Where is Archaeology Blogging Going? #BlogArch

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This month is the last month of the Blogging Archaeology Carnival that you may have seen participation in on other blogs and websites as well as GraecoMuse. This month we are looking at where we plan to take our blogging or where we would like to go. 

“…where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go? I leave it up to you to choose between reflecting on you and your blog personally or all of archaeology blogging/bloggers or both. Tells us your goals for blogging. Or if you have none why that is? Tell us the direction that you hope blogging takes in archaeology.”

So where am I going with blogging about archaeology and ancient history? Well personally, as I’ve already mentioned in some of my previous posts, this to me is about productive procrastination. But I have realised that it is more than that and there are certainly things I’d like to achieve. One thing you often find with academics is a vast negativity about careers and research which can be very overwhelming especially for young academics or those who wish to expand into the field for any reason. I would like to show that there are those out there who are positive, who are willing to help and promote learning for all in a way that is fun and inspiring. This negativity is often called realism but seriously archaeology and academia is different for everyone and if you love it enough you will go far. You just need to be proactive. And if you don’t end up in academia that’s totally fine, you can still be part of this wonderful thing called history and do things that interest you and learn all that you want.

378320_10151488407322119_2116310759_nSo in brief I what to promote a more positive view of history and archaeology which it deserves.

I also realised that I want to help those who are a little less knowledgeable but want to be knowledgeable. To make resources more available to those outside or academia and students themselves. Especially in the US, I have found that students simply don’t know and haven’t been told how to find information. This blog has become more than just random posts and includes access to such things which people can access really easily. 

So access to resources for all! On the blog, on facebook, on twitter, everywhere!

Frankly though my main goal is a bit selfish. I have fun researching things and blogging is just fun. But in the end I would like blogging to continue what it has already started, making archaeology and ancient history more inclusive and more available to everyone. So many people are not aware of the value of archaeology and history and it’s about time they were. And I think bloggers and others are finally achieving this. For instance it is through people like us that word is got out about bad archaeological practices. For instance the horrible National Geographic Show Nazi Diggers which got pulled before it ever aired because of PUBLIC and professional outcries.

Archaeology and history are amazing. I also want to show that media dramatizations of events and the like are completely unnecessary. It seems the media these days really does thing its audience is bloody stupid and need all the stupid dramatizations and dramatic music and the like. History doesn’t need this, we don’t need this, their audiences don’t need this. Let history speak for itself. It is dramatic, it is amazing. 

Hopefully with the rise of blogging in archaeology and ancient history, someday people will realise it. 


Examples in Archaeology: The Multiple Burial in the Corner of the Hexamilion North of the Roman Bath (Gully Bastion)

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 When and where the feature was found

The multiple burial (Grave 2 Gully Bastion) is located in the Corner of the Hexamilion North of the Roman Bath at Isthmia.  The grave cut into what is assumed to be ground level at the time of the construction of the Hexamilion wall which is a hard white soil.  The grave itself was excavated in the 1970 season and was found under a later kiln or oven.

Location of Grave 2 in corner of the Hexamilion wall,
Gregory, T.E., Isthmia: Vol.5, The Hexamilion and the Fortress (1993)

 Topelev = 41.08

Botelev = 40.18

 Brief Description

Located in a corner of the Hexamilion wall the Gully Bastion Grave Two has the interior face of the wall forming both the West and the North sides with the North side slightly undercutting the Hexamilion by around 20cm. The sides of the grave are lined with large tiles, these tiles also included in their number one stamped tile[1]  and another which being heavily smoke stained indicates that it may have originally been part of the nearby Roman Bath.[2] The interpretation of this tile as formerly of the Roman Bath is also suggested by how the smoke staining does not extend to the corners of the tile where it would have been resting on top of hypocausts.

 The grave is actually split into two irregular sections, North and South.  These two sections were split by a line of vertical tiles which ran West to East across the grave.  Within the north section was found two skeletons with their heads to the west and within the south compartment eight skeletons were uncovered also with their heads to the west.  There is some debate to who these individuals were, whether they were part of the garrison assigned to guard or build the Hexamilion or from some other associated part of society.

 Underneath the lowest body in the southern section a number of artefacts were found, namely an Athenian glazed lamp fragment which shares much of the characteristics of other lamps found in the Roman Bath (IPL 70-100)[3] which can be dated to the second half of the fourth century after Christ. There is debate over the function of the lamp in the grave.  Was it part of some religious ceremony for the deceased or simply just lost or for another reason yet to be thought of? Either way this lamp fragment allows for the best dating of the grave in relation to similar lamps found in the Roman Bath as mentioned previous.  Several other items were found in the same area as the lamp fragment including a coarse dark reddish bowl (IPR 70-26) which like the lamp can be dated to the second half of the fourth century.[4]  A bronze buckle (IM 70-32) and a bead on a wire (IM 70-54) were also excavated.


