Some data from the on-going ceramic analysis

Simultaneously with the 2013 excavation in SAV1E, the East sector within the Pharaonic town of Sai Island, the processing of the ceramic material was being carried out and will continue in the next weeks. Especially the New Kingdom material still has to be recorded in detail, with entries in the database and by drawings. But some basic characteristics of the material can already be outlined as follows: 279 find numbers of sherds (counting between just a few sherds and 10 baskets full of fragments) were sorted and processed – a total of 29.178 pieces comprised 16.972 sherds of Post-New Kingdom origin (58 %), mostly of Post-Meroitic, Medieval and Ottoman date. This large percentage of Post-Pharaonic material is changing from one square to another: following the sloping landscape of SAV1E, the shallow deposits in Square 1a to the North are mostly Post-Pharaonic, whereas the material from the deep depression south of Building A, especially in Square 2b to the South contained 60 % of 18th Dynasty ceramics!

Overview of part of SAV1E with labels of squares; note the slope towards the South and East

Overview of part of SAV1E with labels of squares; note the slope towards the South and East

The general distribution of the ceramics within SAV1E can be illustrated as:
Square 1a (10 x 2 m)    22 %
Square 1 (10 x 10 m)    27 %
Square 2 (10 x 10 m)    10 %
Square 2a (2.5 x 6 m)    8 %
Square 2b (10 x 2 m)    33 %

The squares with the least preserved features – square 2, and here especially its northern part, and square 2a – are together just responsible for 18 % of the material, whereas the small square 2b (10 x 2 m) yielded 33 % of the material. Although the material retrieved from this square 2b was mixed until the lowest level excavated so far, it comprised a total of 5.786 New Kingdom sherds, counting up to 60 % of the pottery from the square and to 47 % of all of the New Kingdom material from SAV1E!

IMG_3239 beschriftet

Overview of Southern part of SAV1E, showing square 2b during the course of excavating dense dump deposits

I would like to associate this fact with the nature of the archaeological deposit in square 2b as massive dump layer comprising obviously rubbish from both Building A as well as from the adjacent area to the South, just north of temple A. This zone north of Temple A yielded interesting mud brick features, recently published by M. Azim in CRIPEL 29, and obviously datable to the very early history of New Kingdom activity on Sai Island.

Summing up, the percentage of New Kingdom material increases towards the South of SAV1E, closer to Temple A and decreases towards the North (Square 1a and Square 1). Except for a small number of Ramesside sherds, all of the New Kingdom pottery from SAV1E can be dated to the early to mid 18th Dynasty. Further analysis will focus on the question whether there is any functional difference within this New Kingdom corpus according to find positions – be it in respect to shapes and forms or to wares and fabrics.



Broken Nubian Vessels at SAV1E

Sometimes archaeologists just need luck – and lucky we were today: at the very edge of our gravel deposit in Square 2, just next to the newly discovered feature 18, a small pile of pot sherds was found.

Nubian sherds feature 18

Interestingly, they belong mostly to a large Nubian storage vessel – which we started to reconstruct in the afternoon as soon as the sherds have been cleaned.

progress fixing sherdsThere was also Nubian fine ware of the Kerma culture present, together with small fragments of Egyptian beer jars and dishes. All in all, the recent evidence from SAV1E confirms the appearance of both Nubian and Egyptian wares in the early occupation phases of the New Kingdom. It compares perfectly with our findings in SAV1N.

That Sai Island was an important northern stronghold of the Kerma Kingdom is already well known, but the detailed relations between the indigenous inhabitants and the Egyptians at the beginning of the 18th Dynasty is still poorly understood. With finds like ours today, we are making small steps forward in assessing what seems to have been a complex coexistence of cultures with a lot of interactions.

Processing New Kingdom Ceramics

As every day, processing ceramics and drawing selected vessels was carried out today. We are happy that Huda Magzoub, our inspector and skilled drafts person, joined us again in the lab to help with drawings.

DSC_2097Documentation of the material from old excavations at SAV1N, especially from the early levels of the 18th Dynasty, is continuing; the freshly excavated material from SAV1E requires cleaning and reconstruction work as first step. Today, we finished the in situ-vessels from feature 14, the large beaker and the small ovoid jar – they are now ready for drawing!

vessels 39 + 40

Pots in Our Hands!

