained articulated to the pelvis. Both arms were bent slightly at the elbow so that the hands rested side-by-side over the pelvic area. All bone was completely skeletonised but only moderately desiccated and covered by traces of fragmentary textile. The textile could be seen to have covered the entire length of the body including the feet and head area and wrapped around the anterior and posterior of the body. Unfortunately this textile was too poorly preserved to definitively determine if it was a garment or length of cloth at the time of excavation. Preserved portions of textile do seem to drape over the hands and torso as a whole rather than enclosing the limbs independently of the torso, as would be expected if it was a sleeved garment. There were no in situ artefacts in this pit. The body fills much of the space in the pit base so that any such objects may have been interred higher in the fill, particularly if, as is most likely, the two individuals were interred at the same time. Individual no. 42 has been identified as a juvenile, 17–19 years old and probably male.

The burial pit was well preserved; the edges were relatively vertical and the base was only slightly rounded. There was no indication of unplanned cutting of the pit wall, i.e. during the robbing process the pit walls do not appear to have been damaged. This suggests that the location of the pit was clearly visible at the time of the disturbance of the burial of Individual no. 41.

2.2.7 Grid Square M52

At the completion of the 2007 excavation season a large natural limestone outcrop had been exposed in the north-east quadrant of this grid square 11691. An adult burial (Individual no. 26) had been excavated from a gravel-rich mound overlying this outcrop. No other burials were excavated, but two areas of unexcavated loose fill were identified as overlying potential burials but remained unexcavated due to time constraints. One, an oblong patch of sand, was located in the south-east quadrant overlying what appeared to be an oval pit <11677>; and a second north–south oriented mound of sand in the north-west quadrant (11678). Peripheral to these deposits a sand-and-gravel surface 11690 was exposed. In addition, running along the southern margin of the square a large deposit of loose sand with visible desiccated bone was noted (11692). This deposit seemed to fill a depression in the surface 11690 but again could not be excavated prior to the end of the season.

Burial pit <11677>

In the south-east quadrant of the square a shallow, slightly irregular oval pit <11677> was revealed by the excavation of loose fill (12038). This fill consisted of relatively gravel-rich sand containing one small bone fragment, tentatively identified at the time of excavation as a vertebral segment from an infant, and one fragment of textile. The northern edge of the pit cut down slightly into the edge of the limestone outcrop 11691 but into the sand and gravel surface 11690 on all other sides. At base level this pit was lined by remnants of a mat with fragments of textile adhering to the visible surface (12040) (Figure 51). Botanical species used in the construction of this mat are as yet unidentified. In appearance it is a type of flattened reed or possibly bark tied together with fibre rope. Though the absence of any significant bone recovered in the vicinity of this pit precluded the identification of an individual it has been identified as a burial pit based on the presence of the matting and textile. The size of the both mat and the pit would suggest that the individual originally buried here was an infant or young juvenile.

Figure 51. Burial pit <11677> in grid square M52, showing burial mat remnant in the base of the pit. (W.Dolling)Figure 51. Burial pit <11677> in grid square M52, showing burial mat remnant in the base of the pit. (W.Dolling)

Burial of Individual no. 40 — pit <12049>

A mound of loose sand-and-gravel fill first noted in 2007 was excavated at the beginning of the 2008 season (11676). A small amount of fragmentary bone and a few phalanges were recovered from this fill which, on excavation, exposed a distinct cluster of disarticulated bone (12041). This bone cluster included an articulated pelvic bone, leg and partial foot overlying disarticulated fragmented and intact bones including ribs, a radius and vertebrae. The bones were surrounded by sand and gravel fill essentially contiguous with the overlying deposit, unit (11676). All bone in this cluster was completely skeletonised but exhibited varying stages of weathering. Fragments of plant-stem matting were also recovered from the surrounding fill. This deposit was found to directly overlie a shallow oval burial pit <12049>.

Within this pit the preserved portion of a significantly disturbed burial was visible (12048). The body was wrapped in plant-stem matting the majority of which remained within the pit lining the base and walls and partially covering an in situ foot and skull. Though much of the skeleton had been removed from the pit, the right pelvis, leg and foot remained, as did the skull and the right arm. From these bones it was possible to determine that the body had been placed on its side, head facing to the east. The right leg was pushed backwards at the knee joint but remained articulated to the pelvis. The pit is extremely narrow which probably explains the sideways position, as it would not have been possible to place the body in a normal supine position within this narrow cut. The abnormally bent position of the right leg may also be the result of an attempt to fit this body in to what is essentially a pit too small to easily accommodate the burial. There were traces of textile underlying the right pelvis and femur that appeared to be a single length of cloth (Figure 52). A small amount of disarticulated bone was found lying in the base of the pit, including both patellas, and several phalanges. Samples of the matting material were collected for botanical analysis exposing the natural sandy base of the pit at the northern end. Given the abundance of comparable matting that had been collected from the site the reminder of the mat was left in the base of the pit and covered with a protective layer of sand. During post-excavation analysis the disarticulated bone from cluster (12041) was confirmed as forming part of the skeleton of Individual no. 40. This individual has been identified as a 35–45-year-old female.

Figure 52. Burial of Individual no. 40, showing undisturbed portions of the skeleton and associated matting (12048). (W.Dolling)Figure 52. Burial of Individual no. 40, showing undisturbed portions of the skeleton and associated matting (12048). (W.Dolling)

Burial of Individual no. 56 — pit <12098>

In 2007 a deposit of loose sandy fill was noted along the southern edge of the grid square (11692). A test cut had been made into the western half of this area in 2006 during the excavation of a cluster of disarticulated bones. In 2007 it was not possible to clearly define the area that had been previously cleared though the estimated/approximate area was marked in that season’s final excavation plan as unit (11693). In 2008 it was again not possible to distinguish the area that had been excavated in 2006 and it is probable that the depth of excavation that was reached in 2007 was beneath the level of the 2006 excavation. As a result a decision was made to excavate the fill from this whole area as one unit (11692). The fill consisted of fine-to-medium coarse-grained sand with patchy gravel inclusions. The removal of approximately 15 cm of this fill exposed the upper edge of a sloping hollow and a more compacted sandy fill (12095); a skull (no. 76) was visible partially protruding from the eastern half of this fill, and in the south-east corner of the square a distinct cluster of bones (12096) was exposed. Excavation continued clearing the slightly friable sandy fill (12095) across the entire area. In the east the removal of unit (12095) exposed an irregular shaped pit <12098> cut into a hollow in the sandy surface 11690 (Figure 53).

Figure 53. Disturbed bone of Individual no. 56, including skull no. 76. within pit <12098>, floating in fill (12097). View site south.Figure 53. Disturbed bone of Individual no. 56, including skull no. 76. within pit <12098>, floating in fill (12097). View site south.

Excavation of pit <12098> commenced by clearing the upper fill (12097), of slightly compacted sand, containing a cluster of mostly disarticulated and desiccated bones. The bones were more concentrated at the western end of the pit around the skull (no. 76). This skull was lying on its side and was articulated to the hyoid bone, three cervical vertebrae and to the mandible. However, it was not lying in its original burial position,as the end of the articulated spine was pushed in against the edge of the pit. Other skeletal remains recovered from the pit include fragmentary ribs, phalanges, tarsal bones, vertebrae and other unidentifiable bone fragments. Two humeri were found articulated to their relevant scapula but again, as with the skull, these bones were clearly displaced from their original burial position. As there appeared to be at least 50% of an individual represented here and, though disarticulated, the bones were contained in a burial pit, they were designated as Individual no. 56. The partially articulated state of the scattered bone suggests that the body was not completely skeletonised at the time of the burial’s disturbance.

Post-excavation analysis has identified this Individual as a male of indeterminate age. Clearance of disarticulated bone and associated fill exposed the remnants of a plant-stem mat lining the base of this pit. It also became apparent during excavation that the pit <12098> extended slightly into grid square M51. A small area of loose sandy fill was cleared from this area (12101), exposing the eastern end of the pit. The pit is located in the base of the natural depression in the surface designated as 11690. At the eastern end the pit cuts down through the edges of a limestone outcrop (Figure 55).

