Holocene Lake Sediments as a Source of Building Material in Ancient Egypt; Archeometric Evidence from Wadi Tumilat (Nile Delta)

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Abstract

The Tell el-Retaba archaeological site is located in the middle part of Wadi Tumilat, which extends along the north-eastern margin of the Nile Delta. It contains fragments of fortified and domestic objects of the ancient fortress and other constructions built of mud bricks. The establishment and functioning of the fortress is dated at the times of the reign of two great pharaohs, Ramesses II and Ramesses III (13th and 12th centuries BC). The grain size composition of the sediments used for mud brick production had significant influence on their physical and mechanical properties, which was used by the ancient Egyptians for the improvement of bricks. The finest fractions, clay and silt, which generally comprise clay minerals and organic matter played a significant role. These components significantly influenced the mud brick properties and resulted in a structural cohesion of the material. The second important component of mud bricks were coarse fractions – sand and gravel. The source of material used for brick production were the natural sediments located in the vicinity of the fortress, i.e. the Holocene lake clay and the Pleistocene gravel and sand of the gezira formation, deposited by a braided river. Clay sediments have a variable lithology as can be deduced from grain size composition of mud bricks and their properties. This variability was caused by a variable regime of the Nile, which supplied material to the lake basin. Geological studies were used to recognize ancient environment and morphology of the area, and to find clay, sand and gravel open-pits that existed in the area. The fortress site was selected optimally in relation to the landscape morphology and close vicinity of the source of basic material and water used for mud brick production. The area around the fortress was substantially transformed by humans due to settlement.

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Studia Quaternaria

The Journal of Institute of Geological Sciences and Committee for Quaternary Research of Polish Academy of Sciences

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