So another season of survey and augering is under way at Thebes. The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey has, for the past 5 years, been using geoarchaeological and geophysical survey to study the changing floodplain of the river Nile, and the dynamics between the ancient harbours and waterways and the Theban temple complexes on the West Bank and Luxor and Karnak temples. In 2015 the survey work focused on the areas around Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum, with Electrical Resistivity Tomography profiles and auger locations running from the edge of the floodplain to the modern course of the Nile. In addition an area survey was conducted over the mounds at Malqata, associated with the harbour of Birket Habu. This year the season is focussing its attention on the floodplain between the colossal seated statues of Amenhotep III and his huge ceremonial lake (Birket Habu), immediately to the east of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb.
After a slight delay at the start of the project for permits, the work commenced on 19th January. Reconnaissance of the area to the east of the temple, looking for a route across the floodplain for both ERT and auger locations, was conducted last autumn and walked over by the team as we waited for our paperwork to be completed.
The aim of the transect of boreholes (hand augering and a percussion coring) and geophysical survey (Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT)) is to understand the geoarchaeological history of the floodplain in this area of Thebes. We are using our RTK GPS to establish the location of the ERT profiles and to survey in borehole locations during the course of the work.
As the ERT survey was set up and continued to collect data across the floodplain from west to east, the team also attempted some GPR. However, issues with the equipment meant that no survey could be completed, and this will have to wait until later in the season. The augering got off to a flying start, with boreholes starting immediately east of the temple of Ay and Horemheb and supported by the ERT profile data. The coring and hand augering both revealed the variation in the sediments from the desert edge, running east across the floodplain, with different depths of silts and sands.
The work with the augers was matched by the pace of the ERT, with resistivity data being collected along a traverse completed in four separate profiles, measuring over 2.7km in length. This traverse is located to complement the borehole data and the ERT data collected in the traverse to the east of the Ramesseum in 2014 and 2015, allowing comparison of the varying resistivity values from both locations.
As with many field projects, in some cases the work in the field marks only a part of the overall effort. Once the geophysical survey data is collected, and the auger samples are bagged or put into plastic tubes, the hard work of data processing and study of the augered samples begins. After a week of work, the whole team was called on to soak, sieve and pick through the sediments, weighing and measuring the different inclusions in the sediment to glean as much information about the nature and chronology of the floodplain sediments as possible. This data will be compared with the geophysics to help ground-truth the data and provide crucial information of the potential date of different deposits.
The preliminary data is already pointing to some interesting results on the deposition of sediments deposits, and their relationship with the West Bank monuments. There is still lots of processing and studying to be done!