We are pleased to welcome Dr. Erin Peters to our mission. Dr. Peters is a Joint Lecturer and Assistant Curator, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum of Natural History. (Note to our non-US colleagues: both of these institutions are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.) Her doctoral thesis examined additions and renovations to temples in Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus. She has joined us this season for ten days to help us study the remains of the possible Osiris temple we are uncovering near the dig house since this structure is likely Hadrianic in date. She is also blogging her time with us on the Carnegie Museum’s website. Welcome Erin!
Yesterday in the test trench north of the Ramses II temple we found the skeleton of another human, the second one, in the same clean sand layer with all the animal offerings. This individual’s head was facing northeast, and they were laid on their back with their hands on their pelvis. Like the first human, this one had no apparent grave goods or constructed tomb and no evidence of jewelry or any other possessions or objects. And like all the skeletons found thus far, this one has no traces of mummification. Yesterday’s human skeleton is located fully 20 meters away from the first one, but in the same layer of clean sand. Today we found a third human skeleton in the north/south trench about mid-way between the other two human skeletons. This one was mostly buried by the baulk with only the skull protruding pointing northeast, but like the other two showed no signs of mummification. However, it was different in that it was interred under a mud-brick layer and had two ceramic jars and five molded terra cotta ushebtis (small statues to serve the dead in the afterlife) located at its head. Three ushebtis were inside one jar lying on its side with two more ushebtis laid alongside it, and the other jar standing upright was filled with only sand with no trace of whatever offering may originally have been inside.
The animal and human skeletons were all laid at a similar depth, and it seems that we may be nearing the end of this large quantity of skeletons/offerings. Throughout the trench by the end of today we had made good vertical progress, and still have bones in one location only: underneath the crocodile of a few days ago, there has been continuous layers of bovine parts all cut up as for food offerings, with many skulls with large horns preserved. We have found also at this location a single course of mud brick running under what we hope to be the bottom of the bovine parts as if it were a low platform to hold them. We have a few mud bricks here or there in association with most or all other skeletons, but no other groups of mud bricks forming clear platforms. And also throughout, I have used the term “skeleton” though it is clear through soil stains (decayed organic matter that tints the sand or soil surrounding bones a dark brown) that all interments were animals, animal parts or humans with the flesh still on the bones.
We are still in the clean yellow sand layer – our geophysical survey’s noted deep homogenous infilling, and it shows no signs of ending. The stone structure shown on the geophysical survey results should appear in the trench soon since we are now at about two meters in depth. I will certainly update you in the days to come!