Eastern Mound – C/2 Central

The general layout of the buildings in this section of C/2, as is the case in C/1 also, differs from the other residential buildings already studied in Area A, which date from the late 3rd to late 4th centuries CE. Large areas of contiguous structures which comprise open courts flanked by smaller, rectangular rooms with flat roofs are found in Area C. Area A on the other hand contains discrete units set within their own enclosures with all but the central courts featuring barrel-vaults. The state of preservation in Area C, however, rarely provides additional architectural details beyond the lower parts of walls. Magnetometry survey in the area revealed various circular anomalies, which are possibly pottery kilns, although iron slag found upon the surface in this zone indicates the presence of metal working kilns as well.

C/2/1

A small test excavation was undertaken in the domestic structure C/2/1 and on the whole yielded ceramic material resembling that of C/1/1. The walls of the structure generally survived higher than in C/1/1 and were found to preserve the lower parts of interior wall niches. Excavations within the rooms revealed the presence of a hearth and evidence of animal-keeping. Most importantly, one ostrakon was found providing dating evidence of the 2nd century CE. It refers to the joint reign of Marcus Aurelius (163-164 CE) and Lucius Verus (164-165 CE) indicating that this area of Kellis may have been occupied from the mid-2nd century. If so, it presents the earliest evidence for domestic activity that has been discovered on the site thus far. Most of the early investigative work, however, centered upon Structure C/2/4.

 
A plan of Structures C/2/1 and C/2/4

C/2/4

Structure C/2/4 was discovered as a result of clearance work to the north of C/2/1. It is a court measuring approximately 13m x 18m, in which excavation was restricted to features apparent along the west wall and northeast corner area. Other walls noticed upon the surface may indicate that the court had been divided into smaller sections.

In the northwest corner area, the lower parts of the firing chambers of two kilns were found. The internal diameters measure 2.04m and 1.66m; the larger with a wall thickness of 56cm and the smaller of 35cm. Neither exhibited signs of pronounced vitrification on the wall lining and from their sizes it seemed likely that they were used for the firing of pottery vessels. Fragments of unfired vessels were found nearby as well as part of a large circular ceramic disc. This disc may be identified as a bat, the device that sits upon a kick-wheel and on which potters fashion clay into vessels. It is therefore clear that part of a potters’ workshop once functioned in the court of C/2/4.

The kilns actually represent a late addition to the courtyard as they were dug through upper strata. Prior to this insertion the court may have featured as a domestic unit due to the remains of various rectangular chambers situated against the west wall which may have served as storage space. Another room was revealed in the north-eastern corner of the courtyard. It contained two rectangular storage bins, one in each eastern corner. The southern bin contained 39kg of millet.

C/2/8 and C/2/9, incorporating C/2/10 and C/2/11

These units lie to the southeast of the potters’ workshop. Surface clearance in the space of C/2/8 revealed a significant, apparently domestic unit containing nine rooms. The main entry to the complex is on the north and other structures are abutted on the south and west. The residence communicates with buildings on the west via doors in the west walls of Rooms 3 and 4 in its southwest corner. To its east, C/2/8 abuts a lane or street which appears to lead southwards. Only two of the rooms provided evidence for domestic activity: Room 8 witnessed activity focused upon a hearth in its floor; Room 9 contains remains of a staircase that lead up to the roof and was also used for storage as three ceramic jars were built into the supporting wall. Some of the rooms preserved mud-plaster floors and there were indications of re-plastering and door blocking. Only Room 2 provided evidence of a barrel-vaulted roof, but most of the others were flat-roofed.

c-2-8-c-2-9

C/2/8 was filled throughout with brick rubble originating from the collapse of both walls and roofs. Artefactual material of a domestic nature, primarily ceramics, was found in abundance as well. Fragments of papyrus inscribed in Greek and Demotic were discovered; the Greek notably unlike the examples from the late 3rd and 4th century contexts elsewhere at the site. Parts of two inscribed wooden boards were found with faded inscription while pieces from another contained writing on both sides with Greek numbers. The excavation also uncovered several Greek ostraka with dates in the early 2nd century: year 4 of Trajan and years 3 and 10 of Antoninus Pius.

The ceramics associated with this unit are all of the 1st to early 3rd centuries CE and comprise of types found in other early contexts at the site. Amongst the objects, the following are of special interest: two loom weights, a bound flint, two faience bowls (their form encountered regularly across Area C), a small carnelian scarab and the section from a flax comb which bears an ink drawing of a woman wielding a stick.

A second excavation was conducted at the same time as C/2/8, located slightly to the south, straddling the laneway. Five spaces were exposed: three rooms of a complex (C/2/9) built to the east of this lane, one space is part of the lane (C/2/11), and the other space is a room from a structure to the west (C/2/10). The fill of the rooms comprised mud-brick collapse from roofs and walls, roofing material and, at floor levels, substantial amounts of animal manure in the rooms of C/2/9. Most of the doors to this structure were blocked and the floors exhibited a disturbed nature. With the evidence of animals, this indicates that the building witnessed a secondary re-use as a stable. The work in C/2/11 revealed some rubble and an original street surface of compacted earth. Ceramics and other objects found in this area also date to the 1st to 3rd centuries and resemble those of C/2/9. Additionally, loom weights were common in C/2/9.

Publications

An extensive list of publications relating to Ismant el-Kharab is available for consultation.