The American Research Center in Eygpt

Close Up: The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund

Close Up: The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund

Close Up: The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund

By Dr. Peter Lacovara

The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund is a new American Research Center in Egypt Research Supporting Member (RSM). It was founded in 2015 by Peter Lacovara as a private, nonprofit organization with a mission is to support research and conservation on Egyptian history and culture.  In particular, it seeks to record and publish sites and monuments at risk from agricultural and urban expansion, looting and vandalism and climate change. 

 Surveying the ‘South Palace’ at Deir el-Ballas. Photo: AEHAF

In the past, the Fund has participated jointly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the survey and restoration of Amenhotep III’s Palace City at Malqata. This past year it has begun work at the site of Deir el-Ballas at the request of the Qena Inspectorate.  As the forward capital for the Theban kings during the Hyksos expulsion, the site is of great archaeological and historic importance, but it has been at extreme risk from both looting and from the uncontrolled expansion of the neighboring modern town.

From January 11 to January 24, 2017, the Fund conducted our first, short initial season of survey and recording at the Site of Deir el-Ballas. Our goals for this campaign were to figure out ways to protect and restore the structures remaining at the site and in particular to study the “South Palace” which had been damaged by recent looting.

The “South Palace” had suffered from looters emptying out some of the casemate foundations and digging holes in the façade of the eastern wall of the platform, which caused significant parts of the brick facing to collapse. To record the current condition of the structure, it was photographed and surveyed by Piet Collet of our team. In addition, a number of exposed sections of casemates and casemate fill were planned and photographed to understand better the construction and design of the original structure, which was not a residence but probably some type of watchtower. We endeavored to clean up modern trash and debris littering the area. We also surveyed the entire ancient site and conducted a walking survey to assess its condition and formulate strategies for its protection.

The remains of the North Palace being encroached upon by new construction.

Photo: AEHAF

The survey revealed that a number of portions of the ancient site have been destroyed. Fortunately, much has also, so far been preserved. The site urgently needs to be mapped, and cleared and recorded in future seasons before becoming eradicated by traffic and construction. The North Palace is being encroached upon by the spread of the modern town and cemeteries, so it is critical to find a way to protect and restore this important structure, one of the few intact palaces to survive from ancient Egypt. As part of the program this season the area around the North Palace was surveyed to plan for a protective wall to be built around the structure in coming seasons. 

Dagger and Ivory Clapper from Reisner’s excavations at Deir el-Ballas now in the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California in Berkeley. 

Photo: UC/Berkeley

The new fieldwork work and the publication grant provides an opportunity to revisit and transmit Reisner’s earlier work, which has never seen the light of day. Despite its long neglect, Deir el-Ballas is a particularly important resource for information on the development of urbanism and the state in ancient Egypt at one of the most pivotal points on its history and to protect this site for the future and make it accessible for visitation. Our program of new fieldwork at the site dovetails with a grant received from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications to prepare the results of the original expedition conducted at Deir el-Ballas in 1900-1901 by George Andrew Reisner working for the Phoebe A. Hearst Expedition of the University of California and this past year we have recorded material from those excavations in Berkeley, Boston and New York. 

In addition to the work at Deir el-Ballas, this year, as a pilot for a series on the oral history of American Egyptology, we were able to record a video interview with David O’Connor, who gave a wonderful overview of his more than sixty years of working in Egypt.  These interviews will be posted on YouTube and made available to anyone who wishes to use them.  

Other projects undertaken by the Fund include the preparations for publications on Nubian Material culture and labels for the X-Group material on Display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  For further information on the work of the Fund, please visit the website at:

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