The same clay seal impressions that identified Building A as the mayoral residence also indicated the existence of another structure nearby—the administrative gatehouse (areryt). Ancient texts indicate that areryt facilities were points of control to administer the flow of goods in and out of major institutional buildings like temples, palaces, and, in this case, a mayoral residence. As such, they would have been beehives of administrative activity staffed with scribes and officials who assisted the mayors of towns and, we hope periodically discarded papyri that might be recovered by archaeologists.
So where was the areryt at South Abydos? We discovered it during the early stages of our systematic attempt to map the subsurface deposits of the site using magnetic resonance mapping (magnetometry). Since 2002 Tomasz Herbich of the Polish Academy of Sciences has conducted a comprehensive magnetic survey to explore what lies beneath the often featureless desert sand. Because mud-brick has a positive magnetic charge, due to the iron found in its alluvial sediments, it stands out very clearly against the neutral magnetic background of the desert’s silicaceous sand. The subsurface results we produced in 2002 showed the outline of a rectangular building immediately behind Building A and accessible through one of its rear doorways. Given its position in relation to the mayoral residence, it seemed that we had found the remains of the administrative gatehouse—the first ever archaeologically identified example of an areryt!
We excavated this building in 2004 and also exposed two adjacent structures which together comprised the areryt. Unfortunately, its architecture was even more eroded than that of Building A—and we did not find any discarded papyri! Nevertheless, the structure remains of considerable importance, and we still hope to find papyrus documents elsewhere in the remains of ancient Wah-Sut.