November 10, 2012

Notes from the bath house and beyond

Filed under: Egypt, Field photos — acagle @ 6:09 am

Few days of limited access, first in Cairo and then back at the ranch here. I stayed at the Giza project villa — yes, ‘villa’ — and it was quite nice. It’s Mark Lehner’s project and they have a good sized budget to work with. Nothing like a dar room with an AC unit for a good night’s sleep. Next day I went to the pyramids by myself (was going to meet some peeps but we never quite hooked up) and. . . it was irritating. Got bothered a lot by sellers of junk who don’t usually pay me much mind. One jerk got all in my face demanding to see my ticket, saying he was with ’security’. Ha! I spent quite a bit of time looking around the base of the great pyramid for an early manatee skeleton RR told us was there, but to no avail. A couple people asked if I was meditating just walking back and forth staring at the ground. Was kind of relaxing, I’ll admit. . . .
And to prove it:

Otherwise, I spent time at a, um, shopping mall. Yes! GAWD, how nice was that. And most of that time sitting in a Starbucks with a mocha. YUM. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I wrote this elsewhere:

I don’t care what “they” say, one can find peace at a shopping mall. After spending a month in the field with nothing nearby except farms and villages and sheep and goats, sitting here in a suburban mall Starbucks, I am as relaxed and content as can be. I like watching the shoppers go about their business, kids running and having fun, the Starbucks barista clearing off tables between orders, and commerce happening all around. And here I sit in my little oasis, warm chocolate chip muffin and mug of water and iPad whiling away a couple of hours. Civilization is way underrated. Let the granola-heads don their hair shirts and eat certified organic nuts and twigs and leave me to enjoy a warm mocha in a corner watching a lot of pretty happy-looking people enjoy being around one another.

And then there was this. . . .

Anyway. . . .more photos!

As I mentioned in the last post, we’d been looking for the drainage system at the bath house and I finally more or less uncovered it after some fairly extensive troweling around. In the 1975 photos the entire run of the drainage channel was covered with square bricks, but except for two we just weren’t finding any. They do, in fact, seem to be all or mostly all gone:

The bend in the foreground is where it come out of the wall from the drain photo from last time. I didn’t know at the time how exactly it worked, what with two long raised portions. . . .I was thinking two pipes or something. . . but no, it just makes a channel in the middle for the water and it’s capped by the big square bricks. Pretty deep too, I measured 16 cm top to bottom. We have a ways to go to get the whole thing uncovered and I’m curious to see how many of the capping bricks are actually left. No idea where they may have gone to, except possibly pilfered for building material elsewhere but that doesn’t seem right.

Here is a small cutaway section of the sediment immediately above the channel:

That’s about 15 cm of a compact fine sediment overlying it. At first I was worried that I’d cut through some mud brick covering it, but I was still finding trash in it. Note that you can also make out four faint vertical lines in it, most noticeably to the right side. That was one thing that made me worried about it being mud brick: that is often what mortar lines look like. But it seems to be just some harder-packed fill deposit that they packed around the channel, perhaps to protect it after the bricks were removed. No idea what the lines are all about.

And now from the ethnoarchaeology front:

Yes, those are actual mud bricks. They’re being made to reconstruct parts of the old Michigan field house. They’re still made in much of the middle east since they are a cheap and very good building material. Here are finished ones sitting in the sun to dry. And here are the molds:

They get very good at making these things. Once the material is mixed up a couple of people can crank out hundreds in a day. Some families in Egypt have been doing it for decades and it’s a real skill.

Here is the mixing area:

The literally proverbial straw:

And yours truly permanently impressed upon a mud brick:


  1. Are you going to explain the big purple dino?

    Comment by ArchaeoFriend — November 11, 2012 @ 11:22 am

  2. What’s there to explain? I was walking down the streets of Cairo and there was a big purple dinosaur. You make it sound like that may be. . . . .unusual. . . . . .

    Comment by acagle — November 12, 2012 @ 7:20 am

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