Tell el-Retaba

Tell el-Retaba

  • Project name:

    Polish-Slovak Archaeological Mission in Tell el-Retaba

  • Type of site:

    Settlement

    Location:

    Egypt
    Wadi Tumilat

    Dating:

    – Second Intermediate Period (17th–16th century BC)
    – New Kingdom (16th–11th century BC)
    – Third Intermediate Period (11th–7th century BC)
    – Late Period (7th–4th century BC)

Most interesting finds:

– Hyksos settlement and cemetery (17th–16th century BC)
– Early 18th dynasty settlement (16th–15th century BC)
– Fortress of Ramesses II (13th–12th century BC) – defense walls, garrison barracks, workshops, granaries
– Fortress of Ramesses III (12th–11th century BC) – defense walls, garrison barracks
– Houses of the Third Intermediate Period settlement (11th–7th century BC)
– Stable from the Third Intermediate Period (11th–7th century BC)
– “Tower house” from the Late Period (7th–4th century BC)

History of research:

Dates of PCMA mission’s work:

2007–

Type of research:

Field prospection (2007), geophysical research (2007, 2008, 2010), excavations (since 2008)

Directors:

Sławomir Rzepka, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw
Jozef Hudec, Aigyptos Foundation

Co-operating institutions:

– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Slovak Academy of Sciences
– Aigyptos Foundation

Additional information:

The site had been excavated several times before the Polish-Slovak Mission started work. In 1880, E. Naville mistakenly identified it as a Roman military camp. In 1905, W.M.F. Petrie conducted one season of excavations and uncovered several phases of defense walls dating to the New Kingdom. He also explored a Third Intermediate Period necropolis (presently inaccessible). In 1930, S. Schott carried out a survey, during which he found large numbers of flint tools dating to the Archaic Period and the Old Kingdom. In 1978–1981, research on the site was conducted by an American mission under the direction of Hans Goedicke, but its results were never published (not even preliminary reports exist). Egyptian missions have worked in Tell el-Retaba as well; the results of their research also have yet to be published.

The following grants were realized in the framework of the project:
– Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland grant no. N N109 244839: “Research on the settlement and defense architecture in Tell el-Retaba”, realized in the years 2010–2013;
– National Science Centre of Poland grant no. 2012/05/B/HS3/03748: “Influence of environmental factors on the settlement history of Tell el-Retaba”, realized in the years 2013–2016;
– National Science Centre of Poland grant no. 2015/17/B/HS3/00597: “Egyptian settlement of the Third Intermediate Period in Tell el-Retaba”, realized in the years 2016–2018;
– Slovak Research and Development Agency grant no. APVV-5970-12: “Slovak research of ancient Egyptian civilization”, realized in the years 2012–2017.

Description of the site and research:

Tell el-Retaba lies at a strategic point in the central part of Wadi Toumilat, which was crossed by an important route connecting Egypt with Syro-Palestine. Some researchers identify this place with biblical Pithom, mentioned in Exodus. The Polish-Slovak Mission aims to reconstruct the history of the ancient settlement in Tell el-Retaba and determine how it was influenced by cultural and environmental factors.

The oldest settlement in Tell el-Retaba is related to the presence of the Hyksos, hailing from Syro-Palestine, who ruled Egypt in the 17th–16th century BC as the 15th dynasty. Excavations uncovered fragments of houses from this period as well as several Hyksos graves with burial chambers covered with mud-brick barrel vaults /Figs 1, 2/. As is typical of the Levantine culture (the bearers of which were the Hyksos), these graves were located inside the settlement and not on a separate cemetery outside.

At the beginning of the 18th dynasty (mid-16th century BC), an Egyptian settlement developed on the ruins of the Hyksos one. In the middle of this dynasty’s reign, the site was abandoned for unknown reasons and remained uninhabited until the beginning of the 19th dynasty.

The first fortress in Tell el-Retaba was built by Ramesses II (19th dynasty, 13th century BC; earlier settlements had not been fortified). Its mud-brick walls were approximately 6 m thick. Excavations conducted in recent years uncovered defense walls, garrison barracks and granaries /Figs 3, 4/. Inside the fortress, a few child burials were found /Fig. 5/. According to Egyptian custom, adults were buried in cemeteries outside the settlement, but the location of these necropoles is unknown. Ramesses II also built the temple of Atum; a fragment of a stele depicting the god Re-Horachte as well as fragments of relief-decorated wall blocks, reused in later structures, came from this building /Figs 6, 7/.

