Negative walls and foundation trenches of Building A

Work was resumed at sector SAV1 East – this season we are focusing on Square 4. The aim is to understand the respective part of Building A, especially the wall 34, its foundation bed 33 and the adjacent floor pavements.

IMG_1401aToday, work continued in the foundation trench 33, exposing more of 18th Dynasty mud bricks. However, most of the bricks were removed in antiquity. The filling material of the trench mainly contains pottery from Late Christian times and also some Ottoman sherds. The 18th Dynasty ceramics can be dated to Thutmoside times, corresponding to our previous assessments of the dating of Building A.

SAV1 East, Square 4. In the front the newly exposed bricks in  foundation bed 33.

SAV1 East, Square 4. In the front the newly exposed bricks in foundation bed 33.

As observed in the last years, SAV1 East yielded already after a few days of excavation a considerable number of bread moulds. This is one of the distinctive features of this sector within the New Kingdom town – markedly different from SAV1 North and also SAV1 West.

Back at SAV1East, Sai Island

SAI_0926As scheduled, we started today the 2014 field season with our team of workmen, supervised by Rais Imad Mohammed Farah and our NCAM inspector Huda Magzoub. It’s very good to be back at SAV1East – we extended our excavation area towards the North and West aiming to cover more of Building A.

SAI_0936SAI_0946Especially the Western part proved already very interesting after the first surface cleaning – almost 50 % of the ceramics are 18th Dynasty in date! They can be well dated to Thutmoside time respectively the mid 18th Dynasty. Like we observed in 2013, the amount of beer jars and bread moulds is striking! Especially conical bread moulds increase in quantity the further south we get in our new squares – mirroring the results of last year and probably reflecting the nearness to Temple A, the local Amun-Re temple of the 18th Dynasty.

Just today, I had already fragments of 30 bread moulds among the surface material, always associated with 18th Dynasty beer jars and flower pots. Hopefully we will be able to contextualize these findings this year more precisely!

Bread Moulds from SAV1E: An Update

The numerous fragments of bread moulds we discovered this year at SAV1E have already been mentioned.

Selection of fragmented bread moulds from SAV1E.

Selection of fragmented bread moulds from SAV1E.

Several hundreds of fragments were found 2013, outnumbering the very small amount of less than a dozen from five years of excavations at SAV1N considerably. It seems logical to assume that this frequent appearance of bread at SAV1E is connected with the neighbourhood to Temple A, located just 30 meters towards the South.


This might also be supported by the fact that a larger amount of bread moulds came to light in the southern part of SAV1E, especially in Square 2B.

Helen Jacquet-Gordon has published a “Tentative Typology of Egyptian Bread Moulds” in 1981.

Bread Moulds Type D: Fig 5 of Jacquet-Gordon 1981.

Bread Moulds Type D: Fig 5 of Jacquet-Gordon 1981.

Our moulds from SAV1E (and the small number from SAV1N) correspond to her type D – New Kingdom versions of tall, tube-like shape. They are in general very slender with rounded bases – but a prolongation at the bottom appears as well, sometimes with a kind of button-base, but more often with a marked point at the base.

The exterior of the vessels is often very asymmetrical – they are handmade, formed around an inner core/mould, resulting in irregularly shaped direct rims (cf. Rose 2007: 143). The dimensions of the bread moulds from SAV1E vary, but most are between 20-30 cm in height with a diameter of around 5-6 cm.

Field drawings of some of the bread mould fragments from SAV1E.

Field drawings of some of the bread mould fragments from SAV1E.

As Jacquet-Gordon has shown very clearly, this type of bread mould is associated predominantly with New Kingdom temple sites (1981: 19-20), but occasionally also found in tombs and at settlement sites like Amarna (Rose 2007: 143, 288, HC2) and Elephantine. In the case of the latter, very small amounts appear in strata of the New Kingdom and it cannot be ruled out that they are connected with the local temples of Khnum and Satet.