The north side of the grave undercutting the Hexamilion along with the relation between the lamp fragment found in the south section of the grave in relation to lamps found in Roman Bath dating to the fourth century suggest that the grave was contemporary with the construction of the Hexamilion.  This is further indicated by how the grave sides are the interior of the wall on two sides.  The graves construction can hence be placed either at the time the Hexamilion was being built or slightly after but before the kiln/oven was placed on top.

The position of the skeletons within the grave suggests primarily a Christian burial with the skeleton’s heads to the west. Christian burials of the period were generally orientated East-West with the head to the West end of the grave in order to mirror the layout of the Christian Church and the direction from which Christ is meant to come on judgement day.


Gregory, T.E., Isthmia: Vol.5, The Hexamilion and the Fortress (1993), pp.42-45


                  Gully Bastion 1970 Vol.2 – pp.47-72 May 1970

                  Gully Bastion 1970 Vol.3

 Wohl ‘Deposit of Lamps’ No. 24

Fraser, P.M., Archaeology in Greece, 1970-71, Archaeological reports, No.17 (1970-71), p.9

[1] Gully Bastion Notebook Vol.2, p.47 and 53

[2] Ibid., p.49

[3] Ibid., p.55

[4] Ibid., p.68

Part 2 of What Evidence is there for the Daily Lives of the Ancient Egyptians?

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Gaming Box and pieces for ‘twenty squares’ and senet, New Kingdom, XIXth Dynasty, reign of Seti I, this game is also depicted in two tomb reliefs from the period

Part 1 can be found here.

Evidence in the form of tools and implements allows for the assessment of fishing, hunting and craft practices in all periods. Tomb 741 H5 at Helwan provides an example of these types of artefacts for everyday use; ten copper hooks were excavated of varying sizes.  These artefacts are very important to assessing activities in Early Ancient Egypt due to a complete lack of philological evidence and limited availability of art history.

Sport and leisure in the lives of the Ancient Egyptians is also represented by a variety of finds and grave goods.  Archaeological evidence in the form of models playing instruments, like one painted wooden figure of a female harpist dating to Dynasty nineteen and actual instruments excavated, allow for analysis of music and entertainment in daily life.[20] Frescos from tombs show nobles engaging in many leisurely activities such as fowling, but as the large majority of the population were of the peasant class and worked for a living, we have limited evidence for leisure in relation to the masses.

Models and scenes from burials provide a wealth of evidence for the assessment of daily life in Ancient Egypt, depicting a range of daily activities from agriculture and craft to household and leisure activities.  The earliest models come from the Predynastic period from sites such as Abadiveh and Naqada, however, due to their low quality we can only make interpretations of the activities they show by comparison to later models.[21]  From the old kingdom we mainly have examples of food-preparation like the milling of grain and baking, and the models are mostly of single figures each showing one stage of a larger timeline of activities.[22]  Food preparation was an extremely important part of these activities as the staples were required by everyone everyday. From the late old kingdom models and scenes of cattle husbandry and crafts also start to appear.

The majority of models depicting daily activities come from the Middle Kingdom and include scenes of food processing, the manufacture of everyday goods and agricultural tasks which are important to assess as a vast percentage of the population were farmers or craftsmen.  TT280 for instance reveals many workshop and labor scenes.[23]  From the Middle Kingdom we increasingly see scenes such as cooking, and from the end of the Old Kingdom we also have the introduction of combination scenes.[24]  This allows for the assessment of the relationship between different daily tasks.[25]  Models of houses ranging from small huts to large-multistory structures have also been excavated which allow the assessment of living space and domestic tasks.  Models also see the inclusion of leisure and entertainment activities as seen with scenes of dancing and musicians from post 6th dynasty. In the Later periods the number of models gradually decline.

Limestone Shabti

Shabtis are also an important grave good for assessing daily life especially in relation to the Amarna and post-Amarna periods.  Since the shabti was a form of servant to perform everyday work its representations can provide us with some knowledge of the tasks performed in Ancient Egyptian daily life. Evidence of agriculture can be seen in shabtis such as with the inclusion of implements from about the time of Tuthmosis IV.   Separate implements were also modeled including hoes, picks, bags and baskets.[26] Some shabti spell versions also include evidence of daily tasks such as water carrying and brick making.  Middle kingdom shabtis also include mention of daily activities in their spells.[27]

Shabtis also provide some evidence of the dress of daily life especially in the Amarna to the late Ramesside Period.  Post-Amarna shabtis often gave representations of the dress of daily life with long pleated robes and curled wigs of the duplex type.  The shabtis also present evidence of the dress and style of females in this period, but less so than men.[28]

Conditions of climate and terrain have greatly preserved material evidence in Ancient Egypt beyond that of other ancient civilizations.[29] Much of the material that is available to us to assess daily life also comes from settlement sites.  Excavations have turned up evidence in the form of pottery vessels, storage jars, knives and other implements of bronze and flint, toys, games and musical instruments used in the activities of everyday life.[30]  Unfortunately many ancient towns are now covered by modern habitations or lie within the cultivated land of the NileValley, but sites on the higher level of desert have remained less effected by conditions and provide us with such evidence which helps make assessments.

