Sunday, July 6, 2008

A remarkably intact mud-brick settlement has been partially excavated near the ancient temple at Edfu, archaeologists announced recently.

With layers dating from 2,400 to 280 B.C., the find offers unprecedented insights into the daily religious, commercial, and administrative lives of normal people, a topic previously known mostly from written accounts.

In part, this was because Egypt's famous stone monuments and gold artifacts attracted the bulk of scholarly attention, experts say.

"[Archaeologists] are more and more interested in how settlements were organized and how normal people lived," said Nadine Moeller, who heads the Edfu excavation. "These towns were all made of mud brick, so that's obviously not as glamorous than stone architecture."

The ancient Egyptian town at Tell Edfu was found remarkably intact, but even its settlement layers show traces of quarrying from farmers searching for materials to make fertilizers at the turn of the 20th century.

The damage, however, missed much of the large town center, a trade and government hub containing a number of rectangular mud-brick structures. Experts say some of the buildings served as storage cellars and were built with a thick ash layer that helped to deter rodents and insects.

At the Tell Edfu settlement, archaeologists discovered seal impressions that were discarded on the floor of a 16-columned hall, though their significance remains yet to be determined. The experts speculate, however, that the hall may have been part of a governor's palace built as early as the 12th dynasty, which lasted from 1985 to 1773 B.C.

For generations, the palace would serve as the administrative and commercial center of the settlement, providing accounting services and a secure location to open sealed items like papyrus letters, wooden boxes, and baskets.

This 21-foot-wide (6.5-meter-wide) grain silo—the largest ever found in an Egyptian town center—was part of an open courtyard of at least eight storage bins.

Grain was used to pay taxes to governors of provincial towns such as Edfu, part of a plan by Thebes-based pharaohs to gain influence with local rulers during ancient Egypt's strife-filled17th dynasty, which lasted from approximately 1570 to 1540 B.C.

Source : nationalgeographic

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