ARCE Conservation Work at Khonsu Temple – Ed Johnson
ARCE are doing a number of projects of which the Khonsu temple is only one. The conservation program is in its third year and a response to the dewatering project. This went live in the summer of 2007 and now they are training Egyptian conservators to handle the affects of the drying out of the monuments. All the work is done by the students and they train 25 every year.
Previously conservation work was not documented so nobody had any idea who had done the work, what had been done, what was successful and should be replicated, what should not be used and should be avoided. Students are now trained to analyse, plan and actually do the documentation. It is important to map the damage and they have the advantage of the Chicago House work as a basis. They use the same techniques as the Getty Institute used at the tomb of Nefertari. They are also taught photography, about materials, geology, small object conservation, use of Total stations and movement monitors.
When they came to the Khonsu temple it was a bit of junk yard although in the past it was the entrance to Karnak temple. By making it an attractive place to visit they hope to relieve the pressure on the main axis of the temple. The floor of the temple had been used as a quarry so there were structural issues to resolve. Also inscriptions were hidden under the floor and future scholars would want access so a wooden bridge is used to both protect and cover this area. The ambulatory was filled with stones making it impossible to walk around with ease. These have been removed.
Various techniques and chemicals are used to clean and reveal the poly chrome left on the walls. Brushing down the dirt with soft brushes, cleaning, poulticing and removal of the salts and soot. Infilling holes so birds cannot roost. The area around the temple has been landscaped enabling easy viewing. New irregular paving blocks have been laid mimicking the old ones
Lots of the old conservation and concrete had to be removed as it was attracting salts. Lime mortar is more sympathetic. Heba a naturally occurring material used in traditional construction is used as a poultice to remove salts. Once it dries it can be flaked off taking the slats with it. Several applications are needed. There is still 70-80% humidity in the walls and although the dewatering is good desalination is vital to go alongside it.
The Euergetes gateway has not previously been documented by Chicago House so the damage mapping there has to be done from scratch. Work is in progress there.
Although 20,000 cubic meters (?) of water has been removed from Karnak it is only at Luxor temple East pylon that any movement has been noted. This is giving cause for concern