The Archaeological Research Facility Newsletter
Carol A. Redmount
This coming spring and summer, UC Berkeley's Tell el-Muqdam Project will take to the field for its third season of archaeological investigation at the large urban site of Tell el-Muqdam, located in the Egyptian Delta.
Funding for this season's fieldwork is being provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and private donations. The project is directed by myself and by Dr. Renee Friedman, a former Egyptian Archaeology Ph.D. candidate in the Near Eastern Studies Department, now a research affiliate at UC Berkeley.
Tell el-Muqdam is a large site, with existing remains covering some 30.426 hectares (304,260m2). In antiquity the site was even larger, but modern agricultural fields and the adjacent village have nibbled away at (and occasionally gobbled) the edges of the site, considerably reducing the size of the mound. Archaeological investigations of Muqdam during the 1800s were casual, large-scale, and archaeologically inefficient. They were also tremendously destructive, since the early explorers kept virtually no records of their work. As a result, beyond the mention of various inscribed items deemed important, we know almost nothing of what they found.
The last large-scale excavations at the site were by Edouard Naville in 1892; and the last officially sanctioned undertaking (apart from some scattered activities by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization in recent years) was a salvage excavation in 1915 of a possibly royal, possibly Twenty-third dynasty queen's tomb. Illicit plundering of the mound has been erratic but continuous, despite the efforts of the Egyptian authorities-the site has been officially protected since the late 1800s-and numerous artefacts of varying character and date have made their way onto the international antiquities market. According to the local villagers, a cache of statues from Muqdam was smuggled out of Egypt as late as the 1970s.
From relevant historical records, we learn that the ancient Egyptian name of the site was probably T3-Rmw (Land of the Fish), which is known as the center of a powerful Delta kingdom in the fragmented Third Intermediate Period (@ 1069-664 B.C.). It has also been suggested by some that Muqdam was the seat of the Third Intermediate Period's Twenty-third Dynasty in the eighth century B.C. By Ptolemaic times (332-30 B.C.) the city was known by its Greek name, Leontopolis (City of the Lions); Leontopolis was the capital of the Leontopolite or Eleventh Lower Egyptian Nome (a nome was roughly the equivalent of one of our states). It is as Leontopolis that the site is mentioned in Strabo's Geography. References to the city occur sporadically in other classical and coptic documents.
Based on our trial visit to the mound, as well as our study of the historical documentation of and previous finds from the site, we initially identified three major goals for the project. Very little is known archaeologically or otherwise about Egyptian urbanism during the first millennium B.C., and even less about cities in the Delta in any time period. Since we were dealing with a large, comparatively well-preserved chunk of an ancient Delta city, which by all indications had significant remains dating to the first millennium, we designed our work with the aim of contributing to an understanding of the history, development, and character of Egyptian urbanism. Second, Muqdam is located on the southern end of the Mendesian Nile branch (long since defunct), and controlled an ancient and strategic trade route. We therefore sought to investigate the characteristics and importance of Mediterranean trade as reflected in the site. Finally, we hoped our work would shed additional light, both archaeological and historical, on the poorly understood, badly documented, and under-researched (archaeologically challenged?) Third Intermediate Period.
Our first two years of fieldwork have been directed towards basic exploration of the site in order to generate a base-line understanding of the mound and its development. In this way we have also been able to initiate more intensive activities at appropriate times and in appropriate areas. The results to date follow:
1. The first scientific topographic map of the site has now been completed. Mr. Joel Paulson, a former UC Berkeley Egyptology student who is now a licensed surveyor, has produced the map utilizing a total station and various computer programs, including a copy of AutoCAD donated to the project by AutoDesk. Mr. Paulson is still fine-tuning his final product by experimenting with computer graphics programs.