Archaeological excavations of settlements have provided us with much of the evidence we now have for the assessment of daily life in the early periods.  Deposits of animal droppings and small circular ‘enclosures’ such as those found at Hemamiya, and bone deposits like from Merimde provide us with a basis of assessment for animal husbandry and domestic activities in early Egyptian daily life. [31]  The remains of granaries and storage pits at sites like Merimde, and Badari where traces of the grains used in food preparation have been found provide evidence for domestic activities and agriculture.  Grain silos from Buto Layer IV are exemplary of the evidence available to assess agricultural life.[32]  From these features we can make assessments such as how granaries appear to be associated with individual dwellings demonstrating that family-units were becoming economically independent.

Town remains of all periods provide a wide variety of evidence for daily life in Ancient Egypt, even though the majority of excavations in Egypt have been on burial sites[33].  Deposits of animal bones, teeth and horns of avian, bovine and equine animals, such as those found at Kom el-adhem,[34] provide assessment of domestication and the use of animals in everyday tasks and as a source of food.  Also artefacts excavated such as bowls, baskets and pottery shards provide us with evidence of daily tasks in and around the household.[35]  Much of the debris that is found at these settlement sites in the later periods has been attributed to the daily tasks of the servant and peasant classes allowing for interpretation of the domestic economy.[36]

Deir el Medina

Excavations have uncovered traces of dwellings, which are especially helpful in the assessment of the use of living spaces in a domestic context.  Buto is one example of a site rich in domestic evidence in Layer IV.  We also have evidence of living areas from earlier sites including Merimde where there has been excavated a number of buildings with walls made of straw-tempered mud.  Some of the most significant sites for the assessment of daily life actually come from the New Kingdom, the most important of these is the workmen’s village at Deir el-Medina which preserves not only an extensive amount of settlement remains but also large numbers of ostraca used by the inhabitants for rough notes and records.[37]  It is from these ostraca that we gain a look into the minds of the inhabitants and the day to day running of the community and socio-economic system.[38]

The workmen’s village at el-Amarna provides one with features of agricultural and domestic importance, the likes of which have also been found in the Memphis area, Elephantine and Tell el-Dab’a.[39] Like many Ancient Egyptian settlements however Amarna has disappeared partially under modern cultivation, but still stands as a fine example of everyday life; with excavations uncovering wells, grain silos, workshops, bakeries, refuse dumps, communal areas and artefacts of day to day activities.[40]

Like many other sites there is debate about how typical this community was, but when one looks at the large number of sites used in Ancient times for different purposes it is difficult to judge just what is typical.  Archaeological and architectural evidence from places such as el-Amarna and Deir el-Medina are very important to the assessment of daily life as they provide evidence in, or close to, their direct context.  Material and features found at these sites allow for better understanding of production and consumption throughout a certain community and we should take advantage of the evidence that is available.  Kemp explains that excavations of sites such as this provide a greater clarification of how spaces were used in daily life, whether it be for cooking, craft or communal activities. Such can be the interpretation for a number of circular features and an L-shaped feature possibly used as a corn storage bin indicating food preparation.[41]

When considering the evidence is available for the assessment of daily life we see that there are several types to include.  Throughout all the ancient periods the majority of evidence comes from burials, with a lesser amount from settlement sites, though there are sites of great use to assessment especially in the New Kingdom.  A large amount of the assessment of daily life can be made grave goods, and from the early dynastic period onwards, we gain a lot from art history; scenes of daily life painted on the walls.  Such grave goods include not only objects used in domestic and everyday activities themselves but also models and statuettes of scenes.  Along with a range of philological material, aspects of everyday life such as agriculture, labor, craft, household and leisure activities and food preparation are represented significantly through archaeological evidence and allow for assessment and interpretation.

Part 1 can be found here


Aldred, C., Egypt to the End of the Old Kingdom (London, 1988), 100-126

Baines, J. and Malek, J., Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt (Oxford, 2000), p.170, 176, 190-200

BritishMuseum, A General Introductory Guide to the Egyptian Collections in the British Museum (London, 1964)

Brunton, G. and Caton-Thompson, G., The Badarian Civilisation and Predynastic Remains Near Badari (London 1928), pp. 2-52

Budge, E.A., The Dwellers of the Nile (Manchester, 1926)

Catalogue of a Collection of Eqyptian Antiquities, The Property of Henry Abbott, ESQ., MD (Cairo, 1846)

Faulkner, R.O., Wente, E.F. and Simpson, W.K., The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions and Poetry, New Edition (London, 1973)

Grajetzki, W., Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor (London, 2003), pp.40-41, 59-60, 78-83

Hope, C.A., Gold of the Pharaohs (Sydney, 2000), pp.43, 88-123

Hope, C.A., Egyptian Pottery (Buckinghamshire, 2001), pp.7-15

James, T.G.H., Excavating Egypt: Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society 1882-1982 (London, 1982)

Kemp, B.J., Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation (2nd Edition) (New York, 2006)

Montent, P., Eternal Egypt: The Civilisation of Ancient Egypt from Earliest Times to Conquest by Alexander the Great (London, 1988), pp.79-106