Bone cluster (12096)

To the west of the pit excavation of unit (12095) revealed that the surface 11690 dipped down from an upper level forming what appears to be a natural depression or wadi running along this southern edge of the square and contiguous with the depression investigated in the adjacent square L52. In the south-west corner of the square a cluster of bones (12096) was found lying within this depression. The bones were surrounded by a mound of slightly friable coarse-grained sand with a moderate amount of gravel and a minor amount of pebbles. There was a large amount of fragmentary plant material probably from a burial mat scattered through this fill and a few small pieces of textile. Bone types identified during excavation include a femur, coccyx, ribs, phalanges and vertebrae; there were also a number of unidentifiable long-bone fragments. Over the three excavation seasons a significant amount of bone has been recovered from this area of the site. In 2006 a partially preserved burial (Individual no. 17) was excavated from the north-west corner of grid square M51. At this time the area of excavation was extended into square M52 in order to completely clear the burial which was partially overlaid by three disarticulated skulls and a cluster of disarticulated bone. The cluster of bones excavated in 2008 as unit (12096) was located directly to the north, and probably partially beneath the area excavated in 2007. It is likely that the bone cluster excavated in 2008 (12096) is an extension of the disarticulated bone surrounding the burial of Individual no. 17 (11389) (Figure 55).

2.3 New excavation areas

2.3.1 Grid Squares L53–M53

Towards the end of the 2008 season a decision was made to commence excavation in a previously un-investigated area of the site: a strip of grid squares directly to the north of the current excavation area. A surface plan of this area had previously been prepared. It is anticipated that this area will be a focus of excavation in the 2009 season. It was therefore appropriate to commence clearance of upper fill levels here. Given the minimum time left in 2008 only two of the grid squares were opened, L53 and M53. The excavation of this area was supervised by Kemp.

Grid Square L53

A surface deposit of sand and pebbles with some loose limestone boulders was cleared across the entire grid square (12183). A shallow broad wadi cuts through this deposit running from the south-east towards the north-west corner of the square. A small amount of desiccated bone, botanicals and a very small amount of charcoal were included in this fill. A faience disk bead and a small floral pendant were recovered from the fill. The removal of the surface deposit exposed a slightly more friable layer of sand with scattered gravel (12187). This deposit covered the entire grid square and was excavated to a depth of approximately 10 cm. The upper level of this deposit was cut by the base of the small wadi so that, once the excavation of unit (12187) was completed, this depression was no longer visible. Several faience beads were also recovered from this lower deposit, retrieved during sieving of the fill. At this point in the excavation a uniform deposit of soft sand with fine gravel covered the entire grid square (12196). Approximately 10 cm depth of this deposit was excavated. No indications of burial cuts were visible but a small amount of desiccated bone was recovered during sieving of the fill. Excavation ceased at this point due to time constraints.

Grid Square M53

At commencement of excavation a deposit of loose sand and pebbles was removed across the entire grid square; a minor amount of desiccated bone was scatted through this fill (12184). A small number of moderately-sized limestone boulders were resting on the surface and were removed. An extension of the shallow wadi noted in grid square L53 continued into this grid square, cutting though the surface deposit (12184). Along the eastern edge of the square the removal of surface sand exposed a continuation of the limestone outcrop previously noted in grid square M52 as unit 11691. In the remainder of the square a deposit of slightly more compacted sand with gravel patches was exposed (12188); a deposit that was essentially equivalent to unit (12187) excavated from grid square L53. This relatively shallow fill also contained a minor amount of desiccated bone and continued down to a depth where the wadi was no longer visible. In the north-west quadrant a small cluster of desiccated skull fragments was excavated (12190) surrounded by the fill unit (12188). Once unit (12188) was cleared, a loosely consolidated deposit (12197) was visible spreading westward from the exposed limestone outcrop, this fill overlying the edge of the limestone which slopes downwards to the west beneath the fill. Excavation of unit (12197) exposed a patch of brownish discolouration with desiccated bone protruding from the upper surface (12262) that may be a disturbed burial. Located in the north-west quadrant of the square this oval patch directly underlies the location of the previously excavated bone cluster (12190) and is, in fact, most likely contiguous with it. In the remainder of the square a more compacted sand deposit with a moderate amount of fine gravel was exposed (12260). A small amount of this deposit was cleared exposing additional portions of unit (12262). Though there was no clear distinction in the matrix of the fill, the increasing compaction and the presence of a potential burial (12262) raised the possibility that the exposed deposit may be a natural surface. Excavation ceased at this level due to time constraints. A fibula exposed at the upper surface of unit (12262) was collected but the reminder of this deposit was not excavated (Figure 54).

Figure 54. Grid square M53 at the close of excavation. Note possible burial (12262) in the north-west corner. View site west.Figure 54. Grid square M53 at the close of excavation. Note possible burial (12262) in the north-west corner. View site west.

2.3.2 North-west sector of the wadi

It had been noted during previous seasons that surface topography and visible archaeological remains vary over the area that has been identified as potentially forming the Amarna-Period cemetery. Of particular interest is a section of cemetery located on a gently sloping bank on the west of the wadi proper, significantly closer to the northern end of the site than the current excavation area. Here, at surface level, there is a greater concentration of greyish limestone boulders than in other areas of the site. These stones are of interest as they are unlikely to be naturally occurring but rather have been moved to this area perhaps to mark or cover burial pits. There is some surface bone and a minor amount of ceramic indicating the presence of disturbed burials in this area and some clusters of boulders that may mark undisturbed burials. There is a clear need to investigate other parts of the cemetery to determine if burial patterns so far evidenced at the site, such as method of interment, burial density, individual age and sex and degree of burial disturbance are repeated. This area in the north-west of the cemetery has a high potential to provide burial material for comparison, but is also of interest in its own right due to the variant surface remains evident here.

With this in mind the area was chosen as a location for future excavation. Though time would not permit excavation here in 2008, a surface plan was prepared of grid squares to facilitate excavation in the forthcoming season. This area is aligned within the same grid as the original excavation area, Grid 14, and includes Grid Squares U102–105 and V102–105. This work of surface planning was carried out by Anna Stevens.

Figure 55. Main excavation area at the completion of the 2008 season, showing the location of burial pits.Figure 55. Main excavation area at the completion of the 2008 season, showing the location of burial pits.

3 Discussion of archaeological findings

3.1 Burial density

With the completion of the 2008 excavation season an area measuring 10 x 35m has been excavated to the level of an Amarna-period surface (Figure 55). A total of 37 definite burial pits/graves have been identified cut into this surface. (This number includes all pits containing archaeological deposits clearly indicating that they have been used as graves.) In 2006 a small brick tomb was excavated in grid square G51. In addition, 13 other burials have been identified as in situ (though lacking identifiable pits) over the three excavation seasons, including one double burial. An additional 6 pits have been excavated with a moderate-to-high probability of having been dug as graves.

This means that, within the current excavation area, a minimum number of 50 graves/burial locations have been identified. Even with the addition of the 6 possible burial pits this still leaves a significant discrepancy between the number of graves and the number of individuals so far recovered from the site; with a minimum number of 76 individuals being identified on archaeological grounds over the three seasons.
(This total number of individuals is based on those identified as distinct individuals at the time of excavation or in the immediate post-excavation analysis. It does not include any additional individuals that may have been identified by the physical anthropology team during ongoing analysis of disturbed bone from the entire excavation area.)
The discrepancy is in part explained by the presence of multiple burials, with eight of the graves containing the body of more than one person, accounting for an additional 11 individuals (View Table 1 (PDF - 89k)). A number of the pits contained a small amount of bone that could not be assigned to the individual clearly buried in that pit. Though the amount was insufficient to warrant the designation of another distinct individual it does raise the possibility that more multiple burials may have occurred at the site than have so far been identified.

With this in mind, there are at least 15 individuals for which no definite burial location has been identified. During the first two excavation seasons 9 individuals were recovered from two large clusters of partially articulated skeletons; in 2006 Individuals 1–6, and in 2007 Individuals 30–32. It is possible that these clusters represent reburial or at least a purposeful collection occurring at the time of the major disturbance at the site (discussed in Dolling 2007, 32–4).

Regardless of the process that led to the collection of these skeletons it is necessary to consider from where the bodies originated. The physical anthropology team has cross-checked skeletal remains against those of all other individuals and confirmed that the articulated bone from these clusters represents distinct individuals. Yet there are insufficient unoccupied burial locations within the current excavation area to easily account for them. One possibility is that there were more multiple burials than have so far been identified, the individuals recovered from these large clusters having been removed from their graves whilst leaving the remains of others still within the pit. A second possible explanation is that additional burial pits were not discernable during excavation. If a higher level of less-compacted cemetery surface existed, not all of the edges to burial cuts might have been identified. Variability in the degree of compaction over the excavation area does suggest this as a possibility; in particular, at the western end of the excavation area, where a number of burial pits in grid squares G52 and H52 were not clearly definable or were preserved only to a very shallow depth. In some of the excavated grid squares the possibility of unidentified burial pits seems less likely; primarily in grid squares L52–I52, where a distinct compacted surface was evident with a series of well-defined burial pits occupying much of the available space.

