Archaeological fieldwork at Tell er-Retaba during 1981 consisted of
construction monitoring by Michael Fuller and Abu Bakr Mahmoud Hassanean (Egyptian Antiquities
representative). An essay about the 1981 field season can be found after the digital images.
The amount of damage to the site of Tell er-Retaba was astonishing during 1981.
Map of the areas badly disturbed by Egyptian Irrigation Authority activities during
the summer of 1981.
The Egyptian Irrigation Authority trench directly through the heart of the site.
Michael Fuller profiling the 3rd Intermediate and New Kingdom walls exposed in the
deep trench excavated by the Egyptian Irrigation Authority.
Profile drawing of the thick defensive walls exposed in the construction trench.
Petrie's Defense Wall number 2 as it was cut clean by the construction trench.
The 1981 crew, led by Professor Hans Goedicke, arrived at Tell el-Retaba to witness the
most distressing situation. Bulldozers, earthmovers, dumps trucks and a disel-powered
shovel were beginning to backfill an enormous trench cut through the center of the tell.
Two irrigation pipes had already been positioned in the trench which averaged
8 meters wide and in some places approached a depth of 5.5 meters beneath the surface.
The extent of the damage to the site was very significant. Heavy equipment was parked
on the western portion of the site and most of the ancient mudbrick walls along the
south edge of the site had been intentionally levelled to facilitate the movement of
The irrigation trench had neatly cross-sectioned the two outer defensive walls of the
site. Petrie had designated the wall fartherest to the south as wall number 2, while the
wall just north (inside) was designated by Petrie as wall number 3. He reported finding a
foundation deposits to wall number 2 that dated it to the reign of Ramesses III
Petrie's wall number 2 was easily recognized in the irrigation trench as 9 coarses
of mudbrick (labelled locus 106). The foundation of the wall consisted of 5 courses
of mudbricks (locus 105) which rest upon a 10 cm. unit of gray sand (locus 107). The wall
measured 10.72 meters wide along a bearing of 352 degrees. The irrigation trench did not cut
the wall on the perpendicular. Cleaning the face of the wall and backsighting allowed for
a corrected wall thickness of 10.52 meters.
The maximum height of Petrie's wall number 2 (locus 106) was 1.8 meters. The inner face
bricks were laid in a header bond and position to give a 3 degrees inward slope. The
outer face of the wall was not constructed of mudbrick, but composed of puddled mud.
The latter material was also used int he core of the wall. Mudbricks along the inner
face had a sandy texture, averaged 46 x 22 x 10 cm. in size, and were pale brown (10YR6/3)
in color. The foundation (locus 105) for the wall was laid in alternating
coarses of headers and stretchers. The bricks were identical in size and color to the
sandy mudbricks used in the main body of the wall (locus 106).
Petrie's wall number 3 was easily recognized in the construction trench and assigned locus 109.
The heavy machiner damaged the south (outer) side of the wall making it impossible to get
an accurate measurement on its width. The surviving portion measured 7.46 meters in width.
Petrie had recorded this wall as 8.81, 8.92 and 8.94 meters in width.
The inner face of wall locus 109 stood 4 coarses high (0.8 meters). Individual bricks
ranged from 42 to 48 cm. in legnth, 21 cm. in width, and 15 cm. in thickness. They were
brown (7.5YR5/2) in color and had straw inclusions. The bricks rested upon a level surface
of cross-bedded sand (locus 108) which was very pale brown (10YR8/3) in color.
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