O’Connor, D., Ancient Egyptian Society (Pittsburgh, 1990), pp.7-37

Oakes, L. and Gahlin, L., Ancient Egypt (London, 2006), pp.136-143

Schmandt-Besserat, D., Immortal Egypt (Malibu, 1978)

Schulz, R., and Seidel, M., Egypt: The World of the Pharaohs, pp.82-95, 123-131

Shaw, I. and Nicholson, P., The British Museum: Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (London, 2003), pp.38-41, 99-100, 163-164

Shaw, I., The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford, 2003)

Shorter, A.W., Everyday life in ancient Egypt (London, 1932), pp.38-127

Stewart, H.M., Egyptian Shabtis (Buckinghamshire, 1995), pp.34-42

Tooley, A.M.J., Egyptian Models and Scenes (Buckinghamshire, 1995), pp.8-59

Uphill, E.R., Egyptian Towns and Cities (Buckinghamshire, 2001), pp.21-38, 47-62

Ancient Egyptian Clothing, in K.M.T., Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol.6, No.4

Baines, J., Literacy and Ancient Egyptian Society, in Man, New Series, Vol.18, No.3 (September 1983), pp.572-599

Forbes, D., The Middle Kingdom Tomb Models of Vizier Meketre, in K.M.T., Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol.6, No.3 (1995)

Kemp, B.J., The City of El-Amarna as a Source for the study of Urban Society in Ancient Egypt, in World Archaeology, Vol.9, No.2, Architecture and Archaeology, (Oct., 1977), pp.123-139

Lovell, N.C., in The SSEA Journal, Vol.21-22 (Canada, 1994), pp.20-36

Lythgoe, A.M., An Exhibit Illustrating the Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol.13, No.12 (Dec., 1918), pp.283-288

McDowell, A., Agricultural Activity by the Workmen of Deir el-Medina, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol.78, (1992), pp.195-206

Meskell, L., Archaeologies of Life and Death, in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol.103, No, 2 (Apr., 1999), pp.181-199

El-Khouli, A. and Kanawati, N., The Old Kingdom Tombs of El-Hammamiya (Sydney, 1990)

Kanawati, N. and Hassan, A., The Teti Cemetery at Saqqara, Vol.1 – The Tombs of Nedjet-em-pet, Ka-aper and Others (Sydney, 1996)

Saad, Z.Y., The Excavations at Helwan (Oklahoma, 1969), p.39-57, © Trustees of the BritishMuseum

[20] Shorter, A.W., Everyday life in ancient Egypt (London, 1932), p.40

[21] Tooley, A.M.J., Egyptian Models and Scenes (Buckinghamshire, 1995), p.8

[22] Aldred, p.126

[23] Forbes, D., The Middle Kingdom Tomb Models of Vizier Meketre, in K.M.T., Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol.6, No.3 (1995), p.35 – (The Tomb of Meketre)

[24] The most common of these combination scenes was models of the brewing and baking processes

[25] Tooley, op.cit., p.29

[26] Stewart, H.M., Egyptian Shabtis (Buckinghamshire, 1995), p.37

[27] Schulz, R., and Seidel, M., op.cit., p.129 – ‘to cultivate the fields and irrigate the banks, to ferry over the ‘sand’ (fertilizer) of the east and the west’

[28] Stewart, op.cit., p.36

[29] Lythgoe, op.cit., p.283

[30] Ibid., p.287

[31] Shaw, I., op.cit., p. 39

[32] These grain silos were in the form of a number of round, mud brick features excavated in Buto Layer IV

[33] O’Connor, op.cit., p.15

[34] Lovell, N.C., in The SSEA Journal, Vol.21-22 (Canada, 1994), p.26

[35] ibid., p.31

[36] Kemp, B.J., The City of El-Amarna as a Source for the study of Urban Society in Ancient Egypt, in World Archaeology, Vol.9, No.2, Architecture and Archaeology, (Oct., 1977), p.137

[37] Deir el-Medina (1550-1070BC), located in Upper Egypt on the west bank of modern day Luxor, housed the workers who built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings in much of the New Kingdom period.  There is some debate whether this was a typical community as it was state run but it is still a valuable site for evidence of daily life as it held not only the workmen but their families.  There is also some evidence of agricultural activities, see McDowell, A.,  pp.195-206

[38] Shaw and Nicholson., op.cit., p.82

[39] Ibid., p.34

[40] El-Amarna (1352-1336BC), founded by Akhenaten in the New Kingdom, el-Amarna is one of the best preserved examples of a settlement of Ancient Egypt

[41] Kemp, B.J., The City of El-Amarna as a Source for the study of Urban Society in Ancient Egypt, in World Archaeology, Vol.9, No.2, Architecture and Archaeology, (Oct., 1977), p.133

Part 1 of What Evidence is there for the Daily Lives of the Ancient Egyptians?

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Part 2 can be found here.

We often hear about the kings and queens of Ancient Egypt but what about the lives of the general populace? How can we learn about them? The daily life of the Ancient Egyptians can be assessed by the wide range of archaeological evidence, philological evidence and art history available to us.   Through the use of modern archaeological and chronological dating methods we can gain a better understanding of what daily life entailed in the world of the Ancient Egyptians. 

