Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Finds

Today we got to the excavation in good time. We met the inspectors that we were training in the field school. There are five women in the schools we will run this year.

Yesterday, as we finished, we were finding several burials. Because we knew where they were at the beginning of the day things got going too quickly right away. Soon they were working on four burials, and we really can’t keep adequate records of that many at a time. I had to slow it down and pull some workers away from some. A few were not happy when they had to stop using a trowel and start hauling sand away in the baskets. But that is what we had to do so that we could get things done correctly.

We found several nice burials. Then we went to the pyramid so that Lincoln and the inspectors could see that. I was so proud of the inspectors who chose to come up to the pyramid: it's a long and steep hike, and they were willing to try it! While we were up there, I asked Farag where some objects were found. It was a good day there at the pyramid.

Meanwhile, Paul was taking Giovanni to the antiquities police in Fayoum City to get his final approvals. We had a driver all lined up for them (Hussein) who knows the way. However, at the very last minute Hussein got a call that his sister had died, so he left and found someone else to take them. This guy did not know where to go, so it took them a long time to get there. On the way he went past the place where the  Giza mafia barnacle people are (the guys who try to force you into the pyramid complex to make you ride their camels), and they picked up another barnacle rider. This time they had all the windows up and he couldn’t get a good hold on them, so he only got a short ride. Welcome back to Egypt, Giovanni. Everything worked out and they made it to Fayoum City and got their clearances. Finally, everyone is here and we are all ready to work. 

When I got back from the pyramid I learned that they had discovered something unusual, in fact something they have never found before. They were at the bottom of shafts, and were head-west. They had made mud bricks (all the same size except one dimension has some variance, which indicates that they were making them in forms and the mud was cleared away by hand from the top of the form) which had lined the bottom of the shaft and then had been formed into a triangle shaped vault over the body to give them a bit of a peaked burial chamber. It was nicely done, and we have never seen anything like it before. That is the second unique element this season. It is nice that after 30 years of digging we can still find something new.


Lincoln would like to see the inscription he is working on one more time. So we have arranged that tomorrow he will get to go to Kom Aushim again and work on it a bit more. He is so good at figuring this stuff out, and so excited for it.

As we were finishing up the vaulted burials I asked Paul to start teaching our field school participants about osteology. I think they enjoyed learning something new. I thought we might finish our square today, but the vaulted burials were just slow enough that we didn’t. Hopefully we finish it tomorrow.

Here is an account of the adventures of Dr. Paul Evans and Dr. Giovanni Tata when they were away from us:

Giovanni Tata arrived last night and he, like all who work at the site, must present his passport and 10 copies of his passport to the Tourist Police office for the Fayoum region located in Fayoum City.  Evans and Tata took a separate car to Fayoum City and the rest of the team went with Hanafy II by van to Fag el Gamous.  The driver of the other car was in route to pick up Evans and Tata when he learned that his sister had passed away.  Our condolences to Mr. Hussein and his family.  Remarkably, Mr. Hussein was able to arrange for another driver and Evans and Tata were off to Fayoum City. 

The new driver, Mr. Mohammed, has as many teeth as fingers and comes from the old school of Cairo taxi drivers.  Old school hugs the left side or the right side of the street.  This is a problem since left and right turn lines back up and then we have to wait for the left and right turn cars to clear.  Why not the middle?  Old school is comfortable in his ways. 

Of course we also take every traditional path of ingress and egress for Cairo.  Pyramid Road is the old school path for entrance and exit to Cairo running from downtown Cairo out to the Pyramids.  At the Pyramids is the beginning of the Cairo to Fayoum Desert Road and the turn off to the Cairo to Luxor desert road.  So we take the Pyramid Road instead of the ring road (beltway) and enjoy an hour in traffic.  The traffic would flow smooth except for the taxis, mini buses, and buses that flock at intersections temporarily stopping or just slowing down to drop off and pick up passengers.  They stop and slow in the middle of traffic making some attempt to angle to the side of the road, but, sometimes, just stop or slow.  The passengers engineer their own safe as can be movement to and from their transportation.  In the mean time, traffic backs up.  Once clearing a major intersection, one can proceed a couple of blocks before another “transportation transfer” hub. 

As one approaches the Pyramids on Pyramid Road, one goes under an overpass.  It was at this overpass that on Friday we were accosted by barnacles - young men seeking to direct the tourist dollar to their employers establishment(s).  As we approached this locale, I asked Old School to turn on the air conditioning.  Doing so, he rolled up all the windows, and most importantly, his window.  A barnacle(s) wishes to influence the driver, not the tourists.  Generally, the tourist is being helped in the Pyramid visit by the driver, so if the barnacle can influence the driver, then the tourist dollar can be influenced.  It was easier to protect our driver by getting his window rolled up by invoking the need for AC than to explain the possibility of being accosted.  Just past the overpass in the median strip stood six young men scanning the oncoming traffic - the barnacles.  Seeing us, one jumped out into the street in our direction and ran up to along with the car as we slowly moved with the traffic.  This time I had the video camera rolling and, dear reader, some footage is available of the barnacle event.  In our case this time, the traffic opened and we moved along without more interaction leaving the barnacle to deal with his own separation anxiety.

Old School did not know how to get to the Tourist Police office in Fayoum City.  Here are the visual reminders I use to get there.  First, remember that the office is on El Hourey street along the canal and that across the canal is the Fayoum Culture Palace (Center).  The building of the center is an inverted pyramid shape - very distinctive.  Come into Fayoum City on the desert road past one then a second and major roundabout.  The second roundabout has an obelisk in the center.  Continue straight through the second roundabout and the road will veer a bit to the left and go over a bridge crossing railroad tracks.  You will see a large mosque on the right, then as you come over the bridge off to the right, this year and previous, you can catch a glimpse of the inverted pyramid building.  I turn right at the bottom of the bridge into the typical city neighborhood area.  Make the first left and then make the first right.  Go two blocks and you will be at the Tourist Police station on your right with the canal and the inverted pyramid building in front of you.  You can also go past this back side short cut and continue on the main road until you get to El Hourey street.  Follow the street along the canal to your right.  Each year the traffic flow is a bit different and in times past you had to cross the canal go off the right and then come back across the canal and turn left onto El Hourey street.  As long as you are on the opposite side of the canal from the inverted pyramid building, then you are in the correct place.

In the tourist police office, this year, the head is Ashraf (see previous notes).  He is pleasant.  He asked about the absence of John Gee.  We told him John had some family issues that had arisen and would not be coming.  Earlier Ashraf had talked about Obama so I asked if Obama could come in place of Gee.  Ashraf and the others in the office laughed and slapped hands in amusement.  When all was finished we were off to Fag el-Gamous. There we joined the rest of the team.

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