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  • Author: Sławomir Rzepka x
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Jerzy Trzciński, Małgorzata Zaremba, Sławomir Rzepka, Fabian Welc and Tomasz Szczepański

Abstract

The archaeological site Tell el-Retaba in north-eastern Egypt, about 35 km to the west of Ismailia city, is located in the middle of Wadi Tumilat, a shallow valley running from the Nile Delta to the Bitter Lakes, along which flows the Suez Canal. In ancient times the valley was a route between Egypt and Syro-Palestine, strongly fortified in the New Kingdom times (16th–11th century BC). Mud bricks were analyzed from two parts of the Wall 1 (core of grey-brown bricks and inner extension of green bricks) in a fortress which existed during the Ramesses II times. Grain-size composition of the studied bricks was almost identical in both parts of the wall, suggesting the same source material for a production of brick. However, significant differences were observed in physical and mechanical properties (uni-axial compressive strength) in both types of bricks. Bricks from the core had lower bulk density, higher porosity and soak faster, whereas their resistance parameters were much lower than those of the bricks from the inner extension. The reason for such large differences in brick properties was a technology of their production, particularly proportion of components, water volume added during brick formation or density degree. Brick preparation and in consequence, physical-mechanical properties had direct influence on preservation of defensive structures during environmental changes related to changes of groundwater and surface water levels or of precipitation. Ancient Egyptians responsible for construction works in mud brick structures of the fortress must have had good knowledge and experience. This could be observed particularly for the heaviest and most important construction element that is the defensive wall, founded on well-densified deposits. It was also testified by higher resistance of green bricks from the inner extensions, which probably originated slightly later and were intended to reinforce a weaker core built of grey-brown bricks.

Open access

Jerzy Trzciński, Małgorzata Zaremba, Sławomir Rzepka, Witold Bogusz, Tomasz Godlewski and Tomasz Szczepański

Abstract

The Tell el-Retaba archaeological site is located at Wadi Tumilat, a shallow valley running from the Nile Delta to the Bitter Lakes. In ancient times, a route connecting Egypt with Syria-Palestine ran across the site. In the 13th century BC, during the rule of Ramesses II, a fortress surrounded by “Wall 1” was erected and in times of Ramesses III in the 12th century BC, a larger fortress surrounded by “Wall 2” and “Wall 3” was constructed. Using the finite element method (FEM) and ZSoil 2D&3D software, the wall heights were modelled and their soil-structure interaction was analysed. Strength of the wall depended on size and strength of bricks and mortar, brickwork, wall shape and foundation. Ancient builders using mud bricks must have known from practical experience the essentials of a wall construction, in which the height to width ratio was at 1.75 to 1.85. Moreover, they must have related the engineering properties of the material with the height of the construction and its purpose. The width to height ratio must have been used and related by ancient Egyptians to the ground resistance. Modelling has shown that, at wall width of 5 m, the foundation would have lost its stability at wall height of 13–14 m and bricks from the lower part of the wall would be destroyed. According to the undertaken assumptions, in order to retain stability, the wall height must have been limited to about 8–9 m.