August 10, 2012

Work In Progress In Luxor In 1996

Work In Progress In Luxor In 1996
All archaeological missions in Luxor, Egyptian and foreign, work under the auspices of, or in joint-collaboration with, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). Excavation and documentation run hand in hand with reconstruction and conservation. In addition, more in-depth studies are now being made than ever before; for example, there is a tendency today to check the records of earlier scholars in an effort to trace details of decorative elements that might have been overlooked, or to excavate beyond a point earlier reached. Some revelations have been surprising.

Egyptian Luxor
1 Resulting from a new initiative of the American government via The American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE), several major projects are underway in collaboration with the University of Chicago’s Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute (see No. 7). These include a series of studies on flood control and water dam age in the Valley of the Kings (pages 103 ff); the conservation of stone fragments belonging to the upper reaches of the Colonnade in Luxor Temple (page 28 ff); full documentation and conservation of the Temple of Medinet Habu as well as preparation of the site for tourism by installing the necessary walk-ways and signs. ARCE is also funding the excavation and conservation of Tomb KV-55 in the Valley of the Kings (see No. 6).

2 An Australian mission from Macquarie University led by Boyo Okinga has been investigating the tomb of Amenmope, the ‘third prophet of Amon’ under Ramses III, in Dra Abu el Naga. The tomb contains large seated statues of the tomb owner and his wife carved in the bedrock. A number of hitherto unknown chambers have been discovered.

3 An archaeological team from the Brooklyn Museum in New York, under the direction of Richard Fazzini, have been excavating the Temple of Mut at Karnak since 1977 (page 65). The concession area covers 22 acres and the site includes the main Mut Temple, a temple belonging to Ramses III, and a Ptolemaic shrine. The aim of the mission is to determine the earliest history of the site, and it has so far been established that it extended from the 18th Dynasty through to Ptolemaic times. Ramses II was particularly active, and massive additions were made to the temple under the 25th Dynasty Pharaoh Taharka.

Of the Sekhmet statues in situ, only 100 of the estimated 730 today remaining, have been restored and erected. They were made for Amenhotep II’s funerary temple on the necropolis.

4 The University of California at Berkeley started the first scientific mapping of the necropolis under Kent R. Weeks in 1978 in an ambitious project that continues today. The aim is to carry out detailed measurements and recording of all known tombs, and map their positions and subterranean contours with the aid of the most sophisticated surveying equipment. The first stage of what has become known as the Berkeley Theban Mapping Project included a three-dimensional map of the Valley of the Kings, which has now been published as the first volume of the Theban Atlas. Finding ‘lost’ tombs on the Theban necropolis is another aim of the project; at least 50 were known to early travellers in the 19th century, and have subsequently been filled with sand or debris. Among them was tomb No. 5 (now known as KV 5) believed to belong to Ramses II’s sons. In 1994 it was decided to start excavating this much-ruined tomb, filled with flood-borne debris and wind-blown sand and, moreover, badly affected by a sewer line from the neighbouring resthouse before it was removed. The tomb has proved to be the largest ever found in Egypt and has made headlines around the world. In the first season, Weeks an his team cleared part of the tomb and revealed a huge 16-pillare hall; in 1995 the team tunnelled through a corridor to the rear o the hall which was almost filled to the ceiling with accumulate rubble and discovered a corridor flanked by 20 chambers t at leads to a huge statue of the god Osiris. ,1

Further clearance revealed two transverse corridors, each flanked by twenty more chambers where fragmentary objects have been identified with several of Ramses’ 52 sons. At this point it seemed certain that what had been cleared was a mausoleum built for their burial. Further excavation this time at the front corners of the 16-pillared hall led to the discovery of two further corridors, also flanked by chambers, whose number had risen (by January 1996) to one hundred. This irregularly-shaped, multiple tomb clearly holds more secrets in store, and work will continue in the coming seasons.

5 A University of Cambridge mission under Nigel Strudwick continues conservation of the tomb of Sennofer (No. 99) at Kurna, which was later usurped for subsequent 25th Dynasty burials. Parts of an 18th Dynasty statue of Amenhotep have been recovered.

6 The Canadian Institute in Egypt (CIE) is involved in several projects in Luxor. The on-going Akhenaten Temple Project directed by Donald Redford of the University of Toronto is aimed at exposing the remains of a temple to the Aten, the solar orb worshiped by Akhenaten, constructed to the east of the Temple of Amon; it was destroyed probably during the time of Haremhab. Excavation shows that it was over 200 metres north to south, with an entry near the centre of the west wall. In endeavouring to unravel the different chronological periods of the site, it has been discovered that it was subsequently occupied during successive phases: in Ramesside times and in the Saite and Late Periods. The project’s concession includes two Late Period structures lying to the south of the Akhenaten Temple site. Work continues.

