Renee first came to the site of Hierakonpolis as a visitor in 1982, after earning her MA from the University of California, Berkeley with a thesis on the Predynastic cemetery at Naga ed Der. Overwhelmed by the Predynastic riches of Hierakonpolis, she was lucky enough to be invited to become a member of the team and returned in 1983 to assist Fred Harlan in his site-wide sampling survey. From there she went on to serve as the ceramic analyst for the excavations at HK29A, the Predynastic ceremonial center from 1985 to 1989, and to direct excavations at HK64 in 1988-89, a campsite at the foot of a petroglyph covered outcropping, sites to which she later returned to continue the investigations with remarkable results. She received her Ph.D in 1994 from the University of California, Berkeley, writing a massive dissertation entitled Predynastic Settlement Ceramics of Upper Egypt: A Comparative Study of the Ceramics of Hemamieh, Naqada and Hierakonpolis, the first study of the pottery from domestic rather than funerary contexts in predynastic Upper Egypt, which included over half a million potsherds laboriously catalogued from HK29A and elsewhere around the site.
Following the death of Michael Hoffman, excavation opportunities at Hierakonpolis were limited. After exploring the Delta for a while, (Mendes from 1990-1991, and Tell el-Muqdam from 1992-1996), Renee happily returned to Hierakonpolis in 1996 with Barbara Adams as co-director to revive the flagging expedition and resume the publication of the annual newsletter of the Friends of Nekkhen, the Nekhen News, where details of each season’s activities and accomplishments can be found. Since that time, thanks in large part to the generosity of the Friends of Nekhen as well as numerous funding agencies (National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, American Institute of Archaeology, World Monuments Fund, American Research Center in Egypt, Schiff-Giorgini Foundation) she has been able to put a team in the field every season and continue to make discoveries with implications for every period of Egyptian history.
In the first season back on site in 1996, Renee resumed the excavations at HK64 and discovered the remarkable deposit of well-preserved ostrich feathers, left as an offering to Hathor in the Second Intermediate Period, as well as many more inscriptions and petroglyphs at this remote and still enigmatic locality (see basic bibliography for references). However, land reclamation activities on the opposite side of the site also required attention. The bones strewn to either side of a newly built irrigation canal meant that action was needed to salvage a predynastic cemetery before it might be lost forever. Excavations at HK43 were initiated in 1996 and carried on until 2004, resulting in the discovery of 453 graves, evidence for early mummification practices, and a better understanding of the non-elite population of the site in the predynastic period. But it was not just predynastic remains that were in peril. In 1997 she arranged for gates to be put on the decorated tombs of the Dynastic period which had been serious damaged during the hiatus in work during the early 1990s, and in 1998 began their conservation, restoration and recording. In the following years, the Nubian cemeteries at the site were explored (2001, 2003, 2007), revealing the northern-most presence of the C-Group culture in Middle Kingdom Egypt and work was resumed at HK29A (2002, 2008), the predynastic temple site, where a better understanding of its architecture and the activities that occurred there was obtained. She has also directed excavations and conservation efforts at the Enclosure of Khasekhemwy, a.k.a. the Fort, the oldest free standing monumental mud brick structure in the world, where work is still on going.
Following the death of Barbara Adams in 2002, work of the Expedition has concentrated mainly in the elite predynastic cemetery at HK6, where the architectural remains of Egypt’s oldest funerary temples have been revealed and where the menagerie of buried animals, both domestic and wild, continues to grow each year. So far, Renee has had the honor to direct the excavations of two elephants, a leopard, an aurochs, a pregnant hartebeest, a baby hippo, crocodile, numerous baboons, dogs, cats, cattle, sheep and some very interesting people. The list goes on, as does the excitement over what new insights about the beginnings of Egyptian civilization might next emerge from the sands of Hierakonpolis.