Sheikh Abd el-Gurna (Egypt), 2013

Sheikh Abd el-Gurna (Egypt)

Dates of work: 21 January – 14 March 2013

Director: Tomasz Górecki, archaeologist/ceramologist (National Museum in Warsaw)
Archaeologists: Julia Górecka, ceramologist (independent), Patryk Chudzik, egyptologist (University of Wrocław)
Geologist: Maciej Pawlikowski (Academy of Mining and Metallurgy, Kraków)

(Joint description of seasons 2012 and 2013)

Exploration in the 2012 season was limited to the rock slope in front of the hermitage in tomb MMA 1151 (yielding pharaonic artifacts dumped by H.E. Winlock’s excavation team in 1924) and to the interior of this hermitage and the other one in tomb MMA 1152.

The study of the pottery assemblage excavated in 2003–2010 continued in both seasons, resulting in a reassembly of a few hundred vessels. These consisted mainly of late Roman tableware, storage containers, water bottles, beakers as well as all kinds of plain domestic ware (pots and lids, colanders, funnels, dippers), and especially a set of containers made of dried clay, seldom encountered in Egypt and believed to be containers for olive oil imported from Tunisia and wine from the Greek isles. The pottery sheds light on diverse aspects of the monastic economy concerned with food storage and monastic diet in the 7th century. The group of Tunisian amphorae, which is the biggest assemblage ever found in Egypt, attests late contacts between Upper Egypt and the slowing down economy of Byzantine North Africa.

A provisional typology of the ceramics from the hermitage continued to be developed, placing emphasis on function and on reconstructing the interrelationship between different pottery forms and their function. Sets of functionally associated vessels were distinguished, e.g., vessel for mixing or storing liquids, a ladle for drawing the content, funnel for pouring and vessel to be filled. Other categories for which statistics were made concerned saqiya-pots and cooking pots (open and closed).

A geological study of the rock formation in which the tombs were excavated and the stone used for various artifacts from the site was completed. The third aspect of the study season in 2012, as well as research on the results of the excavations, carried out within the frame of grant N N109 318337 from the National Science Center of Poland (“The functioning of the hermitage in tomb MMA 1152 in Gurna, Luxor, in the light of archaeological and textual data”, headed by Tomasz Derda from the University of Warsaw), is the monks’ spirituality, analyzed on the grounds of modest remains of drawings and paintings preserved on the walls of the hermitage. Among others, the pits and so-called cellar in the hermitages have been interpreted as places of seclusion for monks during the period of the fast, a practice confirmed in textual sources.

Documentation of stone-dressing, such as chisel width, among others, contributed data on stone-working techniques of the Middle Kingdom. This led to the identification of stone slabs found in the fill of the hermitage as revetment coming from the original Pharaonic tomb.

[Text: Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 24/1]