Five weeks of field work at Tell Basta have already gone by. As it often happens in excavations, the best finds come up at the end of the season; so, I finally got some ceramic material from ‘in situ’ contexts.
Nevertheless, the actual amount of ceramics this season is immense and I have a great deal of work. Excavations in the two grid squares Y/2 and Z/2 revealed thick layers of potsherds starting from the topsoil. The majority of these mixed assemblages date to Roman and Late Antique times containing some Ptolemaic and older material, but unfortunately no intact vessels. The assemblages are composed of amphorae, cooking wares, fine wares and coarse wares providing a large range of types.
North African (ARS) (on the left) and Egyptian (ERS) (on the right) fine wares
Some ware groups display Egyptian and imported types, e.g. amphorae (AE3, LRA1, LRA 4, Tripolitanian type, Phoenician Torpedo amphora) and fine wares (ERS A, ERS B, ARS, CRS). These imported amphorae and fine wares originate from three main geographic regions: the north African regions of modern Tunisia and Libya, the island of Cyprus and the Levant. Imported cooking wares and coarse wares are uncommon though. The majority of such material recovered at the site is of local Egyptian origin.
The south-eastern quarter of grid square Z/2 is likely to be the continuation of a Roman pit that was discovered in the bordering grid square Z/3 in 2010. The investigated ceramic material deriving from that assemblage shows significant similarities with the pottery from the Roman pit. Despite being very fragmented, the pit-assemblage from Z/2 provided some nice pottery finds, e.g. a Roman lamp with the remains of the fuse once used in it.
Roman lamp with remains of fuse
In grid square Y/7 we were lucky to find ‘in situ’ artefacts. The surface layer and contexts were more homogeneous compared to the mixed layers of the grid squares Y/2 and Z/2. According to the pottery and terracotta figurines, the surface layer of Y/7 and the mud brick structures underneath date to the 4th/3rd century BC. Just recently, promising pottery contexts appeared within a room in the mud brick building excavated in this grid square. The room contained ‘in situ’ finds of several cooking pots, jars and few bowls. Some of them are preserved up to 50% or more. In few cases we found intact vessels. They all date to the 4th/3rd century BC. Some of these vessels exhibit organic remains on their interiors and traces from use on the fire on their exterior surfaces. Particularly cooking wares and finds of animal bones, fish remains and shells derive from ash-layers within this room and point towards the discovery of a place used for food processing. Still, further studies on that room and analysis of its material remains in conjunction with comparable finds from previous seasons have to be carried out. This will hopefully enable us to learn more about dining habits and food preferences at ancient Bubastis.
Mandy lifting an intact cooking pot in grid square Y/7
While I have an active and busy time studying the daily excavated potsherds and ceramic contexts, I’m happy to have a good team that supports me and helps me in progressing the pottery work at the Tell. So far, we continue the documentation of ceramics from last seasons, including currently excavated material. Rabea spends hours each day with a pencil in her hand drawing potsherds. During the last weeks, Cindy and Christopher did the same. Furthermore, we have trained the Egyptian inspectors in ceramic studies and we were happy to have our Egyptian colleague Ashraf Senussi with us. Ashraf stayed at the site for few days and had a look on some Old Kingdom pottery from the Ka-Chapel of Pepi I. that was excavated between 2000 and 2002. Further work on that material will be carried out in autumn season 2013.