Approximately 100 years later Ramesses III (20th dynasty) replaced the old fortress with a new one, larger and better fortified (its defense walls were about 9 m thick). From the west, the stronghold was entered through a massive gate of the “migdol” type (Egyptians borrowed this type of defense structure from Syro-Palestine). Military barracks of the garrison were uncovered recently along the south wall of the fortress /Figs 8, 9, 10/. The building, at least 70 m long, consisted of identical flats comprising six rooms: three wide and three narrow ones. Units on the ground floor were used as kitchens and storerooms; bedrooms must have been located on the upper story.

In the Third Intermediate Period (11th–7th century BC), the weakened Egyptian state was unable to maintain the fortress; however, a large, dense settlement developed on its ruins. Several houses from this period have been uncovered to date /Fig. 11/, as well as a large stable /Fig. 12/.

Tell el-Retaba was inhabited also in the Late Period (7th–4th century BC). Recently, a “tower house” typical of this period has been discovered /Fig. 13/. Although only its lowest parts have been preserved, its very thick walls (up to 1.8 m thick) suggest that it must have been several stories high.

Project bibliography:

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Jarmużek, Ł., Dubcová, V., and Hulková, L. (2017). Tell el-Retaba, season 2016. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 26/1, 109–135

Buławka, S. (2017). Flint artefacts from Tell el-Retaba. Polish-Slovak Archaeological Mission, Seasons 2010–2016. Ägypten und Levante, 27, 87–98

Šefčáková, A. (2017). Anthropological observations from Tell el-Retaba. Ägypten und Levante, 27, 99–106

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Jarmużek, Ł., Dubcová, V., Hulková, L., Wodzińska, A. and Šefčáková, A., with appendix by E. Stopková. (2017). From Hyksos tombs to Late Period tower houses. Tell el-Retaba – seasons 2015–2016. Ägypten und Levante, 27, 19–86

Trzciński, J., Zaremba, M., Rzepka, S., Bogusz, W., Godlewski, T. and Szczepański, T. (2017). Preliminary back-analysis of the height of mud brick fortifications based on geoarchaeological data – Tell el-Retaba site, Egypt. Studia Quaternaria, 34/2, 99–108

Černý, M. and Hudec, J. (2016). Fortifications at Tell El-Retaba. Asian and African Studies, 25/2, 117–144

Gręzak, A. (2016). Second Intermediate Period and 18th Dynasty Bone Remains from Tell el-Retaba. Ägypten und Levante, 26, 115–128

Hudáková, L. and Hudec, J. (2016). Fragment of a Ramesside Stela from Tell El-Retaba. Asian and African Studies, 25/2, 163–172

Malleson, C. (2016). Archaeobotanical Investigations at Tell el-Retaba. 2nd Intermediate period – 18th dynasty cemetery and settlements. Ägypten und Levante, 26, 129–144

Nour el-Din, M., Hulkova, L., Wodzińska, A., Sefcáková, A. and Hudec, J. (2016). Egyptian Mission Rescue Excavations in Tell el-Retaba. Part 2: The Second Intermediate Period Cemetery. Ägypten und Levante, 26, 75–114

Rzepka, S. (2016). Tell el-Retaba. In I. Zych (ed.), Centrum Archeologii Śródziemnomorskiej Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego. Raport roczny 2015 (pp. 50–51). Warszawa

Trzciński, J., Zaremba, M., Rzepka, S., Welc, F., and Szczepański, T. (2016). Preliminary Report on Engineering Properties and Environmental Resistance of Ancient Mud Bricks from Tell el-Retaba Archaeological Site in the Nile Delta. Studia Quaternaria, 33/1, 47–56

Hudec, J., Stopková, E. and Fulajtár, E. (2015). Historical and Environmental Determinations of the Ancient Egyptian Fortresses in Tell el-Retaba. Asian and African Studies, 24/2, 247–283

Gręzak, A. (2015). Ramesside and Third Intermediate Period Bone Remains from Tell el-Retaba. Ägypten und Levante, 25, 167–174

Malleson, C. (2015). Appendix: Tell el-Retaba 2012. Preliminary report on archaeobotanical investigations. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 24/1, 156–163

Malleson, C. (2015). Archaeobotanical Investigations at Tell el-Retaba. Ramesside Fortresses and 3rd Intermediate Period Town (Area 9), Polish-Slovak (PCMA) Mission Seasons 2010–14. Ägypten und Levante, 25, 175–200