In summary, conservatively a minimum of 61 individuals can be confirmed as having been buried in this area but, in the current state of evidence, it is possible that all 76 individuals were originally interred here. Moreover, the physical anthropology team have identified a minimum of 91 skulls from the excavation area, indicating that the total number of individuals quantifiable on bio-archaeological grounds exceeds the number indicated by the excavation data. As was pointed out in 2007, projections on the potential total number of people buried at the South Tombs Cemetery must remain tentative until a greater surface area has been excavated. If, however, the density established within the current excavation area is typical of the remainder of the cemetery, more than 3000 individuals may be interred here (a calculations based on a conservative estimate of the percentage of the cemetery so far excavated as 2% and a minimum number of 61 individuals).

Another point to consider is whether each of the multiple graves identified at the site represents a single or multiple phase of interment. Several of these pits appear to have been originally cut to accommodate more than one individual. Two broad oval pits and one rectangular pit are wider than usual and in these cases at least two bodies were interred side by side. In those graves where the bodies have been placed one on top of each other the pits were less certainly cut for multiple individuals, as pits of similar depths have been excavated containing evidence for the burial of one person only.

The nature of the cemetery surface does give support to a single interment phase for each grave. The pits are cut into a surface of sand and gravel that is only moderately compacted. Unlike the reopening of a brick or rock-cut tomb, clearance of fill from sand-dug pits requires a degree of care that may have precluded reopening. This was highlighted during excavation by the tendency for partial collapse of the pit walls once fill was removed. It is more difficult to measure to what extent a desire to place related individuals within a single pit may have outweighed any increased effort required. In some cases, such as in the burial of Individuals 60 and 61, both bodies were wrapped in the same matting, implying that they were buried at the same time. In summary, the current evidence, whilst not conclusive, does suggest that the bodies in the multiple graves were placed within the pit at or around the same time, that is, before the grave was sealed for the first time.

3.2 Burial orientation and spatial patterning

Given the small proportion of the cemetery that has been excavated any conclusions regarding spatial patterning must necessarily remain tentative. Burial pits were less frequently encountered in the southern half of the excavation area; though a significant number of in situ burials were identified in grid square M51 during the 2006 season. The highest density was exhibited in squares I52, J52, K52, and in the western half of L52. In squares J51–L52 the exposed pits were slightly more uniform in their orientation than in the remainder of the excavation area, with most pits being aligned approximately east–west (burial orientation as discussed here relates to magnetic north rather than to site north). It seems that with an increased density in grave pits there is an increased variation in the orientation of individual graves. Unknown influences are possible temporal differences between the south and north of the excavation area or grouping of graves according to family links.

In terms of age and sex, there does not appear be a distinct difference in distribution. As in previous seasons adult, juvenile and infant burials were identified, with infant burials continuing to be in the minority. Those graves containing the body of more than one person included individuals of varying age and/or sex. Though again remembering the small sample size, individuals identifiable as adult males tended to be buried as single individuals. Only one of the graves with multiple burials included an adult male (Individuals 7 and 11); though two of the multiple burials included an adult of indeterminate sex. Burial pits containing in situ burials of adult females (23) outnumber that of in situ adult males (12). Figure 56 illustrates the distribution of burials according to gender and age. (Individual 28, a contracted burial in grid square J52, was initially identified as a male but has on subsequent analysis in has been identified as a female).

Figure 56. Excavation area, showing age and sex of in-situ individuals according to burial locations.Figure 56. Excavation area, showing age and sex of in-situ individuals according to burial locations.

3.3 Preparation of the body for burial

None of the recovered burials exhibited evidence of mummification. Most of the bone recovered was skeletonised. Preserved tissue in the form of skin fragments was noted in a small number of cases, most notably the leg of Individual 63, though preservation of the skin here was probably the result of natural desiccation. The presence of brain tissue within a number of the skulls is evidence against the full mummification process in these cases. Most identified individuals had fragments of textile preserved around or in association with the skeleton. Most of this textile was poorly preserved, the exception being the burials of Individuals 42, 45 and 57. For these individuals the cloth had clearly been wrapped around the body as a whole, most likely a length or lengths of cloth rather than a garment, and could be clearly seen to overlie the head and feet (though, given the poor state of preservation, it is possible that a proportion of the recovered textile is from garments).

Most of the individuals, in addition to a covering of textile, were wrapped in a length of matting. These mats were commonly constructed of lengths of plant stem, with fibre rope/string woven under and over the individual stems to hold them in place. The body was wrapped inside the mat, the edges overlapping to varying extents. Lengths of thicker fibre rope secured the mat around the body and perhaps provided handles to assist in carrying it. A small number of the burials utilised variant body containment. In some cases, such as the burial of Individual 70, a second inner layer of more fibrous plant material was used inside the standard plant-stem mat. Individual 51 was buried in a rectangular wooden coffin which, though poorly preserved, seems to have consisted of a simple rectangular box probably with a flat lid. An infant (Individual 54a) was buried within a container of bark or possible timber with traces of white gypsum. The most elaborate container so far is the decorated anthropoid wooden coffin for the adult female, Individual 69a.

3.4 Burial/funerary goods

Burial and funerary goods include objects that were placed on the body, such as jewellery or hair adornment, and objects that may be considered as having a specific ritual function associated with the burial. They might include objects provided for the deceased’s afterlife or offerings to the deceased. In previous excavation seasons little could be said about such material, as any objects recovered were not clearly associated with a particular burial. The 2008 excavation has shed some light on the subject. The previous sparseness of faience jewellery, in particular small beads, suggested that although some bodies were equipped with such material it was unlikely to have been a common feature. Artefacts recovered in the 2008 season support this. Only a small number of faience beads, a small steatite scarab (object 38561) and a steatite cowroid bead (object 38645) were found. The faience scarab was recovered from loose fill within a burial pit containing the remains of Individuals 64 and 65. The steatite cowroid bead was found within loose fill in the pit containing Individual 66. The remaining faience beads were all recovered from loose or disturbed fill, though some were from within actual burial pits. As in previous seasons, most burials had been disturbed, the head, pelvis and/or hands being the commonest points of disturbance. If amulets or jewellery had been present there is a strong possibility that they were removed.

The discovery of two undisturbed burials is of particular interest. Individual 42 (an adult possible male) was found wrapped in its original burial mat. No jewellery or amulets were found with the skeleton and no other grave goods were recovered from the pit. The upper level of this pit did contain the burial of a second person (Individual 41) which had been markedly disturbed so that goods buried at a higher level within the pit may have been removed. A second burial (Individual 45, a juvenile), was also undisturbed. In this case the fill of the pit proper was undisturbed and the individual remained wrapped in a mat with textile covering the body. Again no jewellery or amulets had been included but some burial goods had been provided. At the head a small collection of botanical material including seeds or possible grains had been placed within the textile wrapping. An as yet unidentified worked wood object had also been placed here. Lying between the textile surrounding the body and the plant-stem mat, and beside the deceased’s head, was a metal blade with wooden handle, a circumstance open to the interpretation that it served the ritual for opening the mouth of the deceased.

Three burial pits that had been at least partially disturbed nonetheless preserved intact pots. A group of six vessels (two jars, two dishes used as lids on the jars and two bowls) were found within the burial pit of Individual 51. Both bowls contained botanical material. In the base of the pit containing the burial of Individual 69a a small bowl was found also containing botanical material. From this same pit a large amount of fragmentary ceramic was recovered suggesting that originally this burial had been provided with a series of vessels. A small intact dish was recovered from the base of the pit containing the disturbed burial of an infant (Individual 54a). None of the bodies were wrapped in matting. Two were within wooden coffins and the third, the infant, was contained in a bark or possible wooden coffin. Whether the presence of ceramic vessels is restricted to what could be considered as more elaborate burial type is questionable, given the small sample size, and, in particular, as a number of the other burials contained fragmentary ceramic. Once analysis of the ceramic corpus being undertaken by Pamela Rose is complete it may be possible to determine the type and number of vessels associated with many of the burials.

Figure 57. Object 38532.Figure 57. Object 38532.

