The Volunteer Experience

The overall South Asasif Conservation Project team comprises of many elements with the team of Egyptian workers led by Reis Mohamed Ali, MSA as well as archaeologists, epigraphers and academic specialists from various countries.  However it is to our international team of dedicated volunteers that much of the archaeological supervision and registration duties fall. Recent graduates from archaeological and Egyptological programs from various American and UK universities join the project on a volunteer basis to participate in the various tasks of the project, get field experience and sharpen their skills.  In this entry we record some of their experiences so far this season:

Patricia Mason (returning volunteer, UK)

“Our first excavation task in Karakhamun has been to record and remove the last of the flood and occupational debris in the Open Court. This consists of broken mud brick, stones and sand, as well as a significant volume of pottery sherds and animal bones.    Apparently the Open Court was used by the locals to house Water Buffalo and other livestock. On one day we recovered 21 bags of bones from at least 2 animals.  Other finds have included fragments of limestone from the walls and small fragments of faience.”

Layers of flood and occupational debris visible during the excavation of the Open Court of Karakhamun

Layers of flood and occupational debris visible during the excavation of the Open Court of Karakhamun


Robyn Kealey (new volunteer, Australia)

“Upon my excited arrival to Luxor I was acquainted with the dig house, my home for the next three weeks, just down the road from the Colossi of Memnon and close to the dig site. Each morning I would open the French doors to see the sun rise and watch the balloons quietly sailing overhead. A peaceful start to a busy day!

My principal task at the excavation was site supervision, which I really enjoyed. Starting during the cool of the morning I assisted by collecting, sorting, labelling and bagging the finds. These varied and included decorated limestone pieces, painted pottery, wood fragments, papyrus fragments, faience beads and one day a beautiful faience shabti.

Every day was filled with anticipation and excitement for what might be revealed.  At the end of the day the workmen downed tools and made their way home to rest away from the heat of the day.  That was time for me to take site levels and end of day photography, complete the context sheets for the day and remove the precious finds to be locked away.”

Ongoing excavation in the Open Court of Karakhamun

Ongoing excavation in the Open Court of Karakhamun

Stone and Object registration and associated record keeping is the second principal task undertaken by volunteers.  Last season alone several thousand objects and stone fragments were registered.  The stone does not stay still as it is constantly in demand to make joins in support of the reconstruction of the walls and pillars, a level of movement which adds to the significant challenge of inventory started this season by Pete Tolhurst and Francesca Jones.

Pete Tolhurst (returning volunteer, UK)

“After a warm welcome back, Elena gave Francesca and I the task of re-checking and listing the registration number and shelf of every carved limestone fragment excavated by the project. This meant removing every piece and listing its registration number and shelf placement.  After 4 days we had completed the task!

From this we moved on to stone registration, ensuring that every newly found piece of carved or painted limestone is properly recorded on paper and computer, measured, drawn, transcribed (if applicable) and photographed.”


Jane Golding and Joy Stamp (returning volunteers, UK)

The two pillared halls of the tomb of the tomb of Karakhamun (TT223) that have now collapsed used to have beautiful multi-patterned ceilings. The ceilings have almost entirely caved in together with the walls and the pillars. However since 2006 the project has recovered several thousand ceiling pieces of many different designs and motifs.  Work on this gigantic ceiling jigsaw commenced during the 2012 season by the end of which 12 different designs had been positively identified from the thousands of extant fragments.

This season, we are endeavouring to identify additional designs and so far further designs have come to light.  One of these is supported by the confirmation that a large number of blocks match with a small area of intact ceiling remaining in the First Pillared Hall.

2000-02-17 02.37.53

The second new positive identification is of a delicate flower motif. These fragments vary slightly in their design and we should shortly be able to identify how many sub-designs there may be for these beautiful flowers.

2000-02-17 02.41.20

In addition to the basic identification process, the relationship and joins between each motif must be considered, a process for which the study of other surviving examples of ceilings will also be important.  In addition, in order to move us towards a reconstructable overall ceiling design it is essential to be able to calculate how many square metres each individual motif will cover.  We are currently creating a spreadsheet-based model that measures each fragment of each specific pattern to enable us to quantify the remaining fragments, and inevitably it will also be necessary to estimate what has been lost.  By doing this, despite very disturbed find positions, we hope to be able to ascertain where in the tomb the different designs should be placed.  Through this identification of the spatial positioning of different patterns we can perhaps move towards an interpretation of their symbolic, ritual or aesthetic meanings as part of the overall tomb design.

The project would like to thank all of the volunteers of the season so far for their excellent work.  We now have a new team of volunteers working at the site building on the work of their predecessors. We will report further on these activities as the season progresses.




2 responses to “The Volunteer Experience

  1. Hi, I live here on the West Bank. Is there any way I can get involved in your good work here.

    Bernard M. Adams
    UK man

  2. Bernadette Andics

    It’s possible to join the team of volunteers?
    I was been working as draftsman in my country Hungary (especially draving – sitemaps and plans, objects and reconstructions, illustrating scientific publications and lectures).

    If yes, the costs of flight and accomodation are also the part of a volunteer’s mission or are these costs covered by the excavation projects?
    Bernadette Hungary

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