In a joint Memphis University/CIE project, Otto Shaden is clearing the corridors of the unfinished tomb of Amen-Messes in the Valley of the Kings. Fragments of the canopic jars bearing the name of a late New Kingdom queen, Takhat, have been found.

A study of royal Sarcophagi of the post-Amarna period in the Valley of the Kings by Edwin Brock, originally sponsored by the University of Toronto, also continues. The Royal Sarcophagi Study Project, as it is known, involves recording the remaining royal stone sarcophagi in the Valley of the Kings, from the end of the 18th Dynasty to the end of the 20th. It is a time-consuming task since many of the monuments are in fragmentary condition. Clearance operations in the tombs of Merenptah, Ramses VI and Ramses VII are also being carried out in conjunction with the sarcophagi project, and have revealed additional information about architectural elements, as well as the subsequent history of the tombs. Various items of the original burial equipment have been found.

In the Valley of the Kings, Lyla Pinch Brock recleared Tomb KV 55, the so-called ‘tomb of Queen Tiy’, now believed to belong to Akhenaten. A quantity of archaeological material not removed by the original excavator T.M. Davis in 1907 has been found. This includes pottery, which appears to be original to the tomb, and a tomb-plan drawn by the ancient Egyptians 011 an ostracon.

7 The University of Chicago’s Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute (‘Chicago House’) under the directorship of Peter Dorman continue to record the reliefs in the processional colonnade, the great Opet festival, of Luxor Temple (page 28). Stone fragments found in the foundations of village houses have been found to belong to the upper registers of this colonnade, and they are being conserved prior to positioning on the wall. At Medinet Habu (page 92 ff) epigraphic recording of the inner rooms of the sanctuary, and sanctuary facade of the small 18th Dynasty temple of Hatshepsut continues. It is a difficult task, compounded by the fact that the reliefs destroyed during the reign of Akhenaten were consequently restored under Haremhab and Seti I. Work also continues on other structures within the Medinet Habu complex that date from periods earlier and later than the main Ramses III temple. This includes the chapels of the Saite Period princesses (25th-26th Dynasty).

8 Egyptian missions of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) are hard at work 011 numerous projects, one of the most important of which is conservation of Amenhotep Ill's Solar Court in Luxor Temple (page 30). The leaning columns were dismantled in 1995 in an effort to stabilise them and new bases are now being constructed. A unique method of preventing water from seeping into the new foundations has been devised by Ali Sabri, the project’s manager: two metre wide cement rings, filled with stones and sand, have been placed in the ground beneath the columns to absorb any ground moisture.

On the necropolis, flood protection measures are nearing completion 111 the Valley of the Kings where new waterproof entrances to several tombs in the path of future floods have been installed. Also a wall around the temple of Seti I (page 72) has been rebuilt for the same purpose. The SCA is also recording the inscriptions and decorations of numerous monuments, including the Saite tombs of Padineath (1977) and Mentu-emhat (34) near the Temple of Hatshepsut.

The French Institute of Oriental Archaeology (IFAO) has been excavating in Egypt for over a century. Among their most important projects in Luxor is the one being carried out by the Franco-Egyptian Centre at Karnak, sponsored by the Egyptian Government and the Centre of Research for France (CNRS) which is now into its third decade of research and reconstruction at the site. Egyptian and French scholars are actively engaged in studies on the progressive deterioration of monuments through water seepage, humidity and salt erosion. They have managed, during the last two years, to reduce the underground water level at Karnak thus curbing to some extent this chronic problem. To the south of the main temple, the thousands of talatat from the Sun Temples of Akhenaten excavated from the ninth pylon of Haremhab (page 60) are still being reassembled. Some 3,000 have already been assembled with the aid of computer technology in France. The project to reconstruct the pylon itself is well underway, for which the SCA is using mechanical equipment including a huge winch for handling massive blocks of stone.

Meanwhile, an equally important project that comes under the annual programme of the Centre is to store information on about 30,000 artifacts at present on computer disks in storerooms at Karnak. The objects include fragments of statues, columns, walls, painted reliefs and offering tables; computerised documentation of such diverse objects will be the first of its kind in Egypt.

IFAO is collaborating with a Cairo University team to clear and document noblemen’s tombs on the necropolis and with the Polish mission to continue to study and document the inscriptions of Deir el Bahri temple. Other projects include work on settlement remains east of Thutmose I’s structures at Karnak, (under Jean and Helen Jacquet) and documentation of the architectural remains of a settlement in the precincts of the temple of Montu, north of the main temple at Karnak, by Luc Gabolde. On the necropolis IFAO activities include recording and documenting private tombs at Deir el Medina excavated earlier this century.