3.5 Artefacts (Barry Kemp, Anna Stevens)

A total of 305 artefacts (other than potsherds) were registered from the cemetery. Many were pieces of rope or textile. Amongst the remainder were the following nine:

38532 Stela?
Material: limestone
Dimensions: ht = 17.5 cm w = 13.48 cm th = 4.0 cm
Provenance: I50 (12131)

Piece of worked limestone (Figure 57). The stone is white, fine-grained and extremely fragile. It has two worked edges, the third being a break. Both faces are flat; one is largely original and preserves many chisel marks, 1.8 cm wide, but quite weathered. Only a small part of the other face survives, but appears also to have been flat. It is not clear how well it was originally finished. The fragment resembles the pointed top of the two stelae (objects 37581 and 37640) found in 2006 at the cemetery; thus the original edges meet at an angle of c. 60º to form the point. The better-preserved face is probably the reverse, given the presence of chisel marks.

Figure 58. Object 38535.Figure 58. Object 38535.

38535 Offering-table?
Material: limestone
Dimensions: l = 18.0 cm w = 14.6 cm th = 3.06 cm
Provenance: N52, surface

Slab of hard, white limestone with heavily weathered and slightly patinated surface (Figure 58). The shape of the slab does not appear natural. It is almost square with a 5 cm projection on one side, so resembling a small offering-table with projecting spout. The surface is so eroded that both faces are (irregularly) flat. One side is more irregular than the other, with a grey surface, probably indicating that this was the face that had lain uppermost for longest.

Figure 59. Object 38537.Figure 59. Object 38537.

38537 Model oar?
Material: wood
Dimensions: l = 9.7 cm w = 4.9 cm th = 1.8 cm
Provenance: K52 (12068), from beneath Individual 45

Piece of ‘paddle’-shaped wood, carved as one piece, preserving the blade and part of the projecting stem or handle and broken at the end (Figure 59). The wood is relatively solid although cracked. Both faces are flat, although one is obscured by a piece of degraded and highly friable textile that, in being up to 1.1 cm in thickness, is probably made up of several layers (its thickness is not included in the measurements given above). There is no sign of decoration on the exposed faces. The stem or handle is slightly oval in section (1.35 x 1.12 cm) and is 1.9 cm long. As an oar from a model boat, although these are known from Amarna (Stevens 2006, 115–6), its identification must remain tentative.

Figure 60. Object 38538.Figure 60. Object 38538.



38538 Metal blade with handle
Material: Copper/bronze and wood
Dimensions: l = 9.08 cm w = 1.57 cm
Provenance: K52 (12068), from beneath Individual 45

The blade is flat and flares outwards in profile to its rounded tip (Figure 60). At the handle end the metal has two rounded tangs which are folded over, one on top of the other, to form an aperture for the handle. The blade is 5.7 cm long and, at its widest point, reaches 1.6 cm in width. Its thickness runs from 1.3 to 2.2 cm, thinning towards the flaring tip. The shape is close to, but not perfectly symmetrical in profile. The surface of the metal is obscured by a thin coating of green corrosion. The wooden handle has an irregular oval profile (av. 5.7 x 7.4 cm) and is preserved to a length of 6.8 cm. It is formed from a stick (that has perhaps been trimmed to fit the aperture), with a tapered end sitting over the inside of the blade, although it is possible that the metal tangs were wrapped around the wood (and perhaps the trimming was done subsequently) since the fit is very snug. The other end of the handle is almost certainly broken. A piece of textile was attached to the front of the object when excavated (a small patch still adheres) but this belongs to wrapping around the body rather to a separate wrapping of the object.

The likelihood that the end of the handle is broken leaves open the possibility that it was angled, which would give the tool the distinct shape of an adze. Even if it were straight, ‘adze’ seems the nearest appropriate English term. It is small but not unduly so. Three others found at Amarna are of comparable size: 30/150 (6.2 x 1.1 cm, dimensions from EES archive object card; also EES archive photograph 30.O.63); 31/588 (7 x 1.25 cm, 31.O.62) and 32/272 (8.1 x 1.4 cm; 32.O.114). (In neither case was a full handle preserved.) It follows that if our example had been found in the city it would have passed as a small utilitarian tool of a conventional design, perhaps for a carpenter.

In the context in which it was found, however, it provokes a more complicated interpretation. Few objects seem to have been buried in the cemetery. This one has been given the added intimacy of being placed inside the cloth body-wrapping, at the side of the face. In the minds of those responsible for the burial, has an ordinary tool been adapted to serve as the implement for the ritual of opening the mouth of the deceased? The proper tool for this well-known ritual was, at this time, a woodcarving adze the use of which was an adaptation for the human body derived from the practice and ritual of statue-carving (Roth 1992, 117, 147; 1993, 66–7, 74–7). If this is so, the finding of object 38538 is an archaeological counterpart to the adze-scene of the opening-of-the-mouth ritual being performed on a statue or mummy featured in the decoration of a miniature painted coffin found in the Central City (Pendlebury 1951, 188, Pl. CIV).

Figure 61. Object 38561.Figure 61. Object 38561.

38561 Scarab
Material: Steatite
Dimensions: l = 1.27 cm w = 0.90 cm th = 0.62 cm
Provenance: I52 (12186)

Intact glazed-steatite scarab (Figure 61). The glaze is in the best condition on the right-hand wing-case, where the colour is blue. Elsewhere on the back and sides the glaze is worn to a paler colour or is darkened, either from a layer of discoloration or from where, in the hollows, the glaze has ‘puddled’. The flat base is patchily worn. On the back the wing-cases are separated by lightly incised lines though the humeral callosities are well formed. The head details are not symmetrical. The hole is well formed and may have a piece of original thread at one end. The flat base has an edge of a single narrow incised line. Within it are incised design elements: left and dominating the field, a tall and wide design, triangular at the top, rectangular in the middle, and with three strokes at the bottom, two of them looking like feet and facing right. It might be a badly outlined figure of Taweret; top right, two signs that perhaps read Akhet, and a clear Nefer below. The Neb-sign runs across the bottom. The base is marked off from the top by a deep groove on the sides, that on the right tapering downwards from back to front.

Figure 62. Object 38640.Figure 62. Object 38640.

38640 Kohl tube and stick
Material: Wood and kohl
Dimensions
(tube): l = 12.1 cm av. dia. = 1.9 cm dia. of mouth = 1.3 cm
(stick): l = 3.9 cm max. dia. = 0.32 cm
Provenance: I52 (12205), from base of pit <12206>

A length of wood has been hollowed out at one end and filled with what is now a pale grey fine, dry substance, into which a thin stick is wedged (Figure 62). The end of the stick was broken, but was retrieved in the excavation. The wood of both tube and stick is very dark brown and hard. The surface is slightly smoothed from weathering but a long, fairly straight and regular grain is visible. The end of the tube has been cut flat, but there seems to have been no attempt to smooth the transition to the sides, nor to smooth or finish the wood generally. The aperture is circular, and the thickness of the wall slightly variable. The stick is not wedged in tightly. The broken end has a circular section and tapers to a rounded point. Patches of sand adhere to the surface.

Figure 63. Object 38645.Figure 63. Object 38645.

38645 Cowroid bead
Material: Steatite
Dimensions: l = 1.38 cm w = 1.04 cm th = 0.5 dia. of aperture = 0.16 cm
Provenance: I52 (12191), in loose fill, north end of pit <12192>, floor of pit, over matting

Intact cowroid bead with incised decoration (Figure 63). On the sides a linear hatched pattern presumably represents the texture at the opening of a cowrie shell. On the underside a small central nefer-sign is surrounded by spirals/joined circles, the whole surrounded by an oval border. The design is regular and well carved, and is still sharp though now slightly obscured by fine cracks in the stone. The surface of the bead shows black patches, perhaps from the decomposition of the body. Elsewhere it has a yellowish-cream colour, but there are faint bluish-green patches, probably remnants of the glaze. The surface is glossy. The aperture is circular and well centred though the bead itself is very slightly asymmetrical. A brown organic residue fills one end of the aperture, which might be from the thread or might be intrusive.

Figure 64. Object 38816.Figure 64. Object 38816.

38816 window-grille
Material: gypsum
Dimensions: l = x32.5 cm w = x21.0 cm th 3.0–3.7 cm
Provenance: I51/52, pit <12132>, upper sand fill (12203)

A group of 7 joining fragments of a window-grille (Figure 64). It preserves one horizontal bar and parts of 3 vertical bars. The shape of the bars in section varies from square to rectangular, the gypsum probably having been cut to shape. Fine shallow cut-marks or scored guidelines continue the lines of the two slots (but not of outer faces of the two end bars) on to the horizontal bar on one face. The end of the horizontal bar projects beyond the edge of the last vertical bar for about 6 cm, has a finished end and was probably for insertion into a masonry surround. Parallel black lines trace the base of the horizontal bars on probably both faces (only partially visible on one). One face has a slightly less regular finish than the other, and this might be original. The gypsum is moderately hard, and rich in fine-to-coarse sand.