2. A regional survey of the area surrounding Muqdam has highlighted the extent of site destruction over the years. Of a total of 24 sites documented at the turn of the century, only 9 survive today, mostly in sadly reduced states. Two of the survey sites were located one kilometer or less from Muqdam, and were probably associated with the larger city. One of these survey sites produced predominantly Third Intermediate Period pottery; unfortunately the area has reverted to the private sector and been turned over to local farmers for agricultural use.
3. Site characterization and intra-site survey activities are being undertaken by a variety of non- and minimally destructive methods in addition to traditional excavation. Systematic surface collection (rendered problematic by the heavy vegetation covering the site, primarily the quite nasty halfa grass and camel thorn) and auguring were carried out along individual grid lines running the length and width of the site. Selected additional areas were examined in a similar fashion. Brian Muhs, formerly an undergraduate Egyptology student at UCB and now a Ph.D. candidate at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, serves as site epigrapher and has recorded all inscribed material lying on the mound's surface, including a red granite torso of Ramses II (@1279-1212 B.C.) and a red granite block with part of the titulary of Ramses II. Surface collection has produced material dating predominantly from the Saite (@ 664-525 B.C.) through Late Roman/Coptic (@ fourth through seventh centuries A.D.) periods. The soil auguring has indicated that the site continues far below the water table, which in summer ranges from about 0.75m to 3m below surface level, to depths of 3m and more. At no point did our auguring reach the end of cultural deposits. Finally, a preliminary magnetics survey using a portable gradiometer was undertaken by Dr. Maury Morgenstein of Geosciences Management Institute. Unfortunately, results of this preliminary study indicated that, for a variety of site-specific reasons, magnetics are of limited use at Muqdam.
4. Last, but far from least, we have opened test excavations at a number of different locations spread across the tell. In this way we have begun to identify different functional and temporal zones preserved at the site. To date, we have recovered remains dating to the Roman, Hellenistic, Persian, and Saite periods, the character of which ranges from domestic, to industrial, to monumental, to possibly cultic. Our excavations also have been rich in small finds (processed by Joan Knudsen of the Phoebe Hearst Museum who is our registrar) which include a series of small erotic figurines, mostly male; a number of terra cottas, including several horse and rider figurines that are one of the hallmarks of the Persian period in the eastern Mediterranean and an occasional sculpture fragment, as well as glass, amulets (including a wadjet eye mold), and stamped jar handles originating outside Egypt.
What have we learned so far? Muqdam seems to have been a major urban and probably administrative center in the Persian period (sixth and fifth centuries B.C.). We have found occupation of this date at broadly scattered locations in the tell; the depth of deposit is impressive-at least 2-3m in places; and we have evidence of functional differentiation at various locations (industrial, administrative or ceremonial, and domestic). The Hellenistic remains seem to be largely gone and are probably lost to research; they would have overlain the Persian period deposits, and we know that the site has been much reduced in height over the past two centuries. The Roman city seems to have been founded along the southern edge of the earlier city mound and not placed on top; consequently considerable Roman remains are preserved. Anything earlier than Persian or transitional Saite-Persian times lies below the water table. Contacts with the broader ancient Mediterranean world can be seen in the pottery and some of the other finds.
So, as we enter our third season of work, we find that some adjustments to our initial goals are in order. Although we have found little material dating to the Third Intermediate Period, our Persian period remains are unexpectedly impressive (and ubiquitous). As with the Third Intermediate Period, little is known archaeologically of the Persian period in general, and even less of the Delta region. Consequently, we are now working to shed archaeological light on this under-represented time period. Our goals of investigating Egyptian urbanism and trade/interconnections remain. And it has now become clear that since so much of the site's history lies below the water table, we must begin to devise means to deal with this problem and investigate its parameters. As one of my former field instructors put it, "The answers lie below!" It will be interesting to see what new discoveries this season brings.