Evidence of daily life from the early periods is limited, but there is still some available to us.  Grave goods provide a wealth of evidence for daily life as the deceased were buried increasingly over time with personal possessions.  Excavations of burials at Badari for instance have uncovered a variety of artefacts and adornments that were used in everyday life. For example grave 5225 at Badari contained a number of pots that could have been used in the daily life of a household and a cosmetic slate palette.[1]  The pottery and vessels found as grave goods provides us with evidence of the types of crafts and trades that appear in the daily life of the period.

There is also evidence in the form of small figurines and gaming pieces from which we can assess leisure in pre-dynastic daily life.  Such is found in tombs like tomb M.VIII at Abu Roash where a number of lion-shaped playing pieces were uncovered.  Everyday items like these help illustrate the refined lifestyle of the upper class.[2]  We have a vast amount more to assess from in later periods, but as you can see the pottery, grave goods and archaeology of the pre/early-dynastic period does allow for some assessment of daily life.

The vast majority of evidence available for daily life in the early periods comes from burials such as those at Helwan, Saqqara and Abydos, evidence of everyday activities for instance, is seen in the form of copper vessels from the tomb of Idi at Abydos.[3]  Tomb 24 H5 at Helwan also contained alabaster water jugs and pans.[4] A large number of cooking vessels, pots, jars and pans have been excavated from all periods providing us with assessable evidence for domestic activities.

Scene from mid 5th Dynasty from the rock cut tomb of court-singers Nefer and Kahay at Saqqara. Series of scenes common in rural life. Upper register showing construction of papyrus boat, middle registers show cattle rearing and agricultural activities important to maintaining daily life, the lower registers show the baking of bread and the lives of fowlers, and the very bottom register depicts dancing.

From the old kingdom onwards we have increasingly available evidence of the dress and clothing styles in daily life from wall paintings and statuary.  Statuary from the new and middle kingdoms allows for the assessment of daily dress, some showing the long kilts wore by men that reached from the chest or hips to their ankles, and wide cloaks.  These statues also provide us with evidence from which we can assess hairstyles and wigs, showing a range of styles from shoulder length wigs to clean shaven heads.[5]  Daily dress and cosmetics are also examinable from burials from the early dynastic period onward. For instance, jewelry found in cemeteries 5400, 5700 and 5100 at Badari, including necklaces and earrings,[6] and a range of actual styled clothing and cloth making materials as well as what may be interpreted as pieces of looms and cosmetic items and jewelry from Helwan.[7]

From around the beginning of the Old Kingdom significant new forms of evidence starts to dominate and become more available for the assessment of daily life, these are wall paintings and art.  Before this period there are very few examples of tomb wall decoration such as the painting in the Chalcolithic Tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis showing scenes of hunting and domestic activities.[8]  Wall paintings in Old Kingdom chapels often show a range of images in tombs of both officials and lower status individuals like tradesmen, as the afterlife was conceived similarly for all non-royals.[9]

The inclusion of temporal ordering within these tomb paintings also provides us with a timeline of the daily activities.  For instance the agricultural and cattle-rearing year’s activities are shown often in order from the upper register continuing down.[10]  The scenes in old kingdom tombs often portrayed trade and craft activities with the tomb owner supervising them. [11]  In doing so, they provide us with evidence of the daily life of the general population as craftsmen and farmers.  This theme continues well into the New Kingdom with wall decoration such as from the tomb of Menkheperran-sonb at Thebes (Dynasty 18) showing artisans at work.[12]  Employment is a large part of the daily lives of individuals in all communities and these depictions allow this aspect to be further analysed concerning the Ancient Egyptians.

Tomb and chapel scenes provide for much of the basis of assessment of daily life.  This fifth dynasty wall painting from the tomb of Nefer and Kahay is a prime example of the many parts of life depicted (See image above).  Not only does this wall painting show us areas of agricultural life, farming and fowling, but also preparation of food and what could be interpreted as a scene of leisure with dancers.  In certain later periods such as the Amarna Period in the New Kingdom, artistic evidence becomes less useful to the assessment of daily life, as with the reign of Akhenaten, artistic expression was based on the Royal Family.  This allows for a rare view of the daily lives of the Royals, but not of the common people.

Middle Kingdom scenes of everyday activities generally follow the traditional scenes of the Old Kingdom.  Scenes of daily life are found in fragments of reliefs from both Royal and Private tombs and chapels, especially at sites like Beni Hasan which is the location of many privately owned tombs of the Middle Kingdom. Scenes continue in this period to depict hunting and fishing, and food preparation; some scholars believe that these scenes were simply copied from the Old Kingdom prototypes but they still provide us with a foundation from which to assess activities of daily life.[13]

The ‘Satire of Professions’, boasting the profession of scribe, found on a wooden board in the Deir el-Medina, written in hieratic. Example of a text describing the occupations carried out in everyday life.

