The Amarna Project is still on site, continuing our long-term study of the cemeteries of Amarna. The work follows many seasons of excavation at a large burial ground near the South Tombs and two seasons at a second cemetery, possibly for labourers, in a large wadi near the North Tombs.
North Cliffs Cemetery
This year we have shifted our attention to a smaller necropolis at the base of the cliffs near the North Tombs. It lies just below the Tomb of Panehesy, one of the most important officials in the Aten cult. The cemetery is badly robbed but still full of research potential. Who was buried here? Where did they live at Akhetaten? Why were they interred in a separate cemetery? And how do their graves and skeletons compare to others so far excavated at Amarna? These questions – and many others – are helping shape our work.
So far, it is clear that the site is a burial ground for a mixed population of adults and children, who are again buried mostly in matting coffins and with occasional, simple burial goods such as faience jewellery and pottery vessels. The graves opened so far usually contain just one individual. The cemetery is much closer in character to the South Tombs Cemetery than the very unusual North Tombs Cemetery. It is tempting to identify it as a burial ground used by people living in the North Suburb, although this must remain speculation for now.
One of the goals of the season is to determine how big the cemetery is so we are spreading our excavation squares out to try to find its edges.
The graves appear quite quickly as the stony desert surface is removed. Here Gretchen Dabbs, Waleed Mohamed Omar and Ahmed Sayed define one of the graves, sieving sand as it is removed.
Melanie Pitkin and Sofie Schiødt plan burials before the remains are lifted and returned to the dig house for further study. The graves are often cut quite deeply into the desert surface.
Mindi King Wetzel and Yahya Sabit find a piece of incised wood that is perhaps part of a hair pin worn by one of the people of Amarna.
Although the site has been very badly robbed, it seems to have been spared much exposure to flooding, so the preservation of organic materials is often very good.
We are most grateful to the Ministry of Antiquities, and particularly the staff of the Minia and Mallawi offices, for their support of the cemetery work. We are indebted, too, to the National Endowment of Humanities for funding the excavations, which are run in partnership with Southern Illinois University.