The past few months have been increasingly active ones for the Archaeological Research Facility, including recruitment for a historical archaeologist who will join the faculty in the Department of Anthropology, as well as numerous exciting lectures. Of course, I am particularly proud of the "smashing" success of our lecture on March 8 which featured my French colleague, Jean Clottes, speaking to a crowd of at least 600 people about the new cave art discovery, the Grotte Chauvet, in the Ardèche region of France. The lecture was preceded by a press conference that led to articles in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, The Contra Costa County Times, The Berkeleyan, and The Daily Cal, most with photos as well! The lecture was attended by the French Consul and several attachés, who themselves had to sit on the floor! Jean Clottes was at his best, with an impassioned and throughly engaging description of how one gets into the cave through the narrowest of passages, and with his own magnificent photos of hundreds of paintings and engravings that appear to be as old as 20,000 years. We were all thrilled that Jean's time here at Berkeley in 1991, as a Visiting Research Professor thanks to the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, had generated a feeling of Berkeley loyalty and friendship such that he was moved to give the first North American showing of the slides here at Berkeley. It is also a wonderful and reassuring thing to know that an archaeology lecture can bring out nearly 600 equally impassioned people as an audience. Our thanks goes to the French Cultural Studies, the Departments of Anthropology and of the History of Art, and the Center for Western European Studies for their support of the event. I personally want to thank both the ARF staff for working on the arrangements and Bill Whitehead (archaeology graduate student, Anthropology) for several hours of dedicated work to set up the slide screen, the mike and for overseeing the slides from a tiny booth where he could not hear much of the lecture.
In addition to the 5 archaeology lectures for the historical archaeology position in Anthropology, we have been treated to numerous other lectures of archaeological interest over the past few months: Dr. Evgeni Chernyk (Russian Academy of Sciences) spoke on the ancient metallurgy of Russia and the Bronze Age; Dr. Jeanine Davis-Kimball (Near Eastern Studies) spoke on "Burial Practices Among the Indo-Iranian Samatians;" Dr. Matthew Johnson (University of Durham) spoke on the Georgian Order; Otis Parrish (a new archaeology graduate student in 1995 in Anthropology) spoke as part of series offered by the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and presented an engaging account of his native California heritage and its influence on his now-renowned jewelry making; and Dr. Payson Sheets (University of Colorado) presented the spring Archaeological Institute of America lecture on his research at the Ceren Site (southern Mesoamerica) - and these are just a few of the many offerings!
While it is hard to believe that the 1994-95 academic year will come to a close in little over a month from now, there are a number of ARF projects still in process that we hope to be able to report on in our Fall Newsletter. I have been asked to begin a 5 year term as Director of the ARF as of July 1, 1995, and I look forward to a challenging but productive tenure in such a position. I appreciate the support of the Directorship Search Committee and of Vice-Chancellor Cerny and his staff, and encourage you all to join with me in the coming years in the many and diverse projects of the ARF and in promoting and encouraging archaeology at Berkeley!
In the last days of December 1994, a team of three cave explorers (Jean-Marie Chauvet, Eliette Deschamps and Christian Hillaire) found a fabulous painted cave in the valley of the Ardeche, at Combe d'Arc (Vallon-Pont-d'Arc). It includes many signs, such as panels of red dots, stenciled and positive hands, as well as several hundred animal figures, including a majority of species rarely represented elsewhere, such as rinos, lions and bears. Horses, bison, aurochs, red and megaceros deer, ibex, mammoths, have also been painted or engraved. Three animals are unique in Paleolithic art: a panther, a hyena and an owl. The quality of the drawings is truly exquisite and makes this cave one of the most spectacular ever found, comparable only to Lascaux and Altamira. From recurrent conventions and details, it seems that a majority of paintings could have been done by the same artist. The provisional chronological attribution is to the Solutrean, but radiocarbon datings are expected and we hope they will provide a more solid base.
The cave explorers were extremely careful not to walk wherever it was not solid rock. Thousands of cave bear bones litter the ground and many bear footprints have been preserved on the clay. Human traces are also possible. The whole cave has not yet been explored, as the first priority has been its preservation: it was not possible to reach the other side of some chambers for fear of trampling ancient traces. This major discovery will no doubt bring a wealth of information on Paleolithic cave art and human activities in the deep caves.
