As with most large-scale excavation projects, the work at Amarna produces large numbers of small finds. In the field, each newly excavated object is described and drawn on an individual registration card (or drawn on a separate sheet if too large). Over the course of the past 30 years, the work of many registrars has enabled this task to be kept largely up to date. Until recently, a relatively small selection of objects was photographed in black and white and on colour slide each season. With the growth of digital photography, it is now possible to record much larger quantities of objects this way. After processing, the objects are packed appropriately and stored in the on-site magazines.
The resulting corpus of finds is an extremely rich resource. It offers much to the study of the social workings of the city – the manner in which the city functioned and its residents interacted – alongside issues of technology and manufacture. In its quantity, however, the corpus is somewhat overwhelming. This is exacerbated by the fact that the recent work has produced only a fraction of the objects excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the record of which has in effect been inherited by the current project (although the objects themselves are widely dispersed around the world). During its entire excavation history, the site has produced somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 objects (excluding pottery vessels). We are really only on the verge of utilising this broader corpus to its fullest.
One way of approaching the material is to study and publish object corpora from discrete areas of the site, as with Andy Boyce’s (1995) study of the objects from house P46.33 in the Main City. The publication of the recent excavations at Grid 12 (also a housing area in the Main City) will follow a similar format. Preparation of this work is well in advance. Alternatively, certain artefact or material groups can be isolated for in-depth study, as with the current statuary and leather projects.
Amarna also offers an important chance to apply techniques of distribution analysis – on a wide and varied basis – to the corpus. This is the methodological foundation for an ongoing project themed ‘space, object and society at Amarna’. An initial stage in the project is the compilation of the considerable backlog of finds from past seasons, as well as those from the current excavations, into a standardised database (the Amarna Small Finds Database). In the future, this will be linked with a GIS framework (the development of which is the work of Barry Kemp) to allow the integration of objects and space across the site. The project aims on the one hand to contribute to our understanding of the society that made and occupied the city, exploring themes including social interaction; wealth, status and prestige; neighbourhood and community; the private and the public; and independence and influence. It also seeks to move beyond the treatment of the object record as an adjunct to architecture towards considering an object corpus from a single site as a cohesive unit, and giving greater attention to the relationships between objects themselves and between objects and spatial elements.
Boyce, A., 1995. ‘Report on the 1987 excavations. House P46.33: the finds’, in B. J. Kemp, Amarna Reports VI, London: Egypt Exploration Society, 44–136.