3 further joining fragments of gypsum of comparable composition (object 38817), preserving two original right-angled faces, come from the same pit, but from fill context (12209). A thin layer of fine, sand-free gypsum plaster covers part of one of the original edges. They do not join directly object 38816.

Figure 65. Object 38819: painted coffin face.Figure 65. Object 38819: painted coffin face.

The fragments resemble, to the point of being virtually identical to, other gypsum bars from the main city where there is no reason to doubt that they come from window grilles of a standard design (also used in temples), in which two sets of tall narrow slots, one above the other, are formed within a single frame. The materials can be limestone or mud formed around reed cores, or gypsum (and perhaps also wood, since it was common to paint them red, the normal painted colour of wood). If object 38816 comes from a full-size window then it implies the existence of a house-sized structure, and perhaps that the pieces are simply far from their original context, brought to the cemetery by fortuitous circumstances. Another interpretation, however, is that the fragments we have represent the original full width of the window, with the loss only of the end of one of the projections on the horizontal bar, and that there was only one tier of slots. Thus object 38816 (plus 38817) represents maybe more than half of the original object (the lines of the inner faces of the bars suggesting that they extend for the greater part of their original length). If this is the case then it becomes more plausible that the window, that would have measured around 25 x 30 cm (excluding the horizontal projections or lugs for fitting the window into a built surround), belongs in the cemetery, and is part of a now-vanished superstructure. Although the time interval is huge, it would have resembled the pairs of slots found by Petrie in the Early Dynastic cemetery at Tarkhan (Roth 1993, 75, note 82 makes the comparison between the Tarkhan slots and the requirements of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony).

Figure 66. Object 38819: assembled fragments.Figure 66. Object 38819: assembled fragments.

38819 Fragments of anthropoid coffin
Material: Wood, painted and varnished
Dimensions: face: l = 31.8 cm w at top = 20.0 cm
Provenance: I51/52, pit <12132>, associated with Individual 69a

With the exception of the separately-made face (Figure 65), the wood of the coffin had been badly eaten by termites and the grave itself had been robbed, to the extent that the positions of the fragments in the grave bore little or no relation to where on the coffin they had come from. They were often reduced to little more than the layer of thick paint. As they were recovered they were given preliminary conservation treatment by Julie Dawson (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) and mounted in groups in wooden and plastic trays. She divided them into a set of 21 groups, each representing an excavation unit or a part thereof. Many of the groups consisted of a mixture of pieces with identifiable hieroglyphs or other designs, and smaller fragments where little useful could be gained by making a detailed record. In each of the groups the former were separately numbered, thus Fragment 1.1, 1.2, and so on. Each one was photographed digitally. The photographs were then imported into the Adobe Illustrator program and scaled to be 50% of their original size. A digital line drawing was then made of each piece. In this way physical contact with the fragments was reduced to a minimum. At the same time, an outline drawing of what such a coffin might look like was made. The model chosen for this was the published drawing of a wooden coffinette found in the old excavations of the Central City (Pendlebury 1951, 188, Pl. CIV). This was scaled to be 25% of the 50% initial reduction, enabling it to fit on to an A4 landscape page (Figure 66). As the work of fitting the copies of the fragments proceeded, however, it was found necessary to modify the proportions of the initial outlines. Other coffins of similar age have also been taken into consideration. The closest is the coffin of the lady Taat found at Deir el-Medina (Bruyére 1937, 104–5, pls x.1, xii; in style and proportions, though with traditional decoration, also the coffins of Sen-nefer and Nefertiti, Bruyére 1929, 43–62, pls. ii–ix.). The drawings presented here are a first attempt at ordering the fragments (with thanks to Marc Gabolde for helpful suggestions and a considerable improvement to the right side part of Figure 66). Refinements are doubtless possible, but the main style and content of the coffin and its decoration seem to be established.

The comparative material points to two useful rules: a division of the coffin surface into panels separated by four bands of text that pass around the coffin body, thus vertically down the sides; and a general tendency for the direction of the hieroglyphs to run from the head to the foot, thus for signs to face towards the head end. It was also possible to decide for each fragment, even when little of the original wood remained, the direction of the original grain of the wood, and this has determined the orientation of the fragments in Figure 66. As a result, no fragment with hieroglyphs can be assigned to the top of the lid where one expects a vertical column of hieroglyphs running parallel to the wood grain of the planks.

Figure 67. Object 38819: coffin fragments, from the curved head end and painted representations of human figures.Figure 67. Object 38819: coffin fragments, from the curved head end and painted representations of human figures.



On this basis the fragments sort themselves into two groups of roughly similar area, representing the left and right sides of the coffin. They reveal that almost all of the fragments (there were no significant pieces painted black but without decoration) come from a narrow horizontal portion of the coffin, namely, the sides of the lid (but not its top) and the upper rim area of the coffin box. Several of the fragments seem to retain the traces of a long edge, either the bottom edge of the lid or the top edge of the coffin box, mostly evident from places where the paint has crossed over the edge. Thus the main panel of the lid (including the hands), the presumed foot part, and the base and lower parts of the coffin itself have left little behind. A few small fragments, some of them with convex surface and closely spaced thick white lines, probably come from the lappets of the wig (the largest being 6.2, Figure 67); but nothing of the human figures that is definitely from below their heads has survived, despite their conspicuous red outlines and yellow paint fill (though one might see 17.4, Figure 67, as part of a torso).

This remarkably consistent pattern of destruction and preservation is perhaps a result of the termite colonies working from the bottom upwards, but being disturbed (before consuming the entire coffin) by grave robbers, who ripped the remaining fragments apart (and caused the separately made face to fall out and remain standing vertically in the sand). The only part of the coffin to have remained in place is part of the rounded head end, consisting of five pieces of planking (18.1–18.5, Figure 67), fitted together with wooden dowels. Even with these, much of the inner timber had been eaten away and, to a very irregular extent, also the bottom. The rest of the coffin must have reached a similar stage when it was torn up and pushed aside by the robbers.

The fragments come from a coffin with lid made from thick planks of wood, all inner surfaces of which have been lost. The greatest preserved thicknesses are 1. 8 cm (frag. 6.1) and 4 cm (curving head-end frag. 18.5). The planks were fitted together using wooden dowels set at a sharp angle to the surface. They were best preserved in the in situ rounded end pieces. The heads of the dowels were smoothed to be flush with the surface and were painted over. All of the outside surfaces had first been coated with gypsum, which had been rubbed down to leave a film over the entire surface, except where it had filled crevices in the wood. The entire coffin and lid had then been given a coat of thick black ‘paint’ (there is no intention of here of distinguishing black paint from black varnish). The hieroglyphic inscriptions, their bordering lines, and the details of the wig around the face mask had been added in thick white paint that has discoloured. A small amount of blue and red probably mark details on the collar. The side panels had been painted with scenes of mourners, rendered in yellow with thin red lines to give details. Everything had then been given a thick coat of varnish. The varnish has become brown and opaque with age, and has partially flaked off. This makes it often hard to distinguish the outlines of the underlying designs. Our coffin thus becomes a reference specimen, to fill the blank that has hitherto existed for coffins from Amarna itself. (For the history of coffin decoration at this time, and how ours fits the pattern, see Taylor 2001, esp. 169; also Grajetzki 2003, 79.)

The face, made separately, has survived much better, with termite loss only on both sides of the wig (fig 10). It has been expertly carved from a single block of wood, as an idealised face, full and rounded, surmounted by a heavy wig. Particular care has been devoted to the full lips (with ridge-like definition of their outer lines) and to the nose (whose nostrils are sensitively separated). The whole has been given an overall coat of red paint overlaid with other colours for details: black for the banding of the wig and a line beneath perhaps to show the real hair, and for the pupil painted over a flat carving of the eye itself; blue for the wide eyebrows and eye outlines. (Note the use of the colour red on a face intended for a woman’s coffin, cf. Taylor 2001, 168).

For the wood used, Rainer Gerisch has supplied the following information: [12219]: painted wooden mask: Mimusops sp.; [12205]: 1 plank fragment with paint: Ficus sycomorus; [12212]: 1 plank fragment with paint: Ficus sycomorus; 2 fragments without paint: Cedrus libani; [12214]: 1 plank fragment with paint: Ficus sycomorus; 1 dowel: Tamarix sp.; small debris in bag: Ficus sycomorus; [12217]: 3 plank fragments with paint: Ficus sycomorus; small debris in bag: Ficus sycomorus; [12225]: 2 plank fragments with paint: Ficus sycomorus; 1 dowel: Tamarix sp.; [12228]: 4 plank fragments with paint: Ficus syomorus.