After finishing the detailed drawing of storage bin 14, we finally could move the in situ pots! We managed to recover the complete beaker in one piece – a great moment of joy for DSC_1849the ceramicist!

The smaller red burnished vessel was broken and fell into some pieces, which we will be able to fix together, reconstructing the jar.

Having the pots in our hands, and being able to analyse them closely, I can now also confirm their presumed dating: both are early 18th Dynasty, pre-dating Thutmose III and thus early than the nearby Temple A.

Therefore it is safe to assume that feature 14 belongs to an early occupation phase of SAV1E during the very beginning of the New Kingdom – just on the arrival of the Egyptians on Sai Island!

In situ Pots in Square 2 – an Update

Today, we cleaned the small bin in Square 2 and christened it “Feature 14“. We now have the complete outline of the feature and will document it with a detailed drawing tomorrow – this will complement our photographic documentation.

This is why we kept the Documenting Feature 14ceramics found inside still in place – and great news here: exactly as we hoped, there was another intact vessel in the Northwest corner of the bin, just next to the one we saw last week! Both pots clearly date to the early 18th Dynasty and are set on debris which filled the bin. Other fragments of sherds of the early New Kingdom were discovered in the filling material during cleaning – nothing later, so it really is an undisturbed context! In the eastern part of feature 14, a pottery dish was smashed by collapsed mud bricks and is still only partly visible.

Feature 14 status 1901

In situ 18th Dynasty Pottery!

Just before closing for the weekend, we started cleaning a small storage bin set against a gravel deposit in the south eastern part of Square 2. It is located outside of our main building (Building A) and was found with what seemed to be original filling material.

MohammedMohammed Feature 14 did a very good job working on this fragile structure, brushing its outline and exposed carefully the upper part of a 18th Dynasty beaker with a smaller vessel inside. These vessels are still in place where they have been left c. 3400 years ago!


We will continue here on Saturday and empty the bin, but the find is indeed exciting and just a perfect closing of a sucessful week: in situ material from the original use of this structure confirms our proposed dating of the New Kingdom activity in this area to the early 18th Dynasty! Feature 14 a

We will know more once the complete vessels  have been taken out and processed – and we will keep you posted!

From House Hold to Drawing Sheets

From working at several archaeological sites in Egyptian Delta and Nile valley up to the First Nile cataract and acquaintance with various types of ceramics, it can be said that the pottery collection coming from SAV1 North in Sai Island offers a significant opportunity to study a great diversity of both Egyptian and Nubian pottery. These are diverse in fabrics, manufacture techniques and shapes. Such a variety is evidence of a multi-cultural society that has lived on Sai around ca. 1400 BC.

During the first ten days of the 2013 mission, pottery drawings achieved have covered a good amount of these various ceramics mainly including the essential elements of house hold such as storage vessels, dishes, bowls and cooking pots.

Fatma KeshkThe Nubian ceramics, containing a good majority of cooking pots decorated with impressions from rectangular or circular basketry, recall the Nubian pottery found on Elephantine Island during the early New Kingdom in shapes, decorations and handmade techniques. Other vessels like dishes, flower pots and incense burner are typical of Egyptian 18th Dynasty style.

Drawing both Nubian and Egyptian pottery simultaneously allows a worthy chance of comparison. The pursuit of ceramics documentation throughout this season can indeed expose other interesting details that are crucial to the study of the whole pottery corpus in Sai.

Bread and Beer

Having started our excavations as planned in the new area SAV1E, located 50 meters north of the sandstone temple A within the Pharaonic town of Sai Island, we encounter already some intriguing aspects. Just after 10 cms from the surface, first mud bricks appeared, still loosely scattered but obviously a hint to our expected Pharaonic building below. The ceramic material of the New Kingdom dates mainly to the early 18th Dynasty and the Thutmoside era – another feature which supports our prospects. The corpus of pottery is largely comparable with SAV1N, the excavation area further to the North at the enclosure wall. The so far most interesting aspect is a large quantity of New Kingdom beer jars and bread moulds. The latter have been almost missing in 5 years of work at SAV1N, but only the first two days at SAV1E yielded more than 50 pieces! Our preliminary interpretation refers to the neighbourhood of SAV1E to temple A – bread moulds and beer jars are typically associated with Pharaonic temple cult. A functional assessment of SAV1E is of course not possible at this very early state of work, but a connection with temple A is indeed likely. We are very much looking forward to our next discoveries!