From the Middle Kingdom we witness a number of literary pieces of evidence for daily life in Ancient Egypt.  One such example of this evidence is the ‘Hekanakhte papers’ (12th dynasty) which are a collection of Middle Kingdom letters providing a detailed explanation of agricultural life in the period.[14]  These letters also provide rare evidence of the literacy skill of Egyptian women as one letter is from a woman to her mother. This provides us with philological evidence from which we can assess the extent of literacy of Egyptian women in daily life.  The shabti spells are another example of this type of evidence providing lists of daily activities which the shabti is to participate in.

The Middle Kingdom saw the introduction of fictional literature such as the ‘Tale of Sinuhe’ and the ‘Tale of the Eloquent Peasant’ that, though from their plots we see that they are fiction they purport to be historical, so provide us with information of daily life and tasks.[15]  For instance, the eloquent peasant provides evidence of trade and its importance to daily life and the use of domestic animals in daily tasks.[16]  The Middle Kingdom ‘Satire on Trades’ is another prime example as it describes aspects of all possible occupations in contrast to the easy life of being a scribe. Towards the beginning of the New Kingdom we also increasingly gain evidence in the form of Ostraka including letters, student writing exercises, such as numerous found at Deir el-Medina, and numerous more fictional texts.

As previously discussed, a vast amount of evidence for daily life in the early periods comes from burials, the same can be observed with all periods as objects of everyday use were placed in the tombs to ensure provisions for the dead, for their lives after death.[17]  After the Early Dynastic Period the amount of grave goods steadily increased.  These artefacts allow for the assessment and interpretation of many parts of daily life, one such example of this is of dress.  The eighteenth dynasty tomb of the architect Kha included piles of well preserved folded tunics and sheets.[18]  Subsidiary graves are also helpful in the interpretation of domestic practices and craft as they contain a more humble population and from these we gain deposits of pottery, domestic containers and implements.[19]  Subsidiary graves often held artisans, and tools uncovered from their graves provide evidence of crafts, for instance, carpentry, pottery production and building. And offerings to the dead give us an idea of the foods eaten.  These pieces of evidence are not only important to assessment of the daily life within the home but also give us examples of the types of crafts and labor being participated in by the general population.

Part 2 can be found here.

[1] Brunton, G. and Caton-Thompson, G., The Badarian Civilisation and Predynastic Remains Near Badari (London 1928), p.9

[2] Schulz, R., and Seidel, M., Egypt: The World of the Pharaohs, p.35 – 1st Dynasty, c.3000BC – many of these items are found in the tombs of the elite from the pre-dynastic times.

[3] Aldred, C., Egypt to the End of the Old Kingdom (London, 1988), p.58 – vessels such as those found in the tomb of Idi and all over Egypt in all periods allow for assessment of domestic tasks and food preparation as well trade due to a number of imported products identified by labels, markings and materials.

[4] Saad, Z.Y., The Excavations at Helwan (Oklahoma, 1969), p.40

[5]Schulz, R., and Seidel, M., op.cit., p.129

[6] Brunton, op.cit., p. XXVII – cemetery sites at Badari and elsewhere also provide a means of assessing social stratigraphy in society with the comparisons of different grave goods and burial types and sizes from the pre-dynastic period onwards.

[7] Saad, Z.Y., op.cit.,  p.49

[8] Kemp, B.J., Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation (2nd Edition) (New York, 2006), p.80 – the domestic, and hunting and gathering scenes are a theme of the tomb 100 wall painting which surround the primary focus on a number of sea-faring vessels which remain open to interpretation

[9] Schulz, R., and Seidel, M., op.cit., p.82

[10] Ibid., p.85

[11] Ibid., p.85 – These scenes appear frequently as it was honourable to be put over such activities as they involved the working of possessions of the royal administration

[12] O’Connor, D., Ancient Egyptian Society (Pittsburgh, 1990), p.17

[13] Shaw, I. and Nicholson, P., The British Museum: Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (London, 2003), p.40

[14] Shaw, I., The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford, 2003), p.150 – The majority of these papers were written by the farmer Hekanakhte who left them as instructions for his family while he was absent.

[15] Shaw, I. and Nicholson, P., op.cit., p.164

[16] British museum website,

[17] Lythgoe, A.M., An Exhibit Illustrating the Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol.13, No.12 (Dec., 1918), p.283

[18] Ancient Egyptian Clothing, in K.M.T., Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol.6, No.4, p.34 – tomb discovered in the artisan’s cemetery at Deir el-Medina in 1906

[19] Subsidiary graves mostly contained artisans and craftsmen so are more reliable in use to interpret the lives of the common Egyptian population rather than the lives of the Royal families

Why I Blog about Archaeology

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So Doug’s Archaeology Page is asking archaeology bloggers monthly questions and thus here is my answer. This month the question is why blogging? Why did you start a blog? Why are you still blogging? Doug, author of the blog Doug’s Archaeology, will be hosting a blogging carnival on the subject of archaeology and blogging in the lead-up to next year’s Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference.

Why did I start blogging about Archaeology?

