“We were not expecting to find bodies,” says Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology. But this year – the 19th summer that Bryan has led Johns Hopkins students on an archaeological dig in Luxor, Egypt – bodies are exactly what Bryan and her students found. “We’ve been digging in this particular site for 6 years now, and up until this time we never found human burials. This year there was at least one burial in every square we dug.”
Such is the essence of archaeological excavation: Every 10-centimeter layer, the maximum depth of sand and soil removed at one time, reveals a new chapter in ancient history. Last year, Bryan and her team uncovered the ruins of a 1600-1400 BC industrial sector, where workers made bread and beer to feed the villagers and offer to the nearby temple. This year, in the same location, JHU archaeologists found a 1700-1600 BC burial ground most likely used for those too poor for a proper burial. So discrete and unceremonious, their graves—16 in total—served as the foundation for the next generation’s industrial operations.
The unexpected grave sites made for an exceptionally exciting year for Bryan’s program, known as Hopkins in Egypt. Conducted every year since 1993 (although shortened in 2010, during the Arab Spring), the program has brought the study of archaeology and ancient Egypt to life for Johns Hopkins undergraduate and graduate students. This year, 12 students accompanied Bryan and Arts & Sciences photographer James T. VanRensselaer. The following is a sampling of the group’s excavations