Dr Edgar Pusch spearheads the research activities of UCL Qatar at the site of Qantir-Piramesse, Egypt. The site of Qantir-Piramesse is situated at the eastern edge of the Nile Delta, about 110 km northeast of Cairo and 80 km west of Ismailia. It was the capital and residence of Ramses the Great and his followers between ca. 1300 and 1000 BC, and covers about 15-20 square kilometres. Described in ancient Egyptian hymns as most splendid and incredibly rich, nothing is left at the surface today. Most of the larger monuments were moved in ancient times to be recycled at the later capitals of Tanis/San el-Haggar and Bubastis/Zaggazig.
Almost all the area is cultivated agricultural land, and the undisturbed layers start about 10 cm below the surface. The richness in archaeological finds and features here is in stark contrast to the dearth in monumental remains, opening up a unique window into life in this ancient city. Seven different areas have been excavated in the last three decades, and together with extensive surveys by Caesium-Magnetometry in cooperation with the Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmapflege, give new insight into large settlement structures of Egypt during the New Kingdom.
Since 1980, an international team based at the Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, Germany and financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) uncovered the largest foundry for bronze-production ever excavated, where tons of bronze were processed in a single day. These foundries were part of larger high-temperature workshops, reaching an almost industrial scale of operation. These include the best-documented Late Bronze Age glass making and glass colouring workshops, specialising in ruby-red glass, and huge faience factories for architectural pieces and decorative objects such as jewellery and ornaments. A chariotry with adjacent workshops, training ground and unique stables for more than 480 horses allow a deep insight into a subject known to us otherwise from contemporary literature only. Animal bones give an insight not only into the fauna of the Nile Delta and the diet of Piramesse’s inhabitants, but also indicate that a bone workshop was active here. The finds demonstrate the presence of a “menagerie” of exotic animals in the residence, or at least that trophies were brought to Piramesse including lions, elephants, giraffes, gazelles and antelopes, all of which were extinct in Egypt in Ramesside times.
Special weight has to be given to finds from Eastern Mediterranean cultures of the Late Bronze Age. They prove the presence of Myceneans, Hittites and other foreigners from the Levant, who left among other things tools, weapons, pottery, and even the scale of a boar’s tusk helmet at Piramesse. A cuneiform tablet originating from the diplomatic correspondence between Egypt and Hatti further shows the political contacts that the capital maintained with foreign powers.
Between 1996 and 2003 Caesium-Magnetometry was used to document the archaeological remains without the need for excavation: Until today an area of more than two square kilometres – the largest of its kind in Egypt - has been prospected. The results show temples, palaces, villas, houses, streets, part of a harbour and other features of Piramesse in an x-ray-like picture. Its evaluation leads to a map revealing the centre of Piramesse, facilitating its virtual reconstruction.
Since 2011 the Qantir-Piramesse-Project has been based at UCL Qatar. In cooperation with the Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim the finds and findings of the past continue to be published as journal papers and in the monograph series Forschungen in der Ramses-Stadt. Further field seasons at Qantir-Piramesse will continue to contribute to our knowledge of this Late Bronze Age metropolis and its connections to its neighbours.