The Arabian Gulf and the adjacent regions of the Indian Ocean is an area of the world with a seafaring tradition of over 5,000 years in age, yet which has gone essentially unexplored beneath the waves. In fact, the South and Southwest Asian regions, and the Gulf area in particular, have perhaps the richest and longest running seafaring tradition of any world region. From before and through the Bronze Age, Iron Age, rise of Islam, medieval period, on down into the 20th century, ships in this region have played a vital and pivotal role in commerce, communication, and exploration.
The discovery, excavation, and documentation of a Bronze Age (c.5,000 - 3,500 years ago) ship involved in the elaborate trading activity between Sumer (Iraq), Magan (southeastern Arabia), Meluhha (Pakistan), Dilmun (Bahrain and northeastern Arabia), and the regions between and beyond would be one of the greatest achievements in the field of archaeology. To that end a search has been inaugurated for submerged shipwrecks of any period in the coastal and territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a fascinating country located on the Arabian peninsula, adjacent to the Straits of Hormuz.
The UAE's strategic location at the confluence of trading routes extending from China, Sri Lanka, and India in the east, to Ethiopia, Egypt, and Europe in the west, as well as the country's own rich cultural heritage, make this an ideal region in which to search for ancient seafarers. Thankfully, the UAE welcomed my research team from the University of California at Berkeley in February of 1994, and a second field season is planned for the Summer of 1995.
The multidisciplinary team of Berkeley scientific divers included myself, marine biologist Kyler Abernathy, and historian Sean Hathaway Kelly.
Our research and search methods involved all of the basic nuts and bolts of searching for shipwrecks from a time and place with little or no historical records to steer us:
* Studying the historical and popular records of shipping lanes, ports, and commercial areas.
* Collecting maps and charts of the coastal regions and adjacent sealanes, as well as U.S. Navy seafloor soundings.
* Surveying the coastlines by Land Cruiser and foot to catalogue likely ports of call and dangerous coastlines.
* Surveying the coastlines by boat and scuba diving to establish a knowledge base of water conditions, tidal patterns, seafloor depths and geological makeup.
* Surveying the coastlines by helicopter to visually search for wrecks or likely wreck-producing areas.
Our initial season in the UAE allowed preliminary searches of the UAE's east coast along the Indian Ocean in the Emirate of Fujairah, and selected west coast sites and islands in the Arabian Gulf in the Emirate of Sharjah. We will continue our efforts in 1995, with the aim of pinpointing very specific target areas to search in a more detailed manner with the use of side-scanning sonar and ROV (remotely-operated vehicle). Though our first efforts in the UAE have been timid and of a broad stroke, we are laying the scientific and archaeological groundwork for greater discoveries to come in future seasons. There are, quite assuredly, ancient ships, artefacts, and possibly even sunken villages to be found in those waters, and we intend to find them.
Note: This research project owes an immense gratitude to the generous support of HH Dr. Shaikh Sultan Muhammad al-Qasimi, H.H. Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Sharqi and H.H. Shaikh Salah Bin Mohammed Al Sharqi; the Departments of Cultural and Archaeological Affairs of the Emirates of Sharjah and Fujairah, UAE; the Stahl Travel Fund, Department of Near Eastern Studies, and Office of Scientific Diving at the University of California at Berkeley; and the Dr. Karl Koenig Foundation.
When the British navigator Captain James Cook arrived off the coasts of Maui and Hawai'i Islands in the winter of 1779, he found the two lands each under the control of powerful and fiercely competitive chiefs: Kahekili on Maui, and Kalaniopu'u on Hawai'i. The late prehistoric landscape of the Hawai'i Island chiefdom controlled by Kalaniopu'u has for many years been intensively studied by archaeologists, who have often generalized from their results to the archipelago at large. Maui Island, on the other hand, has been relatively neglected from an archaeological perspective.
