New England: Tracing Change in the Central Field Cemetery at Giza

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Presented by: Julia Viani Puglisi; PhD candidate in Egyptology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages in Civilizations at Harvard University

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Lecture Information

Scan of Tomb G8090 in Giza’s Central Field

After the construction of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the tomb builders of the Giza necropolis were met with a significantly transformed landscape: a massive quarry basin emerged south of the construction site while pre-planned cemeteries surrounded Khufu’s pyramid. Given the constraints imposed by this changing environment, areas such as the quarry became sites of innovative funerary architecture with some of the earliest examples of rock-cut tombs in pharaonic Egypt.

Today, this former quarry is known as the “Central Field,” a ten-hectare cemetery wedged between the funerary complexes of Khafre and Menkaure that remained in use until the end of the Old Kingdom. While its history is integral to the history of the Giza necropolis, the Central Field has not been fully investigated since the excavations of Egyptian Egyptologist Selim Hassan (1886–1961) in the early 20th century. This paper discloses both the challenges and (possible) solutions of the ancient tomb builder and the modern scholar in this cemetery. Although lacunae and scattered finds impede a comprehensive understanding of the site during the Old Kingdom, new documentation of the Central Field presents several exciting avenues for how the site developed.

Speaker Bio

Julia Viani Puglisi is a PhD candidate in Egyptology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages in Civilizations at Harvard University. After receiving a BA in Classical Languages and an MA in Egyptology with a specialization in the digital humanities, Puglisi currently investigates the history of the Giza necropolis with a particular emphasis on the Central Field in the Old Kingdom. Her interests include improving relative dating methods, investigating the mechanisms of change, and the social history of the late third millennium.
As a member of the Giza Project at Harvard and a recipient of the ARCE-CAORC Fellowship, Puglisi now works on enriching the available documentation of the Central Field cemetery in Giza and Cairo. Her work not only focuses on understanding the distant past, but deeply considers the living history of archaeological sites and the value of local voices in the practice of history-writing.