A Franco-Egyptian team from the Egyptian Documentation Centre under Christian Leblanc are restoring and documenting the Ramasseum, the mortuary temple of Ramses II (page 85 ff), where work proceeds in the second court. Columns are being consolidated and cleaned, with spectacular results. Work is also being carried out in the Valley of the Queens, in the tombs of Towy, mother of Ramses II, and Princess Meritamen, one of Ramses II’s favourite daughters.

11 The German Archaeological Institute continues to carry out comprehensive restoration and recording of the mortuary temple of Seti I (page 72 ff), which started in 1991 under the direction of Rainer Stadelmann. A University of Hamburg mission, under the direction of Hartwig Altenmuller, has investigated the construction chronology of the tomb of the late 19th Dynasty ruler, Queen Tausret. Altenmuller recently cleared the tomb of Chancellor Bay (13), an important official under Siptah, the last male ruler of the 19th Dynasty. Work on Bay’s tomb revealed the stone sarcophagi of two royal males, Amen-Hir-Khopschef and Montu-Hir-Khopschef.

German archaeologists have also cleared and restored tomb No. 85 at Kurna, belonging to Amenemheb, military commander under Thutmose III. The director of the project, Dr Heike Guksch, chose the tomb because of its historical importance and for the reliefs. She subsequently directed work on recording the architectural and decorative elements of the tomb of Pehsukher, No. 88. Andrea Gnirs directed clearance and documentation of the tomb of Meri, No. 95. A joint mission of the German Archaeological Institute and the University of California at Berkeley, under the direction of Daniel Polz, is investigating 17th Dynasty rock-cut tombs of the upper terrace at Dra Abu el Naga. One large tomb, usurped by the 20th Dynasty high priest Ramses- Nakht, may belong to Amenhotep I.

12 A Hungarian team from Budapest University is clearing and investigating several tombs on the necropolis under the direction of Laszlo Kokosy. They include the tomb of Nefermenu (No. 184), Djehty-mes (No. 32) and the 19th Dynasty tomb of Imiseba (No. 65) which was discovered to be a reused 18th Dynasty tomb.

13 Italian archaeologists are active in Egypt, especially following the formation of the Italian-Egyptian Centre of Restoration and Archaeology in 1988. Work in the Asasif area of the Theban necropolis includes a mission from the University of Rome, which is studying and conserving the tomb of steward Sheshonk, No. 27. A University of Rome mission under Alessandro Roccati is collaborating with the SCA 011 the tomb of Mentuemhet, No. 34.

14 A Japanese mission from Wasenda University, which starte excavations to the south of Malqatta, south-west of MedinetHabu four years ago and found part of the Heb-Sed Court of Amenhotep III, continues to restore the monument. They have also carried out the clearance and recording of several noblemen and royal tombs. In the West Valley they are reclearing and conserving the decoration in the Tomb of Amenhotep III (22). Great interest has been generated in this pharaoh in recent years following the discovery of statues in the Court of Amenhotep III (the Solar Court) in Luxor temple (now in Luxor Museum) and exhibitions dedicated to him abroad, in the USA and Paris.

15 The tomb of Suemniwet (No. 92) at Kurna, is being excavated by Betsy Bryan of Johns Hopkins University. In the court and one of the shafts, a great deal of 18th Dynasty debris has been recovered, and a new, previously unrecorded, tomb discovered to the north.

16 The Pacific Lutheran University of Washington has been at work on the Theban necropolis in a small wadi that leads into the Valley of the Kings. Director of the project Donald Ryan has rediscovered a tomb (No. 60), originally uncovered by Howard Carter, containing two mummies, the damaged coffin of one bearing the name of a woman known to have been the royal nurse of Queen Hatshepsut. Ryan found one unidentified female mummy still in the burial chamber along with grave goods.

17 A mission of The Polish Institute of Mediterranean Archaeology under the direction of Janusz Karkowsky continues its long-term project to restore and carry out an epigraphic survey of the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri (page 75 ff). It is now approaching its half-centenary. Work on the upper most terrace continues. Plaster casts of blocks taken to the Metropolitan Museum in New York between the years 1911-1931 will be incorporated in the structure. The temple is now illuminated at night. is The Swiss Institute of Archaeology, under the directorship of Horst Yaritz, is now entering its 7th season of work on the Temple of Merenptah on the Theban necropolis. This temple is particularly interesting because blocks from the various other monuments were reused in its construction, including some from the adjacent Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III. Evidence is also coming to light of the different phases of its construction. The copying of the reliefs is well underway. A new subterranean museum has been built to house the reliefs. A large number of Anu- s sphinxes, which may have once lined the avenue leading up to the temple, have been found.

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