The area under investigation represented roughly 1 km2 and was bordered by the Theban mountain range and Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple to the north and north west, modern roads to the north east and south, and the German dig house to the south west. The sheer size of the area in question, the number of workmen allocated to the cleanup effort, roughly 600 in total, and the amount of debris presented a challenge for work to progress in an archaeologically sound manner.
The planning phase for the archaeological side of the project began in October 2011. As part of a desk-based assessment, an archaeological methodology was developed to address the site. The recording system used was a pared down version of Ancient Egypt Research Associates’ single context recording system, itself based on the Museum of London’s system, as the backbone for an archaeological watcher/observer brief. The archaeological goal of the project was to observe material that was revealed during the clearance process, as opposed to excavating for the purpose of investigation. As a result, the MoA concession was granted for the area's modern material, not the ancient tombs. The goals of the watcher brief were the following:
- Attention was primarily directed to loose rubble, as opposed to excavating through the sometimes deep and compacted mounds of debris formed by the hamlets’ demolition. The goal was to improve the appearance and safety of the landscape while leaving as much material in place as possible. The project aimed to leave foundations, deep walls, ground floors, and other features, covered and intact for future exploration. Whenever possible, architectural features standing above the level of debris were left. When necessary, such features were modified as little as possible to assure the safety of visitors, and in conjunction with the MoA’s concerns.
- Workmen were divided into five teams of one hundred workmen, with the majority of workmen assigned the task of hauling material from the Q section in which they were working (the Qurna site was divided into 29 sections for purposes of management). As heavy machinery was not used generally, the clearance relied on long lines of workmen who brought debris down the hills. The only machinery that was used during the removal effort were tractors and small pickup trucks to haul the final debris from the area. These vehicles were kept far from the area’s tombs.
- Each clearance team incorporated at least one archaeological observer.
- A complete photographic record of all areas, features, and objects discovered was maintained. This rule applied to all material, including ancient and modern artifacts.
- All objects of interest, including modern material, were recorded, kept in storage on site in tombs designated by the MoA, and intended to be analyzed in the project’s second season. The purpose of recording and analyzing all material, including modern objects and pottery, was to create an understanding of the former occupants of the hamlets’ houses.
- Archaeological top plans were created to understand better the relationship of the houses to each other, to the tombs, and to the terrain, so that a discussion on the adaptive reuse of the landscape might be made once the project ends.
- As the work progressed, the archaeological observers recorded ethnographic information on the buildings, including: the owners’ names, family sizes, occupations of the individuals who lived and worked there, the relationship of the groups of people who lived near each other, and the religious practices of these people. The collection of such information was possible because many of the project’s workmen lived in, or had ties to people who lived in, the former hamlets.