Excavations at Umm Mawagir in Kharga

A discovery in Kharga Oasis in the southern Western Desert is expected to shed light on the use of the oasis duirng the First Intermediate and Middle Kingdom periods. The city of Umm Mawagir was occupied throughout these periods but its heyday appears to have been the period between 1650 and 1550 BC when political disruption distrubed the Nile Valley population.  Invasions fo the Delta and southern Egypt confined Phraonic control to an area of Upper Egypt around Luxor.

Together with finds in Dakhleh Oasis the discovery of of Umm Mawagir indicates a much greater level Egyptian influence over the south-western desert at this time than had been previously proposed.

Most importantly the site gives an insight into an important aspect of Egypt’s economy, with particular reference to its trade networks.  John and Deborah Darnell have specialized in investigating the archaeology of  desert roads for more than a decade.  One of their key discoveries was the 100 mile Girga Road which extends from Luxor to Kharga and was clearly a major route, with a number of outposts to provide food and water for people travelling between the two hubs.  The road confirmed that the ancient Egyptians had the ability to provision for this sort of expedition during the Middle Kingdom.

The most important discovery, to date, announced only recently was the bakery that gives Umm Mawagir (which means Mother of Bread Moulds) its name.  As well as nearly half a ton of broken sherds from ceramic baking moulds, two baking ovens were found together with husking and grinding equipment.  Production was clearly on an industrial scale and it si likelty that it was produced to supply the military.

Some ceramics were made of Nubian clays, others on local materials.  Cooking pots associated with teh Medjay, an elite military unit, were discarded at the site and may point to a Medjay presence in Kharga.

Less than half of the 218 acre has has been excavated to date.

See the Yale Alumni Magazine for more on this story, and more about the work of the Darnell with Yale on the Yale Egyptological Institute website.

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