Prof. Patrick Kirch and a team of Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students are now engaged in a project focused on the little-known archaeological landscape of east Maui, in the district of Kahikinui. Building upon the results of a settlement-pattern survey initiated in 1966 but never completed (due to the tragic death of its director, Peter Chapman), Kirch's team has recorded more than 600 sites within an 8 square kilometer survey area. The survey area lies on the arid, leeward side of Maui, a landscape of slightly weathered lava fields that rises from the rocky coast (sorry, no palm fringed beaches!) up to the summit of majestic Haleakalä volcano at 10,000 feet above sea level. The sites include coastal fishing settlements and an intensively settled upland agricultural zone with hundreds of individual domestic household features (habitation enclosures, shelters, platforms, and so forth). Of particular interest is a system of regularly spaced stone temple platforms (heiau) in the upland zone, which exhibit significant differences from the better-studied Hawai'i Island temple system.
Data on the more than 600 sites have been entered into a computerized database using the Paradox software, which will be interfaced with a GIS database for the survey area containing digitized information on topography, soils, vegetation, and other environmental parameters. Field-checking of sites and additional survey work was carried out during the January semester break by Kirch and his students, with support from the Class of 1954 Endowed Chair Fund. (Kirch was appointed in July 1994 to the Class of 1954 Distinguished Teaching Professorship.) The team hopes to continue its survey work during the coming summer, and graduate student Cindy VanGilder expects to base her dissertation on Hawaiian household archaeology on the Kahikinui materials.
Stephen G. Miller
Although Professor Miller is on sabbatical leave this academic year and, not surprisingly, is spending the year in Greece, he recently returned to present his annual lecture to the Friends of Nemea and the University community (January 31,1995). The 1994 season at Nemea -where excavations began in 1974 - was particularly memorable because July 6 marked the Opening of the Ancient Stadium of Nemea as an Archaeological Park, which is now a remarkable site to visit by the public. The archaeological excavations of the past two decades have yielded enormously interesting and important information about the stadium, and about the entire fabric and set-up of the ancient games. The July 6 opening was thrilling, to say the least, and included six foot races run by groups of both boys and girls. As Professor Miller reported in his annual letter to the Friends of Nemea: "that which cannot easily be conveyed is... the sense of life that came back to the stadium, and the thrill of watching the black-robed judges set in motion the first race of 10-12 year olds who - clad in white chitons - burst from the starting line as the reconstructed hysplex mechanism fell to sprint down the track". As well, the drinking fountain - in the form of the Nemean Lion - was installed at the entrance to the Archaeological Park, along with a bronze plaque which reads "Archaeological Park of the Ancient Stadium of Nemea - Work of the University of California at Berkeley, 1974-1994", and along with a planting of many flowers with a very Blue and Gold centerpiece of marigolds and blue bladder gentians! The following excerpt from Professor Miller's letter provides us with additional information on the research and on the future archaeology at Nemea:
"After a period of recovery from the dedication of the stadium, our more typical work at Nemea went on. This, of course, deals with the final publications, and the preparation of the illustrative material to accompany them. With the help of M. Miller and J. Parsons, I have been able to check every graffito on the walls of the tunnel entrance of the stadium. These will comprise a most important part of the stadium volume and it is extremely important that we get these difficult-to-read scratchings recorded correctly. And so they now are with the help of Jeff Burden who inked in the corrected readings on the drawings of the graffiti that we had originally done longer ago.
In the meantime, work on other volumes has progressed, and my colleague Robert Knapp [U.C. Berkeley, Professor of Classics] indicates that the volume on the coins from the excavations at Nemea should be ready shortly after that on the stadium. We are hopeful that this time next year both volumes will be in press.
The other major effort has been the preparation of the application to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for renewed full-scale excavations at Nemea..." This request, Professor Miller now writes, has been approved for the period of 1997-2001. We look forward to more exciting discoveries as well as the continued reporting and publication of original and important archaeology from Nemea!!