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Jarmużek, Ł., Dubcová, V., Hulková, L., Odler, M., Wodzińska, A., Trzciński, J., Šefčáková, A., Sójka, P., Fulajtár, E., Černý, M. and Tirpák, J. (2015). From Hyksos Settlers to Ottoman Pipe Smokers. Tell el-Retaba 2014. Ägypten und Levante, 25, 97–166

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Jarmużek, Ł., Hulková, L. and Dubcová, V. (2015). Tell el-Retaba. Season 2012. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 24/1, 139–155

Wodzińska, A. (2015). Tell el-Retaba 2012: the pottery. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 24/1, 164–172

Wodzińska, A. (2015). Tell el-Retaba: Ceramic Survey 2007. In P. Kousoulis and N. Lazaridis (eds), Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Egyptologists, University of the Aegean, Rhodes, 22-29 May 2008 (=Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 241) (pp. 521-543). Leuven: Peeters

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Jarmużek, Ł., Piorun, M. and Malleson, C. (2014). Tell el-Retaba – season 2011. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 23/1, 87–108

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Wodzińska, A., Jarmużek, Ł., Hulkova, L., Dubcova, V., Piorun, M. and Šefčakova, A. (2014). Tell el-Retaba from the Second Intermediate Period till the Late Period. Results of the Polish–Slovak Archaeological Mission, Seasons 2011–2012. Ägypten und Levante, 24, 39–120

Wodzińska, A. (2014). Tell el-Retaba 2011: The pottery. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 23/1, 109–116

Jamużek, J. (2013). A stable of the Third Intermediate Period at Tell el-Retaba. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 99, 281–289

Malleson, C. (2013). Appendix: Tell el-Retaba 2010. Preliminary Report on Archaeobotanical Investigations. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 22, 90–95

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J. and Jarmużek, Ł. (2013). Tell el-Retaba, season 2010. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 22, 79–89

Rzepka, S., Nour el-Din, M., Wodzińska, A. and Jarmużek, Ł. (2013). Egyptian Mission Rescue Excavations in Tell el-Retaba. Part 1: New Kingdom Remains. Ägypten und Levante, 22/23, 253–288

Wodzińska, A. (2013). Tell el-Retaba 2010: The pottery. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 22, 96–103

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., and Malleson, C. (2012). Tell el-Retaba: season 2009. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 21, 107–123

Wodzińska, A. (2012). Tell el-Retaba 2009: The pottery. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 21, 124–133

Wodzińska, A. (2012). Imported Vessels Found in Tell el Retaba – Signs of Egypt International Contacts. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, 4/4, 1–2

Górka, K. and Rzepka, S. (2011). Infant burials or infant sacrifices? New discoveries from Tell el-Retaba. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo, 67, 99–106

Gromadzka, S. and Rzepka, S. (2011). Two flails in the king’s hands – unusual royal iconography on a scarab from Tell el-Retaba. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, 40, 103–112

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J. and Herbich, T. (2011). Tell el-Retaba 2008: Excavations and geophysical survey. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 20, 129–145

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Jarmużek, Ł., Wodzińska, A., Malleson, C., Misiewicz, K., Małkowski, W. and Bogacki, M. (2011). New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period in Tell el-Retaba. Results of the Polish-Slovak Archaeological Mission, seasons 2009–2010. Ägypten und Levante, 21, 129–184

Wodzińska, A. (2011). Tell el-Retaba 2008: The Pottery. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 20, 146–152

Wodzińska, A. (2011). Pottery and Chronology. Preliminary Remarks on Ceramic Material from Tell el-Retaba. In D. Aston, B. Bader, C. Gallorini, P. Nicholson and S. Buckingham, Under the Potter’s Tree. Studies on Ancient Egypt Presented to Janine Bourriau on the Occasion of her 70th Birthday, Peeters Publishers and Booksellers (=Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 204) (pp. 1015–1036), Leuven–Paris–Walpole, MA: Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Studies

Jarmużek, Ł. (2010). Loom-weights or net-weights? Göttinger Miszellen, 226, 17–24

Jarmużek, Ł. and Rzepka, S. (2010). Pottery figurine from Tell el-Retaba. Göttinger Miszellen, 224, 65–70

Rzepka, S., Hudec, J., Gajdoš, V. and Rozimant, K. (2010). Tell el-Retaba, season 2007. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 19, 143–151

Rzepka, S., Wodzińska, A., Hudec, J. and Herbich, T. (2009). Tell el-Retaba 2007–2008. Ägypten und Levante, 19, 241–280

Gallery:

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