It has to be stressed that a later variant of bread mould type D, labelled by Jacquet-Gordon as type E, is frequently found at Napatan and Meroitic sites in Sudan (e.g. at Kerma, Gebel Barkal, Kawa, Sanaam and Tabo). These moulds are characterised by a more flared shape and a larger mouth diameter, usually less tall than types D. The elongated point of the bases of this type of mould seems to be directly related to the pointed bases of the New Kingdom variants as illustrated at SAV1E. The date of the latter as 18th Dynasty is nevertheless certain as they find close parallels in stratified material at Elephantine (personal observation) and also at Tombos (Edwards 2011: 78, Fig. 3.32). The moulds at Tombos were found in the fill of an 18th Dynasty tomb (TMB005/1) just next to the famous tomb of Siamun (TMB005), recently excavated by Stuart Thyson Smith (see Smith 2003). Interestingly, from the 18th Dynasty tombs on Sai Island, the small number of ceramic objects identified as bread moulds are of a distinctly different form, more closer to Jacquet-Gordon’s type E (Minault-Gout/Thill 2012, Part I: 339, Part II: 136, Pl. 130).

All in all, the large quantities of bread moulds found in 2013 at SAV1E might enable us in the future to reassess in more detail the development of New Kingdom types down to Napatan and Meroitic times, with a special focus of potential local variations in Upper Nubia.

References cited:

Edwards, D. N. 2011. The Third-Second Millennia BC. Kerma and New Kingdom Settlements, in: A. Osman/D.N. Edwards, The Archaeology of a Nubian Frontier. Survey on the Nile Third Cataract, Sudan, Bristol, 59-87.

Jacquet-Gordon, H. 1981. A Tentative Typology of Egyptian Bread Moulds, in: Do. Arnold (ed.), Studien zur Altägyptischen Keramik, SDAIK 9, Mainz am Rhein, 11-24.

Minault-Gout, A./Thill, F. 2012. Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5), FIFAO 69, Cairo.

Rose, P. 2007. The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna, EES, 83rd Excavation Memoir, London.

Smith, St.T. 2003. Wretched Kush. Ethnic identities and boundaries in Egypt’s Nubian Empire, London and New York.

Back to some initial ideas: Bread at SAV1E

Having finished excavating Square 2b, the southern extension of our area SAV1E in the New Kingdom town, I would like to come back to some of my thoughts at the very beginning of our work there: It intrigued me from the start that especially in the southern part there are so numerous fragments of bread moulds – several hundreds of fragments were found this season, the detailed quantitative analysis is still on-going. Naturally, we connected this frequent appearance of bread with the neighbourhood to Temple A, located just 30 meters further to the South.

Today, having completed the section drawing of the Southern baulk of Square 2b, I noticed again a high number of bread cones and some ashy areas. It is especially feature 26 which is interesting in this respect and it shall be briefly introduced here: From the very start of digging, the South-western corner of Square 2b comprised a sandy depression and a lot of mud brick fragments.

Overview of eastern part of Sq. 2b - feature 26 is visible in the background.

Overview of eastern part of Sq. 2b – feature 26 is visible in the background.

We soon labelled this “feature 26”, obviously a kind of pit in the surroundings of feature 26 and not too far away from the storage bin 14. Going deeper and cleaning all the collapsed bricks, the size of feature 26 decreased from 1.85 x 2,05 m to just 1.30 x 1.70 m – but its outline became much clearer! Its eastern side is quite well preserved, no matter that the bricks are very decayed. It definitely had once a circular shape and both inside and towards the western part there were ashy deposits – and again, a large number of bread moulds appeared!

Feature 26 in its final state of excavation.

Feature 26 in its final state of excavation.

Altogether, feature 26 might really represent the remains of an oven – and maybe an area for heating the typical bread cones.

As feature 26 is located well outside of Building A, set against the natural gravel deposit on the sloping ground at the southern area of SAV1E, I tentatively propose that this structure belongs to some kind of an industrial zone between Temple A in the South and Building A in the North.

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!