Most of the surviving decoration is in the form of hieroglyphs painted originally in white on a black background. With one exception they run either in a horizontal line defined by single lines top and bottom, or in a single vertical column likewise defined. The vertical columns were given priority at the crossing-places, no attempt being made to arrange the horizontal text so that the breaks came between words. The one exception is fragment 14.4 (left side), where two vertical columns of text extend to the left of the column that is one of the bands bearing Maia’s name, and are probably continuing the prayer which was longer than horizontal band. At the head end, fragment 1.1 combines an image of the Eye of Horus with part of a vertical band of text with Maiai’s name. The direction of the signs in the band place it on the left side of the coffin. A single eye, rather than a paired double set of eyes, is appropriate for coffins of the period. Fragment 5.1 extends to the point where the coffin side should be curving round following the line of the shoulder and, although many of the fragments are warped, towards its right end it does begin to bend inwards along its long axis. On the fragment group 5.2/5.3 and on 12.1a small areas of red and blue paint are preserved. They must mark the end of a painted bead collar. The absence of further fragments with these colours emphasizes the near-total destruction of the top surface of the coffin lid. A difficult fragment to place is 15.1, being quite large but almost illegible. It is placed in the left side because there is no room on the right side, but it could still be rotated 180°.

Several fragments have still not been placed. The most important of them, eight in all, are included in the space between the two reconstructions of Figure 66 and on a larger scale in Figure 67.

Eight fragments preserve portions of human figures painted yellow over the black background, their details picked out in fine red lines, apart from the eyes that are painted black. The yellow and the red have faded. Four of the fragments are heads, all facing to the right. The largest (10.1) is unmistakably a woman in an attitude of mourning. Two of the others (2.2, 14.8) might also be. The paint on the remaining head (2.1) is even less well preserved. It could be a male. In the reconstruction the four heads have been placed arbitrarily in three of the panels of the left side, on the assumption that they faced a figure of the deceased, perhaps in the form of a mummy. Head 2.1 theoretically could represent the deceased and thus come from the right side of the coffin, as the recipient of offerings, but the apparent maleness of the figure makes this unlikely. Fragments 17.2 and 17.3 could also be the tops of the heads of two more figures; 17.4 and 17.5 could equally be shown upside down from how they are in Figure 67. Another possibility not considered here is that the flat panel at the foot end of the coffin was also used as a decorative panel, like that of the Deir el-Medina coffin of Taat, which shows an offering scene. This would work for our fragments only if the boards of the foot panel were laid horizontally, whereas it is to be expected that, like those at the head end, they were set vertically.
The texts have two subjects. Maiai’s name and title must have occupied most or all of the vertical columns and also began the horizontal bands. Otherwise the horizontal bands contain versions of the common short prayers known from the rock tombs (door jambs), ushabti figures, scarabs and coffins of the Amarna period (e.g. Sandman 1938, 100–2 [Ay ceiling], 177 [Cairo ushabti 39590], 178 [Turin scarab 5993]). Maiai asks directly to receive food, water, wine and the breath of the north wind. Neither the king nor the Aten are mentioned as intermediaries, although the illumination of Ra is another one of the benefits.

The coffinette from the Central City and the Deir el-Medina coffin of the lady Taat use the spaces between the bands of texts for scenes of attendance upon the deceased that can include named relatives. Apart from the vertical text columns on Fragment 14.4, that accommodate a text run-on, the only evidence we have for how the side panels were filled are the yellow-painted human figures that clearly do belong to scenes of attendance upon the deceased. Not enough is preserved, however, to tell us if the mourners are named relatives or whether scenes other than mourning before the body of the deceased were included.

Scenes of mourning and of offerings are found on coffin sides already in the early Eighteenth Dynasty (Ikram and Dodson 1998, 209, Fig. 267). The Amarna period was conducive to this emphasis, developing a style of ‘godless’ coffin that placed the family at the centre of attention, as it was in the shrines of the few rock tombs where the statue of the owner and wall decoration had been started.

3.6 Concluding remarks (Barry Kemp)

The impression given by the cemetery in the first two seasons of excavation was of a minimalist approach to burial (which might not have been peculiar to the Amarna period). Items of evidence are, however, slowly accumulating to suggest that not everybody behaved in the same way, that some people drew upon the stock of funerary traditions to create a more thoughtful time for the passing of those who had died and to derive satisfaction from taking the trouble to follow known procedures, at least in general spirit. The inclusion of a woodworker’s adze within the facial wrappings of Individual 45 was an act that cannot have been done unconsciously of the Opening of the Mouth ritual, and several burials have preserved the remains of fruit and seeds, either loose or in pottery vessels. Moreover, the professionalism of Maiai’s coffin implies the existence within the city of carpenters/coffin painters with a market to supply.

So far conspicuously absent from the cemetery has been clear evidence for built superstructures that would provide places of memorial and even of continuing, if small-scale, ‘cult’. Most of the grave pits were so close together as to leave little or no space for anything other than a very modest marker. The area of the cemetery is partly defined by a scatter of stones, sometimes of a dark flinty limestone that outcrops on the top of the plateau behind the cemetery. In places (especially on the opposite side of the wadi, near its mouth, in the area surface-planned this year) they lie in loose clusters. A first interpretation has been that they are the remains of small cairns.

Amongst the finds from the three seasons, however, are several that point to something more compact and architectural. Principally they are the two stelae from 2006 (Ambridge and Shepperson 2006, 31, 33, 37–41), fragments of a rough offering-table (object 38535), and three slabs of very soft weathered limestone roughly shaped into the outline of a stela (objects 37858, 37859, 38532). To them can be added the gypsum window (objects 38816, 38817) if the suggestion is accepted that it was originally of small size.

An idea of what we should be thinking of is provided by the cemetery at the site of Aniba in Lower Nubia (Steindorff 1937, 155, 169, 180, 190; Taf. 22a–c, 30c; Bl. 11, 19, 25, 28 (tombs S4, S31, S54, S68). Amidst the foundations of brick funerary chapels consisting of courts, pillared halls and pyramids were many tiny and closely-set brick structures (their sides mostly between 50 and 70 cm only) that resembled pyramids and were sometimes provided with apertures, ‘courts’ or a platform on an equally miniature scale. The Aniba excavators saw them as ‘altars’ although some children’s bones were found in association with them. To judge from the photographs of the Aniba cemetery, its size and what we know now about cemetery excavation, we must conclude that very little of the cemetery ground at Aniba was actually excavated and so the question of whether these little brick pillars served as grave markers or as something else cannot be answered. The same applies to their date range (from Middle Kingdom to Eighteenth Dynasty according to the report, but only by association with the larger adjacent tombs). Similar uncertainties attend comparable structures found in the main cemetery at Buhen (Randall-Maciver and Woolley 1911). For the present it scarcely matters. It is enough that they document a practice of building tiny and closely-packed pyramid-like cult places in cemeteries where the time scale overlaps with the Amarna period.

The shallow wadi in which the cemetery lies is part of a broad wide valley that runs far to the south-east and acts as a funnel to concentrate the wind that commonly reaches Amarna from the north and north-west. To the effects of the wind must be added occasional heavy rainfall that has marked the cemetery surface with a pattern of run-off channels and has, in the course of so doing, washed bones into the wadi and out across the plain in front. There is no means of knowing how much sand and other debris has been lost. The extensive robbery of the site in ancient times will have left the surface chaotically covered in pits and mounds (the appearance today of the Amarna-period cemeteries on the floor of the wadi behind the North Tombs). The action of wind and rain will gradually have filled the hollows and reduced the mounds, re-establishing the almost plane surface that we see today. If mud bricks had regularly been used to build superstructures, the subsequent turning over of the site should have left a residue of mud-brick fragments in the upper sand levels of the site. Occasionally small pieces of what seem to be mud brick have been present, and a few unmistakable pieces lay beside stela 37640. A few loose blocks of worked stone lie on the surface of the wadi or the cemetery itself. They seem, nevertheless, to be wholly insufficient to base upon them a reconstruction of numerous little chapels.