I started this blog at the end of 2011 as a way to escape the monotony of PhD writing and as a means of productive procrastination. It started as a way to simply continue my love of research into ancient history and archaeology while the rest of my life was dedicated to one subject but it developed significantly over time.

Also simply I love archaeology!

Antiochia ad Cragum Bathhouse Mosaic at the site I have been digging at for the past two years.

Why did I continue to blog about archaeology?

As I continued my PhD and my archaeological digs and started to teach students at my university and in the field, I realised just how much university doesn’t actually teach you about archaeology; and just how little people know about the subject even if they have watched every available episode of Time Team. The significance of archaeology, the tools, the enthusiasm behind it, the practice versus the theory, the hard work and dedication, the thrill and exhaustion.

There is a highly romanticised view of archaeology that I see in the eyes of students even on the first day of a dig which can lead to a lot of disappointment for them. We are not Indiana Jones, nor are we perfectionists with tiny tools. Blogging became a way of giving people who were interested a non romaticised view and show them that despite the lack of whips and Nazis it can be just as exciting for different reasons.

Ness of Brodgar dig site where I was in Scotland in 2011.
Ness of Brodgar dig site where I was in Scotland in 2011.

Academia has also revealed that there is unfortunately a rather snobbish air in the industry. All to often I see academics and students hold their knowledge to their chests and hiss at anyone who comes near it, there is that sense of competition which is seen far too often. Fortunately my professors are not like that but I certainly understand why students are terrified of asking questions some times.

The reason I wanted to go into academia was to spread knowledge, not just engage in my own interests but develop the interests of others, to teach and encourage students to learn and question, analyse and compare. While one can do that through universities, there are all those people outside the institutions and departments who do have an interest in this field but do not have the resources to develop it. So I continue this blog also for them to give them the resources and dispel some of the myths, to move away from the dramatised rubbish now often on TV.

Over the past year and a half of blogging I have also met and developed friendships with a number of interesting and excellent people. Networking in archaeology has never been so effective. It has been wonderful to hear their stories, help them and for them to help me.

So I blog for myself: To continue my interest, as productive procrastination

I blog for students: To answer questions that they are scared to or haven’t thought to ask

I blog for the wider audience: To spread the knowledge and give them resources

I hope I have been able to do some of these things and always appreciate your comments and feedback. 🙂

New Finds at Antiochia ad Cragum: Aphrodite Head and Mosaic

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As my frequent readers know, I often contribute to archaeological digs around the world and for the past two years I have been digging and translating at the site of Antiochia ad Cragum in Southern Turkey. And now things have been officially published, I can show you some of the cool things we found this year at the site 🙂

For my previous writing on the site on Graecomuse see below:

Antiochia ad Cragum: Archaeology Blog 2013

Archaeology Travel Blog: Selinus and Antiochia ad Cragum!

Archaeology Blog 2013: Dig Long and Prosper

Archaeology Blog: It’s Not All Fun and Games

Archaeology Blog: The Empire Strikes Back

Archaeology Blog: Back in the Trenches

Archaeology Travel Blog 2013

Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean

Archaeology Travel Blog

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 2

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1


First I am pleased to say we uncovered the second half of the mosaic at the bath complex which is huge! Restoration will begin shortly in more detail.


In the pool in the middle of the bath house mosaic was found a head of a statue of Aphrodite 🙂


And a brand new mosaic! This one located to the South of the bath complex at a possible other temple side. This mosaic dates to older than the previously found one and contains much smaller tesserae in beautiful designs.


Ephesus: A Turkish Pompeii and Tourist Homing Beacon

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In my recent adventures in Turkey we were lucky enough to visit the amazing site of Ephesus on the Western coast of the country. This site is a must see and I certainly understand the hype but as an academic a few things struck me which need to be addressed. Namely the lack of accurate information that is actually given by the tour guides we pasted. So here is some accurate information on this awesome site. And remember (I see this everywhere) the tour guides are not always right, do your research before you go.


Before I tell you about the site’s amazing archaeology, let me give you some background. Ephesus was established in the Greek period and was a major city all through to the later Roman periods. In Turkish it is now called Efes (yes like the beer) but the original Greek was Ἔφεσος which is where we take our English transliteration. In its height it was one of the largest cities in the Graeco-Roman world with a population of around 250,000 people in the first century BCE which certainly accounts for the large amount of material on the site. This site is huge!

There are two modern entrances to the site at either end but the main entrance is down at the bottom of the hills in the valley where you are immediately struck by the massive theatre which sits at the end of a long colonnaded street leading to the city’s harbour. To the right of this theatre is the entrance to the main part of the site, the paved streets that are lined with houses, shops, bath houses, toilets, government buildings and of course the famous library of Celsus. If you do get a chance to visit this site then be warned it is easy to miss this path to the main site because of the huge number of tourists that dwell in the shade in that area and block the entrance. It took us three attempts to find it.

