Eastern Mound – C/2 East

Leather sandal from C/2/2
Leather sandal from C/2/2

The state of preservation of structures on this mound is identical to that of the central mound. The surface finds between both zones is homogenous and like the central mound, this eastern mound provides evidence of the technological workings of metal and pottery in the vicinity. The density of iron slag upon the surface is particularly noticeable here.

The units designated and excavated as C/2/2, C/2/3 and C/2/5 each consist of a single room, but belong to small complexes. C/2/6 is part of an open area that contained a kiln and C/2/7 is a three-roomed building situated beside C/2/5.


Four rooms can be identified with this unit which lies on the east side of the mound. C/2/2 measures between 5.10m and 4.22m, containing a large storage bin in the southwest corner, two hearths and several circular depressions on its floors. Excavation revealed part of a brick wall below the floor surface and storage bin in the southwest corner, but no major structure associated with it. On the north and west walls, sections of three layers of superimposed, polychrome-painted plaster were found preserved. The actual motifs were not well preserved, however, but one may have been a vine with grape clusters.


This unit lies to the west of C/2/2 and is a room measuring 4.03m x 2.12m. The only feature of interest discovered here was the burial of a child, approximately aged 2 years at death, set within the north wall. The body had been inserted there after the room had undergone considerable deflation, but no grave goods were found and its date could not be determined.


C/2/5, a small room west of C/2/7, was initially selected for excavation after the results of a resistivity survey indicated a number of features in this part of Area C which been exposed to heat. Distinctive contours were visible on the map produced by the survey relating to concentrations of iron slag noted upon the surface. A circular feature could be observed in the southwest corner at surface level and appeared to coincide with one of the anomalies identified. This feature turned out to be a clay storage bin which had once sat upon the roof of the room, but had collapsed into it with much roofing material when its beam supports were removed. Amongst this collapse were a number of ceramic vessels. Quantities of iron slag were found in the room, yet seem to have entered the room during the build-up of fill. Hence, this obeservation does not indicate that the room was used in connection with iron working.

Remarkably, two deposits of papyri inscribed with Greek were discovered here. It was possible to reconstruct several documents from the fragments and they have provided dating evidence covering the period 111/2 to 146/7 CE. These name the emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninius Pius. Four of the documents relate to a single family which must have once occupied the structure in which C/2/5 is situated.

Inscribed wood from C/2/6
Inscribed wood from C/2/6


This unit comprises an area 2m x 3m and is covered by the same zone that exhibits numerous anomalies which were detected and mapped by the resistivity survey. C/2/6 is situated near the southern edge of Area C. Its fill contained large amounts of ash and iron slag, but also some pieces of glass slag. The excavation uncovered two circular features, one with a diameter of 1m and the other of 40cm. It is possible that the larger of the two represents the bottom of a kiln, but nothing of its structure survived.


As with C/2/5 and C/2/6, the unit C/2/7 is located within the area where magnetic anomalies were detected. Unexpectedly, however, the excavation of each room found no material to account for the strength of the magnetometer reading.

C/2/7 comprises of three contiguous rooms arranged within a L-shape: Room 1 in the corner, Room 2 to its south and Room 3 to its west. The maximum preserved height of the structure is 84cm. Other spaces were accessible from Rooms 2 and 3, but the full distribution of the rooms was not determined. It is likely the structure had a flat roof and a stairway in Room 3 may have led to this level. The floors consist of trampled earth throughout and the walls were unplastered. Dimensions and features of the rooms are:

  • Room 1 is 4.4-4.75m EW and 3.1-3.62m NS. It has a depression in the floor against the western end of the south wall and possibly the remains of a hearth against the centre of the same wall.
  • Room 2 is the largest of the three, 3.5-3.55m NS and 5.85-6.3m EW. Flimsy mud-brick structures in the western end of the room demonstrate that it had been used for animal stabling, at which time the door from Room 2 to its outer space was blocked.
  • Room 3 is 3.65-4.11m NS and 3.83-4m EW. Other than the stairway in this room, there is a free-standing butress against the south wall.

In order to investigate whether the magnetic anomalies were produced by earlier features a decision was made to excavate through the floor of Room 3, along the eastern wall where an intense anomaly had appeared during the survey. Several superimposed earth floors were found, some containing concentrations of iron fillings and small pieces of corroded iron that may have resulted from smithing. As no structures were revealed, it is assumed that the concentration of fillings accounts for the high magnetic reading.

C/2/7 appears to date to the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, indicated by the discovery of papyrus fragments inscribed in Demotic, ostraka in Greek and the ceramic material. The ostraka include two poll-tax receipts, one datable to between 116-7 and 179-80, and the other to either 168-9 or 200-1 CE. Many various domestic objects were found amongst the wall and roof collapse that filled each room. The objects found included wooden writing boards of the type intended to be inscribed upon a wax base, wooden receptacles painted with bands of colour, the body from a rare terracotta female figurine, wooden spindle whorls, mud loom weights, wooden toggles, fibre shoes and mud jar sealings.

The excavations revealed sufficient-enough evidence to indicate that this structure had been used as a blacksmith’s workshop. As this is a rarity at Kellis, further work was conducted on C/2/7 after the initial investigations. The floor of Room 1 was chosen for closer examination in which the room was sub-divided into 50cm x 50cm units, floor deposits were excavated and an entire matrix was kept of each sub-unit. It was then possible to isolate and weigh the magnetic and non-magnetic components of each. The results showed that the upper deposits may derive from animal-keeping, while the main phase of activity definitely relates to the smithing of iron. Large quantities of micro slag were detected, but fragments from the bottom of smithing-hearths, vitrified linings and fuel as slag were also discovered, supporting this contention. Pottery associated with the slag deposits can be assigned a 1st-2nd century date, and appears to be a domestic assemblage which suggests a household workshop.

Post-excavation photos in the C/2/4 area

The floor deposits of C/2/8 and C/2/11

Rooms and architecture of C/2/8 and C/2/9

Ceramic material from C/2/8 and C/2/9

Artefacts and objects from C/2/8 and C/2/9


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