The archaeology of Amarna does, however, open up another possibility. Mud brick (though often utilising desert materials rather than Nile silt) is the material of the city. In the desert priorities were different. At the Workmen’s Village unworked rounded stones set in desert-marl mortar were used as often for building materials. The two were sometimes combined, with stones for the base of the wall and bricks for the upper part (Weatherhead and Kemp 2007, 73). Still further out into the desert, at the Stone Village bricks are a rarity and, when they occur in the excavations, are always formed of desert marl rather than Nile silt. The rounded natural stones set in desert-marl mortar were the main material used. The situation is a classic example of fall-off with distance. The South Tombs Cemetery is just as distant. For this reason we should expect grave superstructures, large or small, to have been built primarily of stones and buff-coloured mortar. Suitable stones are present throughout the excavated deposits in the cemetery, and in lying on the surface help to delimit the extent of the cemetery. Instead of being from amorphous un-mortared cairns, our initial interpretation, they could derive from Aniba-like tiny pillars or pyramids constructed like the buildings at the Stone Village, of stones mortared into place. They could have been plastered with local clay so that on the finished exterior the stones would not show, although it must be admitted that so far no traces of mortar or plaster have been identified, and it would fit the differing degrees of care shown in making the burials if some markers had been left as heaps of stones without mortar. It would be into these that the small but varied collection of pieces that suggest offering-places, listed above, would have fitted. A small hint that this is the right direction in which to be thinking comes from a group of sherds (object 37853), still under study, that derive from a hollow, flat-based vessel, provided with a tiny doorway, the faceted sides of which rose tent-like to create a shape not unlike the little brick pyramids from Aniba.

At many cemeteries of different periods in Egypt laid out on flat ground (Aniba and Medinet el-Ghurab/Gurob are examples for the New Kingdom; for Gurob, Brunton and Englebach 1927, 10–11, Pls. XIII, XIX) the pattern was a bit like that of the housing areas at Amarna. The tombs of the elite stood out from but were also mixed in with the graves of commoners who might also have been their dependants. At Amarna the elite tombs are the rock tombs and thereby separate to a greater degree (although the beginning of the South Tombs Cemetery at the mouth of the wadi is only round the corner from tomb 25, that of Ay). People of the official class, investing more in expensive memorial chapels, were inclined to use them for more than one burial, intending them to serve the whole family in time.

The absence of this class of people from the South Tombs Cemetery seems to have removed the incentive to locate the cemetery on rock where it was possible to dig out multi-chambered family tombs (of the kinds found at Aniba and Medinet el-Ghurab), even though bedrock forms an adjacent slope and above that a low plateau beside our cemetery. (Careful examination of these surfaces has failed to find a trace that they were used for burials). Instead, our cemetery must be the result of a communal choice to prefer the ease of digging pits into a soft bank of sand. This choice of burial style — of a pit for each occasion of burial rather than the maintenance of a family vault that could be re-opened — still leaves open the possibility that families retained a discrete area of single pits for themselves. These could also have been marked with enclosure walls of mortared boulders. The only indirect evidence for this would be linear spaces that had been kept free of graves. It would require the complete excavation of a much larger area to enable that question to be answered.

In the meantime there is the unique case of the brick tomb-chamber in square G51. More than any other grave it creates the expectation of a building on the surface. The thorough examination of the ground now accomplished confirms that, at least on the north and east sides, a space was left free of graves for a distance of at least 5 m. This is enough for an enclosure with small chapel, although it would have included the shallow burial to the south (in square G50, Individual 15; Ambridge and Shepperson 2006, 35, Fig. 6).

The South Tombs cemetery offers an unrivalled opportunity to explore simultaneously the archaeology of burial practice in the New Kingdom, and how far the occupants of Amarna adhered to inherited norms in this respect. Three seasons of intensive excavation and recording have led to the thorough study of only a small strip of ground. Yet a faster and more abbreviated approach would not have produced reliable results either for the study of burial practice or for the human remains. It brings the realisation that the reports of older excavations of New Kingdom cemeteries are likely to account for only a tiny proportion of the evidence that was actually in the ground.

3.7 Human bones from the South Tombs Cemetery (Melissa Zabecki)

All of the skeletal material from the 2008 excavations was analyzed by Melissa Zabecki and Professor Jerome C. Rose, assisted by a team from the University of Arkansas (Gretchen Dabbs, William Schaeffer, Andrew LoPinto, Jessica Scott, Kristin Krueger, Kat Kuckens, and Michele Helton). During the 2006 and 2007 excavations, the skeletal analysis was not straightforward due to the fragmentary nature of the burials. This year, as the excavations focused on the lower, more intact layers of the cemetery, miscellaneous bones, isolated skulls, and cluster individuals were rarely encountered, if at all, because most of the individuals were found in burial pits as opposed to robbers’ pits.

The 2008 excavations produced 38 individuals and 3 isolated mandibles (Table 2 - download PDF). The condition of the skeletal material varied greatly from the very well preserved to salt-encrusted and sun-bleached bone that lacked any organic matrix. The maximum amount of information was gathered from each bone regardless of its condition, but some data including simple age and sex determinations for certain individuals were impossible to collect owing to poor preservation. Such differential preservation complicates the integrity of any archeological skeletal sample.

Of the 38 individuals excavated, 13 were female, 1 was a possible female, 6 were male, 2 were possible males, and 16 were individuals of undetermined sex, most of them being subadults. These counts do not include the three isolated mandibles. This distribution is different from those of the last two years. Where in the past there were more males than females, this year’s distribution shows that there are more females and possible females (37%) than males and possible males (21%). The age group distribution was also different (Figure 68, top). In the past, the largest age group represented was the children (5–20 years). The 2008 excavations resulted in relatively equal distributions of individuals across the age groups (0–5 years: 18%; 5–20 years: 24%; 20–35 years: 21%; 35–50 years: 24%). The only similarity in demographic distribution from past years is the paucity of older adults (50+ years: 3%). In Figure 68, bottom, a combined age distribution chart for all seasons is included as well. This year’s results have pushed the profile into a more expected shape, but still with elevated juvenile deaths. An explanation for this is required, an epidemic being the most likely mechanism.

Figure 68. Distribution of ages at death.Figure 68. Distribution of ages at death.



The pathological profile is similar to past years. Spinal trama was present, only on a smaller scale and in four individuals. Iron deficiency anaemia was again this year a frequent lesion, and was observed in nine skulls in the form of cribra orbitalia and three skulls in the form of porotic hyperostosis (one skull had both cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis). It should be noted that 13 of the 38 individuals were missing their skulls. The missing skulls and pathologies could possibly be included in previous years’ counts, as many of the isolated skulls found in 2006 and 2007 could be associated with the 2008 postcranial material.

Other pathological observations included nine individuals with osteoarthritis on one or more joint surface, one healed broken finger, six individuals with healed and unhealed broken ribs, six individuals with healed broken ulnae, one healed broken clavicle, two individuals with healed broken fibulae, and one healed broken toe. Additionally, major trauma in the form of broken ribs and os coxae with a fatal infection was sustained by one individual who surpasses everyone else in the cemetery for severity of pathology. This individual (no. 59) is discussed in detail in a separate publication (Dabbs and Schaeffer 2008). Spina bifida, a frequently occurring problem in past years, was found again this year in three individuals. The pathology rates are lower than in past years but their presence continues to corroborate the statements made in previous reports about the people being subject to heavy workloads and having diets poor in iron.

High stress levels are also indicated by data for stature. Adult height is an excellent measure of overall health and nutrition. Stature is calculated using long-bone lengths in formulae that estimate living adult height. However, there is an error factor involved in stature calculation, so many researchers simply use femur length for direct comparisons between samples. The individuals from Amarna had the shortest femora, and therefore the shortest statures, of a series of groups from the Nile valley chosen for a comparative study (Figure 69). Calculated heights of the women averaging 152.6 cm (5ft) and the men 161.9 cm (5.3 ft) mean that Amarna adults are the smallest of our available samples.

Figure 69. Stature of Amarna cemetery population (calculated according to femur measurements) compared to statures of other populations from the Nile valley.Figure 69. Stature of Amarna cemetery population (calculated according to femur measurements) compared to statures of other populations from the Nile valley.



The continued cataloguing of the bones involved a review of those done in previous seasons. One result is that the partial remains of Individuals 62a and 62b from this year were matched with the partial remains from Individuals 7 and 11, respectively. Individuals 7 and 11, excavated in 2006, were disarticulated in the grave pit. Their bones were distinguished by the fact that no. 11 demonstrated heavy osteoporosis and no. 7 was younger. When the skeletal material originally excavated as no. 62 was shown to include three distinctly different individuals, the parts present were compared to the rest of the individuals from the cemetery. When it was noticed that 7 and 11 were missing the skeletal elements that 62a and 62b possessed, the 2006 individuals were pulled out and elements were found to match perfectly. This important finding suggests that other partial and cluster individuals could potentially be matched and combined in the future.

