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1/2/13: Magnetometry

At the beginning of the season I am working with Prof. Mohamed Abdel Wahab of the University of Dongola at Wadi Halfa, who will be doing a magnetometry survey of the site to try to help us re-locate the town wall and the possible palace well. We are also really lucky to have help from Prof. Abbas Sidahmed, a Sudanese archaeologist who teaches in Saudi Arabia, but who grew up in the village. He arranged our house and car, and I think I’ve been on the phone with him every day since I arrived in Sudan.

It was a bit of an edgy moment when we showed up in the village to start our work. There was understandable wariness—how would you feel if four people with machines showed up to “check” your back yard? There is the added complication that Sudanese antiquities law allows the government to appropriate any land that is found to contain archaeological remains. But fortunately the people in El Kurru were not concerned, and we were able to start our search without difficulty.

Magnetometry is like a fancy metal detector—it records variations in the magnetic field that can be the result of archaeological features as much as 5 meters (15 feet) underground. In a previous visit we had identified an area of the site where village tradition recalls a “royal bath,” so Mohamed and his assistants laid out string and started surveying.

In the meantime, we were all talking with people in the village, and two older men separately came up to tell us they recalled the royal bath, and one also remembered Reisner’s city wall. Luckily, they were not under modern houses but rather in open spaces where we may be able to work. So we have a chance!

Unfortunately, we had a setback with the magnetometer—the battery that controls its memory lost power, so we lost half a day’s work, and Mohamed will return to Khartoum to get a replacement. More tomorrow.