The Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organisation (ECHO) is a charitable organisation committed to assisting Egyptian archaeologists and specialists in preserving and managing Egypt’s cultural heritage. We aim to aid in the development of effective, long-term, sustainable and inexpensive means of safeguarding Egypt’s threatened archaeological record, through programmes of excavation, research, training and publication.
The KHD project was founded by noted Egyptologist Dr Geoffrey Tassie, who spent thirty years in the field, becoming a curator of at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) shortly before his untimely passing in 2019. The project is run in his memory by co-founder Dr Lawrence Owens, under the auspices of the University of Winchester and the Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organisation (ECHO). Lawrence is a bioarchaeology research fellow at the University of Winchester and the University of South Africa (UNISA), and has worked on archaeological and forensic excavations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas since 1992. He is assisted by a group of academic specialists from the UK, Europe and the US, all of whom have volunteered their time free of charge to rescue KHD’s heritage. We have all the permissions and clearances, and a team of specialists, British volunteers and Egyptian workers standing by; all we need is the money to proceed, and this is where you come in.
Soaring prices in Egypt have pushed up the costs of running excavation projects there. We are budgeting for a four-week season requiring a team of 50 Egyptian and international specialists and workers, house rental, car rental, food for the whole team, hiring earth moving equipment, and buying a range of dig tools and resources. This will cost at least £25,000. Every little helps, so please – contribute what you can and pass the word along to other interested people and keep an eye on forthcoming blog and Instagram updates!
Kafr Hassan Dawood (KHD) is one of the most important ancient sites in Egypt, and dates to the very beginning of Egyptian history. The site was founded almost 6000 years ago on a curve of the Nile in the Delta region, and probably started off as a small, rather sleepy riverside village of people who supported themselves with a combination of pastoralism, fishing, and agriculture. They were probably unaware of the momentous changes taking place elsewhere in Egypt and the Near East, but emerging trade routes, industrial activity, and the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by King Narmer (c. 3100 BC) brought about major social transformations in these unsuspecting populations.
Most of what we know about the site comes from the cemeteries, which expanded as the population grew, the economy changed, and new/luxury items began to appear, seeming to suggest the emergence of new social elites. But while we know quite a lot about the pottery and other grave goods, very little attention has been focused on the bodies themselves. Looking at the bones will enable us to understand what the people were like – their height, their weight, where they came from, the illnesses they suffered from, their childhoods, their activities, their diets – and how these changed during the major transformations of the 4th-3rd millennium BC.
The 2019 pilot season revealed twenty interments on the ancient floodplain, buried in flexed, contracted positions with grave goods including pottery, beads, and the remains of coffins. The bones themselves tell us that the ancient population of KHD seemed to have been rather short, fairly light, had active (but fairly short) lives, a low carbohydrate diet, and – insofar as bones can tell us – a disease-free existence. As these burials date to the earlier phase of the site’s occupation, we are eager to find out whether this changed through time, and how (or even if) humanity transformed as Egyptian society moved into the age of the pyramids.
Then COVID hit, and we have been unable to get back to the site since 2019. Egypt is passing through another era of transformation, with population booms, agricultural intensification, and the expansion of towns and villages. KHD and many other sites have been placed on the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ (SCA) endangered sites register, and we are really worried as the water table rises, the modern cemetery expands, and the hunger for agricultural land transforms desert into fields. Unless we act now, the remaining cemeteries and the settlement site will be destroyed. We urgently need £25,000 to pay a team of local workers, to fly 4 colleagues in from London and the US, and eight site managers up from Luxor, to rent accommodation, to feed everyone, pay for survey services, and to provide excavation gear and other supplies for the season. All of the academics are working for free, and do not receive salaries for the work.
Please help us save KHD – time is running out.
Hassan Fathy, an Egyptian architect, was ahead of his time. He designed in 1945 the new village of Gourna to be a model of human architecture and to demonstrate the role of architecture in community development.
Architects in the whole world, from China to Nigeria, have been alerted to his ideas, especially since the seventies of the twentieth century, and his name has been associated with environmental architecture, green architecture, native architecture, popular architecture, and currently with sustainable architecture and development. Despite this, Hassan Fathy’s Gourna did not receive enough attention, therefore , we present this initiative as a vehicle to the disseminate, implement and develop of Hassan Fathy’s ideas and methods toward the realization of the role of architecture in sustainable development.
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