dr. warden digging

Dr. Leslie Warden, Roanoke professor of Art History, at work during the October dig in Egypt.

By Roanoke College News

Roanoke professor leads archaeological dig in Egypt

A Roanoke College professor recently led an archaeological dig in Egypt, and she's sharing her experiences with Roanoke students with hopes that some may return with her in the future.

Last month, students and faculty gathered to hear Dr. Leslie Warden, one of several Egyptologists in Virginia, discuss her discoveries during an archaeological trip to Egypt in October. Warden has been a professor of Art History at Roanoke College since 2012, and she is the resident archaeologist on campus. 

This fall, she directed a team that traveled to study Kom el-Hism, a settlement in Egypt's Nile Delta. She also served as the ceramicist and archaeologist for the team.

In general, Warden said she is not interested in studying pyramids, pharaohs or the royals. Instead, she researches the daily lives of the people who lived in Egypt. She wants to know about their race, their ethnicity, religion, what they ate, and how or if the state issued control over them. Warden also is interested in periods when royal power decayed and became fractured. Her overarching question is "How does political change affect local change?"

Once arriving in Egypt in October, Warden and her team got to work. They focused on three test areas, which are nicknamed Hamada, Wenke and Kirby. They named these sites after earlier archaeologists who had worked at this particular kom, a settlement where ancient Egyptians lived for more than 2,000 years. 

“Archaeology is not always sexy on the outside. You have to get inside, get dirty, and sometimes dig through trash.”

Dr. Leslie Warden

At the Wenke unit, Warden and her team found pottery and some stone tools, what Warden believes to be an ancient industrial zone.

Warden and her team"Archaeology is not always sexy on the outside," she said. "You have to get inside, get dirty, and sometimes dig through trash."

Warden examined the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2000-1650 BC) in the Wenke and Hamada units. At the Kirby test unit, the team uncovered a zone of limestone chips. Stone was not common in this area and could only be found from the destruction of temples or surrounding tombs that were 50 to 100 meters away. This shows that the people were re-purposing and reusing material, much like we do today, Warden said.

"Trash says so much about what people are doing," she said.

Not only was Warden focusing on the archaeological dig, she said she was also trying "to get local villagers involved with their own archaeology." She really wants to focus on the relationships between the local villagers and foreigners to create a sense of community around the archaeological dig. 

Warden's work in Egypt isn't over. She hopes to return next year, and in the future, she is hopes, per funding and approval from the Egyptian government, to bring several Roanoke College students with her.

Interested students should talk to Warden about this opportunity.

Even so, this spring Warden is bringing her experience in Egypt back to her Roanoke students. She plans for students in her Art History lab this spring semester to study some of the materials from her work in Egypt, including ceramics and other small finds in the field.

Warden said she "loves this site," and she loves sharing it with students at Roanoke College.