1900 el-Arabeh

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The following is from an unpublished manuscript written by Janine Bourriau and is reproduced here with permission: 

"Garstang excavated Cemetery E for the Egyptian Research Account in 1900, and his results were published in El Arabáh, E.R.A. 1901. The cemetery lay between the wadi leading to Umm el Qa’âb and the Shûnet el-Zebîd and was bounded on the south west by the concession of the Egypt Exploration Fund, which was excavated by Arthur Mace at the same time.[1] The two concessions form part of the same cemetery, and no natural division exists between them.

Garstang[2] argued that his site expanded chronologically from east to west, with XII and XVIII Dynasty tombs on either boundary and Second Intermediate period graves in the centre. The plan on pl. ii of the publication shows the pattern clearly and Garstang explains inconsistencies with the suggestion that the absence or erosion of superstructures allowed graves to by dug in already occupied ground. However, further study of the plan indicated that it is too inaccurate and incomplete to provide evidence for or against the hypothesis. There are 113 numbered tombs on the plan, out of a possible 356, which is the highest number quoted in the publication.[3] Out of the 113, 24 are not referred to anywhere else in the text or plates and five numbers occur twice, which leaves 84 dateable graves marked on the plan. Although it cannot be proved now one way or another, Garstang’s argument, on its own terms, appears over simple, since it ignores the influence of factors such as architecture on the site chosen for a tomb. Mace noticed[4] that the shafts of the Second Intermediate period lay all over his concession while the elaborate structures of the XVIII–XIX Dynasty took up the most imposing sites on the ridge of the wadi leading to Umm el Qa’âb. The corresponding area in Garstang’s concession is marked on the plan “ not completely excavated”. Perhaps if it had been explored, the tombs found would have contradicted his postulated development of the cemetery.

Cemetery E. was used continuously from XII–XVIII Dynasties and at least 82 tombs[5] contained objects of the Second Intermediate period. It is an important site for this study, but so thoroughly plundered that only in 12–15 tombs were any burials found intact.[6] By analogy with the tombs dug by Peet in the surrounding area to the south east[7] the objects were generally found scattered in the shaft without indication of their original position. The publication itself provides, except for some of the unrobed burials, a list and description of the finds only."


[1] Garstang, El Arábah, E.R.A. 1901, p.2; Porter and Moss, op. cit. , p.38; Randall-MacIver and Mace, El Amrah and Abydos, E.E.F. 1902, p.63.

[2] Garstang, op. cit., p.2.

[3] Ibid., p. 46.

[4] Randall-MacIver and Mace, op. cit., p.64.

[5] The figure has been calculated on the basis of published and unpublished material. For reasons stated above, pp.  , not all these groups have been included in this study.

[6] Garstang, op. cit., p.24.

[7] See Peet, The Cemeteries of Abydos II, E.E.F. 1914, for the account of Cemeteries X, B, C, O.

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