The site itself has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic age. Excavations at the mounds in the area have demonstrated this. The habitation appears to be continuous as excavations at the Ayasuluk hill in the 1950s also turned up Bronze age material and a burial ground from the Mycenaean period. Artefacts included ceramics and tools around the ruins of the later site of the basilica of St John which you can still visit today. Hittite sources also tell us that the area held a settlement named Abasa which was in use under the rule of the Ahhiyawans before the Greek migrations took over the area in the 13th and 14th Centuries and established a new settlement. Ephesus was eventually founded as a colony in the 10th century BC. The mythical story of its origins involved King Kadros who was led to the place of Ephesus by the famous Delphic oracle. Though there are several other origin stories including those discussed by Pausanias and Strabo concerning the queen of the Amazons, Ephos, as a founder.

Over the centuries the city saw many conflicts including attacks by the Cimmerians and the Lysians. The city though continued to prosper and became the base of and producing a number of significant historical figures. For instance, the poets Cllainus and Hipponax, the philosopher Heraclitus and the physicians Soranus and Rufus whos writings we still have today. The Classical period saw more conflicts with the Ionian revolt and the Peloponnesian war, in which Ephesus originally allied with Athens and then switched to Sparta in the later stages. During this time though it continued its upward climb and produced even great female artists like Timarate who is mentioned in Pliny the Elder as the painter who produced a fabulous representation of the goddess Diana.

Alexander the Great liberated the site from Persian rule at the end of the Classical period and is said to have entered Ephesus in triumph. He even proposed to rebuild the Temple of Artemis which had been burned down in previous conflicts. After the death of Alexander though turmoil retuned under the rule of his general Lysimachus but after his eventual death, Ephesus became part of the Seleucis Empire and then was governed under Egyptian rule from the late 2nd century BC. Ephesus eventually became a part of the Roman Republic. All these influences and changes certainly led to a diverse site with establishments of buildings and institutions in all these periods. And the diversity continued as the site continued to function as part of the Byzantine era when Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and built a new public bath after the conflicts of the Roman period. Unfortunately though Ephesus has one enemy which they couldn’t defeat, the area is often troubled by earthquakes and one in 614 partially destroyed the city again.

Considering all the conflicts it has seen, all the people and leaders, it is both understandable and surprising that so much is left of this site. And so now we have got through the date part and you have some background information let me tell you about the site itself from an archaeologist’s perspective.

Ephesus - Efes
Library of Celsus

This site really is the archaeologist’s dream, I would happily dig on this site for years and years. You can see obviously that much of the site has been reconstructed which is fabulous and appears to be very well done. There are certain areas though that obviously stand out. The first of these being Celsus’ library. Apart from witnessing teen girls posing doing duck faces next to a status of wisdom (I’m so glad these statues are replicas because i can see the real ones throwing themselves out of their niches in horror), this is by far the most magnificent part of the site. It is truly a shame that the majority of people who visit the site do not know much about it. The library was built at the beginning of the second century CE for Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who was the governor of the province, by his son Galius Julius Aquila and was actually built as a tomb rather than specifically a library. The façade is all that really remains today but once upon a time this building is thought to have been able to hold over 12,000 scrolls. As such it is thought to have once been the third richest library of the ancient world following the libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum. The library is an amazing building and to someone who understands its significance it really does stand for the virtues that are inscribed on its walls including knowledge, wisdom, intelligence and valour. Just ignore the posing tourists who are updating their Facebook profile pictures.

While it appears that most people go round, look at the theatre and the library and then have an ice cream, this site has some truly amazing parts that you only really appreciate if you have researched them before hand or know about archaeology. The agora for instance, which was built in the Roman period played an important role as a social and political meeting place but the archaeology shows that the area was in use far before these functions. Excavations have brought to light graves from the seventh and sixth centuries BCE including an archaic sarcophagus made from terracotta. There is also a well preserved water reservoir in the corner of the ahora which demonstrates just how technically accomplished these people were. Its water was supplied by the Pollio Aqueduct which supplied the whole city from 5km away. The agora also contained stoas and a temple with dedications to the cult of Isis and evidence of rebuilding in different periods indicative of the turmoil the city suffered.

The emphasis on the large theatre is well justified but the odeon is also a significant area. Unfortunately it was while looking at this I heard a tour guide tell tourists incorrectly that they used to have gladiator fights here…It’s an odeon, it is tiny, just no. First of all this area was used as a Bouletarion (a meeting place) for meetings of the Bouleia (council) and members of the Demos. It was also used for performances. The building is impressive though fairly small in size and demonstrates the wealth of its benefactors. It was orders by Publicus Vedius Antonius and his wife in the second century.

Among other impressive areas of the site is the well reconstructed fountain of Trajan built at the start of the second century CE. It’s columns and pediments really give you an idea of what it would have looked like in its prime. It is an excellent tool for giving the visitors more of an idea of the ancient city and its statues are now in the museum. It is just a real shame that the Ephesus Archaeology Museum is shut for renovations for an entire year!

There is so so much to this site it can not be written down. I could tell you about the temples, the gateways, fountains, houses, whole city but you have to visit it to appreciate everything. Either way I encourage that you look up this site and read more because this really was a site to remember.

Odeon at Ephesus
Inscriptions at the Library of Celsus
Colonnaded street
Gateway with Greek Inscriptions