Saturday, 7 March 2009

Mummfication Museum lecture - News from Kom el Heltan - Dr Hourig 28/2/9

The area under excavation is the colossus of Memnon and the temple of Amenhotep III and they have been working for 6 years with lots of backing.

A very interesting slide was shown with the original temple superimposed on the existing site. There were three pylons with colossal statues in front of them, an avenue of sphinxes leading to a peristyle court, the sanctuaries. The width of the pylons is known but not the length. The site is 3 m above the original temple floor but after excavating 8 cm they hit water. The site desperately needs the dewatering project. There is a fantastic stele showing Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The temple was part of the Beautiful Feast of the Valley. In 1998 it was designated on of 100 most endangered monuments.

The colossi came from Gebel el Amar and show 2 ladies his wife Queen Tiye on the south and his mother Mutemwiya on the north. They monitor it yearly to check for tilting. As well as looking after the monuments they also collect old documents. She showed a painting by Verner 1873 which showed the statues with water at their feet, people around then with fires going. Combine that with the damage of the salts, the vibrations from the parking lot and the road it is amazing they have survived. They want the road to be moved (the slides show quite clearly the road goes through the southern side). The statue also suffers from the changes in temperature as much as 40 degrees between day and night which make it peel like an onion. They had over 1000 fragments that needed consolidation. An Armenian seismology report shows an earlier earthquake than the Roman one. Liquefaction gives evidence of earthquake.

The 1st court was 100m deep, the second pylon had 2 colossal similar to the Memnon statues. They have had to work on preservation and documentation. The north colossus of the 2nd pylon was fallen and eroded. In 2002 the found the right leg with a statue of Queen Tiye. In 2004 they lifted the 450 tons and moved it 11 ½ metres north to a dry area. They needed pumps day and night.

They found the south colossus fallen east south east, a hand was broken in 3 parts. She showed a short film clip showing the movement of the foot by the workmen. She noted her team was fantastic they used airbags to facilitate to removal. They learnt a lot the north colossus took several weeks but the south colossus took only one week, both were lifted above the water. They document everything, sort the splinters and have jigsaw experts that reassemble.

They have mad new mudbrick stamped with Memnon and hope to reconstruct the temple in a similar fashion to Seti I and Merenptah.

The third pylon was found last year and is protected by new statues. The peristyle court is twice the size of the one at the temple of Luxor. They have reconstructed a colossal statue including a replica of the head taken by Henry Salt. There were papyrus bundled columns and between 2 columns there was a statue.

The southern stele fell to the east in an earthquake and broken into 2 parts, the northern stele is being reconstructed on the ground at 9m is slightly narrower.

Merenptah used the temple as a quarry

According to the soil analysis there was an earthquake 1100-901 BC.

There are Orisired statues but not mummiform, they have a kilt; they are quartzite from Heliopolis on the north and red granite from Aswan to the south. The peristyle court had lots of Sekhmet statues in black granite but they are not from the same quarry and are not all the same height. Sekhmet fights against the enemies of the sun.

She stressed that temples without their statues and steel are like houses without their inhabitants. There are two sphinxes one of Queen Tiye and the other of Amenhotep III, the statue of Amenhotep II is the same as the one in the British Museum.

There is an ambitious site management plan that would include viewing statues, a suggestion of the pylons similar to Seti I reconstruction, a visiting station, replacing statues in the peristyle hall and a visitor centre like Merenptah

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