Wednesday, March 11, 2015

First week

Well into the second week of an already incredible season of archaeological work at Silsila, we are overdue with another update. To welcome two new members to the team, this update will be written by Huib and Liz, with some nice images from our first week of fieldwork. With so much to report, so many interesting thoughts to share, and archaeology at its best, there is, of course, more to come shortly! But for now, here are their personal summaries (written 7 days into the season):


After my job as a salesman ended, I had the opportunity to join the archaeological expedition at Gebel el Silsila as a volunteer and this was a dream come true. I am now already six days on the dahabiya, this boat is the “dig house” of the mission of Silsila. I can only say one word: incredible.
The first days were very exciting for me, because I have never done this before. I was all new to me and I was curious what the expectations are, what our goals are and what tasks I will do. But right away the open and good communication with the complete crew, mend I found another home. The team consists at the moment of eight persons and there will be specialists coming and going the next six weeks.

As the archaeological site is so remote, it brings a lot of logistical challenges for the team. A lot of hard work had been going into organizing everything, from hiring the boat, buying food and drinks for staying seven weeks and bring the team to Silsila.

Day 1: The boat had a delay and arrived three hours later than we did, so there was nothing else to do than to wait for it. After the dahabiya arrived, the unpacking started and after two hours we had everything on the boat and then we needed another five hours to put everything on place. The first night sleep on the boat was fine. The engine for the electricity went off at ten o’clock, so it was an early sleep.
Arriving at Silsila

And the boat 'Tiye'

Day 2: The engine on for the electricity started at 05.35, so it was a very early wake. We went on the first day to explore the east-bank and get a general impression of Silsila. After a four hours walk we had a lunch in one of the quarries and discussed the work. We ate bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, eggs, paprika, carrot, and of course water. After talking and working out the best way to do everything, we went back to the dahabiya. Around three o’clock it is always dinner time on the boat. It’s great to have a head cook on board, who provides us with the best meals every day. Again I did some reading and then before you know it, the engine is off.

First day back on site is always spent walking the area to inspect the current state of preservation

Inside the largest subterranean quarry

The famous white stela in the gallery


Day 3: Here we go for the first day on the east bank. Everybody goes on board of the small motorboat we need to get to the east-bank. Exciting, curious, tension is in my body, because I can cross out one wish on my bucket list ………..the engine of the small boat won’t start……disappointment, what are we to gone do now? Will my bucket list have to wait another day? No way, there is so much to do. After a small talk between Maria and John there is a new target to go for. Here we go unpacking everything from the boat and we stay on the west-site. After a very exhausting day my bucket list did became smaller. YES I have joined a mission in Egypt. We made history like John said before leaving this morning. I feel blessed and happy that I was there today. Complete worn out I went into my cabin for a good night sleep.

New target

Day 4: I woke up very early again from the mosque on the other side of the river. I am doing my morning ritual, making a tea and bread with colored sprinkles and looking at sunset, wonderful. One on side of the Nile the quarry, on the other the Speos of Horemheb, what a magical place to have your breakfast. Taking all our stuff back of the boat again, we start for the second day of history. A lot lighter work than the day before but very interesting and what a patience they must have with me. Explaining everything and all the questions I am asking, thanking John and Maria for answering them all. One thing annoying me all the time: the flies. There are so many of them even the antispray can’t get them away from me.

Discussing the corridor

Day 5: We are relieved that the small motor boat is working again and we go to the other side. Here an even bigger task is waiting for us. This is really a very big one, but we don’t talk we just start and we will see how far we will come with it. After a very long and hard day of work, we did a very substantial deal of the work and what a start this was. I cannot walk anymore so tired I am, but what a satisfaction is gives me when I have been eating dinner and drinking my tea with the view over the Nile. My fingers are burning, but I have to do some washing of the potsherds. A toothbrush is a man’s best friend sometimes. Other skills they are learning me are cleaning, drying, counting, sorting, weighing, putting some broken potsherds together, photograph, drawing and then measuring them. Again much more work than I ever thought of.  Everything must be noted and put into a file.
Day 6: A very good night sleep. It’s a Friday, so a day off…….Just keeping into the same rhythm. Standing up at the same time and do the same rituals for the daily job. I hope to read a lot, but John gives a lot of his time to me and he wants me to learn more, so I started again with cleaning all the pottery and do all the things I just described above again. We went out for a short help on measuring some steles on the west-bank of Silsila. After a good diner my energy went down and I really felt the last five days inside my body. Joining a mission is much more tiring then I had ever expected. My mind is working like crazy but like I already said IT IS INCREDIBLE.



Liz and inspector Hassan

The week began with an early morning journey to a place I had only visited as a traveller.  My first and only visit to Silsila was spent exploring the west bank, making a game of finding the marks and images carved into the stone that stool all around me.  At that time I enjoyed my time at Silsila.  It was a beautiful place then and now that I am working here, it is not only beautiful, but has filled my head with questions.  Still I am trying to find all of the images carved into the stone, but now I am wondering more about the “what” and the “why.”  As in, what was being done here and why?  Yes there was quarrying done here, but what more about the people.  The artefacts found here until present—ceramics, organics, carved stone, cenotaphs, temples and other building structures—show that Silsila was much more than “just” a quarry—which in itself is amazing to see, but that people were here.  Also, the number of time periods that are represented gives something for everyone.  Since being here I have been able to study a habitation dump and an area leading into a quarry that dates back to Ramesses II all the way into the Ptolemaic period.  I cannot wait to see what Silsila has in store for me in the next weeks.  Our days are spent hard at work always documenting.  I am still learning, but that is the best thing about this site, there is so much to learn and every day brings something new.   

Showing ancient images that previous visitors to the site have missed

And to add to their stories, some images of the first week:

The expedition boat, Dahabeya 'Tiye'

Baby Freja is an obvious member on board!

as is Carter!

Mohamed Mahmoud in his best form

Storks migrating north

what would the day be without some social life?

Birthday celebration of 'Nanny Sussie'

Another sunrise over East Silsila!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Back for a new season!

The Silsila Team has once more returned to site for another exciting season of fieldwork!

The spring season, which is expected to run from 1 March to the end of April, is hoped to result in more information on the 'stables of Tiberius', transportation aspects and pictorial scenes within Corridor A in the Main Quarry, further understanding of the infrastructure, chronological aspects based on ceramic material, rock art, geological features, digital archaeology, etc. etc.

So, with this brief note, please keep your eyes open for new updates within the coming few days with photos and personal blog entries from our members from our first week of fieldwork!