The analysis of a small amount of unstudied skeletal material from the 2007 excavations at the South Tombs Cemetery (amounting to five individuals), as well as two individuals excavated in the 2005 survey, was also completed this year (Table 3 - download PDF). Individuals 30, 35, and 36 had skulls and other skeletal elements matched and added. Individuals 32B and 32C were not analyzed for lack of time last year, so were analyzed this year. Individuals I05.1 and I05.2 from 2005 had not been recorded using the current data collection forms. In order to make the data from the entire cemetery consistent, these burials were reanalyzed.

Special Projects: Gretchen Dabbs collected 82 craniometric measurements and eight observations of morphological traits from 57 skulls. Of the 45 adult skulls measured, 23 were female and 21 male. One recorded adult was of undetermined sex. Additionally, 12 subadults with unbroken crania were measured. These data remain unanalyzed. She also collected 23 measurements on all complete scapulae. Seventeen scapulae were measured, and the division between sexes was equal, with one individual being a juvenile of undetermined sex. These data are to be used to test a method of sex estimation based on the scapula.

Andrew LoPinto took the cervical diameters of the permanent teeth from all adult skulls using specially designed calipers. These measurements from adults of known sex will be used to design a multivariate formula for the determination of sex from tooth size. These formulae can then use similar measurements from juvenile skulls to determine their sex. Measurements were taken from 14 adult females, five adult males, and nine adolescents. The results of analysis are that males and females at Amarna are sexually dimorphic in the cervical diameters of their teeth (especially the canines and second premolars) and that assigning sex to children based on measurements of their adult teeth is an acceptable and reliable method.

William Schaeffer took biomechanical measurements of 41 femora and used the data, along with X-rays of the cross-sections, to estimate walking and other uses of the leg. He also used measurements and X-rays of 58 humerii to reconstruct the amount of arm use. The results revealed that the Amarna females tended to have higher femoral strength in different axes of movement than males. This result might be influenced by the fact that the age distribution in the femur sample for males was very small (early-20s males made up most of the sample), while the female sample spanned a longer age period, which allowed their femora to absorb more strain and stress in their longer years of use. Results from the biomechanical study on the humerii are still awaited.

Jessica Scott examined the dental microwear of individuals’ posterior dentition to better understand diet and how it might relate to observations of health status, including high incidences of nutrition-related pathologies and a high juvenile mortality rate. Molds of first and second maxillary and mandibular molars were created from 54 individuals. The teeth were cleaned with acetone-soaked cotton swabs, and vinyl impressions were made using President’s Jet Regular Body Dental Impression Material (ColtPne-Whaledent). Subsequently, the positive epoxy-resin casts made from these impressions were scanned using a Sensofar Plμ white-light scanning confocal profiler. The data were analyzed with specialized software (Toothfrax and SFrax (Surfract)) that provide data that describe the microwear features in three dimensions (area, length, depth, variety, and distribution of features) using scale-sensitive fractal analysis.

Kristin Krueger also focused on microwear (or microscopic scratches and pits that appear on teeth due to food fracture properties), but of the incisors. A total of 14 casts in epoxy resin were prepared and examined in the same way.

The Amarna data from both posterior and anterior dentition were then compared with data from other archaeological populations with various types of primary meat consumption. They did not match, the results being more consistent with a diet based primarily on somewhat tough but soft foods with a high amount of grit inclusions (i.e. sand), most plausibly cereals, perhaps with vegetables as a second major food source.

Kat Kuckens studied the paleodemography of the Amarna sample to investigate the strangely high proportion of individuals in the cemetery who died during their teenage years, when individuals are usually most resilient under normal circumstances. The Amarna profile is similar to skeletal samples of populations known to have suffered from epidemics in history. It does not have the normal ‘U-shaped’ demographical curve when the ages are plotted against other New Kingdom samples (e.g. from Memphis and Qurna). These results should be judged against statements in Hittite records that Egypt in the late Amarna period suffered an outbreak of an infectious epidemic. (The evidence is conveniently gathered in Kozloff 2006, though the term ‘plague’ — and especially ‘bubonic plague’ — is better avoided, since the sources provide no guide to symptoms.)

Michele Helton used the femora X-rays of 44 femora to study the age-related bone loss in the femur head, which can be measured from the radiographs and compared to data published from Egypt and Nubia. This study resulted in an unexpected picture. The trabecular patterns for the younger people showed reduced strength compared to the older individuals. This inverse relationship between age and trabecular bone pattern is unusual and could possibly be related to the fact that the older individuals buried in the cemetery were born elsewhere and had different access to nutritional resources earlier in life than the individuals who spent their entire lives at Amarna.

Other data were collected that were not specific to established research projects, but will be used for comparative studies between Amarna and other sites in Egypt. X-rays of clavicles will be used to determine age of death along with other measurements of the skeleton. Radiographs of tibiae will be used to locate episodes of childhood illness that are recorded in the bone structure. An expanded programme of examination covered all cranial fragments from all of the seasons of excavation, with the aim of distinguishing the different stages through which individuals with iron-deficiency anemia passed.

Publications cited

Ambridge, L. and M. Shepperson, ‘South Tombs cemetery, 2006’, in B. Kemp, ‘Tell el-Amarna 2005–06’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 92, 27–37.

Brunton, G. and R. Engelbach, 1927. Gurob (BSAE 24th year). London, British School of Archaeology in Egypt and Quaritch.

Bruyére, B., 1929. Rapport sur les fouilles de Deir el Médineh (1928). Cairo, IFAO.

Bruyére, B., 1937. Rapport sur les fouilles de Deir el Médineh, 1933–1934. Part 1: La Nécropole de l’Ouest. Cairo, IFAO.

Dabbs, G.R. and W.C. Schaffer, 2008. ‘Akhenaten’s warrior? An assessment of traumatic injury at the South Tombs Cemetery’, Paleopathology Newsletter 142 (June 2008), 20–9.

Dolling, W., 2007. ‘South Tombs Cemetery’, in B. Kemp, ‘Tell el-Amarna 2006–07’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 93, 11–35.

Grajetzki, W., 2003. Burial customs in ancient Egypt: life in death for rich and poor. London, Duckworth.

Ikram, S. and A. Dodson, 1998. The mummy in ancient Egypt; equipping the dead for eternity. London, Thames and Hudson.

Kemp, B., 2003. ‘Tell el-Amarna, 2003.’ Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 89, 10–11.

Kemp, B., 2005. ‘Tell el-Amarna, 2005.’ Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 91, 22–4.

Kemp. B., 2006. ‘The orientation of burials at Tell el-Amarna.’ In Z. Hawass and J. Richards (ed.), The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt: essays in honor of David B. O’Connor. Vol II. Cairo, Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, 21–31.

Kozloff, A., 2006.‘Bubonic plague in the reign of Amenhoptep III?’ KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt 17(3), 36–46, 83–4.

Pendlebury, J.D.S., 1951. The City of Akhenaten, III. London, EES.

Randall-Maciver, D. and C.L. Woolley, 1911. Buhen (Eckley B. Coxe Junior expedition to Nubia VII–VIII). Philadelphia, University Museum.

Rose. J.C., 2006a. ‘Paleopathology of the commoners at Tell Amarna, Egypt, Akhenaten’s capital city’, Memórias Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Vol. 101 (Suppl. 11), 73–6.

Rose, J.C., 2006b. ‘South Tombs Cemetery: the human remains’, in B. Kemp, B. ‘Tell el-Amarna 2005–06.’ Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 92, 21–56.

Roth, A.M., 1992. ‘The psš-kf and the “Opening of the mouth” ceremony: a ritual of birth and rebirth’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 78, 113–47.

Roth, A.M., 1993. ‘Fingers, stars, and the “Opening of the Mouth”: the nature and function of the ntrwj-blades’, 2006 79, 57–79.

Sandman, M., 1938. Texts from the time of Akhenaten (Bibliotheca Aegyptiaca VIII). Brussels, Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth.

Steindorff, G., 1937. Aniba II. Glückstadt, Hamburg, New York, Augustin.

Stevens, A., 2006. Private religion at Amarna; the material evidence (BAR International Series 1587). Oxford, Archaeopress.

Taylor, J.H., 2001. ‘Patterns of colouring on ancient Egyptian coffins from the New Kingdom to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty: an overview’, in W.V. Davies (ed.), Colour and painting in ancient Egypt. London, British Museum, 164–81.

Weatherhead, F. and B.J. Kemp, 2007. The Main Chapel at the Amarna Workmen’s Village and its wall paintings (MEES 85). London, EES.

Zabecki, M., 2007. ‘Human bones from the South Tombs Cemetery’, in B. Kemp ‘Tell el Amarna, 2006–7.’ Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 93, 53–9.

 
 

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