Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Karnak Cachette Project – Prof Laurent Coulon

If you want to look at this database online the link is
His major work is excavating the Osiris Chapels of the 21st Dynasty but in 2008 started this project. Le Grain excavated the courtyard in from of the 7th pylon and found the first object 27th Dec 1903. They found 800 private, royal and divine statue; stele and cultic equipment and 16,000-17,000 bronze statues. Although the majority of the objects are in the Cairo museum there are one or two objects in a number of museums all over the world. Sadly the discovery was not published and the excavation poorly recorded. Le Grains diaries and the register have been lost. Only partial records exist, like other diaries, letters and the entry dockets of the Cairo Museum.
In 2009 the database was made freely available online although the inventory is still unfinished. For example Hassam Selim found some fragments in the basement whose provenance is unknown that could have been part of the Cachette. There are 8000 photos online and between 2008-2010 400 objects were photographed. A 70’s collection of Late Egyptian sculpture was scanned. All this allows people to work but still the entire cachette is unpublished.
Version 3 of the database is being prepared which will allow more searches. Then searches can be done of all priests of a certain divinity, all priests of a certain name. Some examples High Ranking Priests who assume the role of the King like SR218 and E20358 (Louvre).
There are a lot of stone statues of Osiris which fits in with his research of the importance of Osiris. A high number of priests holding Osiris, at this time there were over a dozen chapels to Osiris all over Karnak.
There are a lot of bronze statues approximately 17,000 in 1906 examples JE36751 was originally gilded JE37031 ‘master of light’ was probably in a chapel but we don’t know which one.
There are several chapels with names like Osiris the inundation, Osiris the Great Green, Osiris pa Hapy, there is a statue in Copenhagen with the same name AEIN72. Osiris the master of Life, Osiris Master of Food and Osiris Eternal. All from 25th and 26th dynasty. BM713 is a statue base that was purchased in 1906 with no provenance and could well have come from the Cachette. Osiris Pa Hapy was venerated by the 25th dynasty and the Eternity chapel was probably built on top of a previous chapel. JE36751 Wadj-wer Je37010 E3952 JE49155 E10706 established the connection between Osiris and the flood the same as Happy. The celebration of the inundation took place at Karnak. The temples and the statues together are proving very useful.

In 2004 the scarce excavation photographs were published by M. Azim et G. Réveillac, these are snapshots by tourists not proper excavation photos, mainly from the early seasons. Angela Reid is going to publish the visit of Lady William Cecil 21/1/1904. There were three statues found on this day. 9 photos were taken 29/2/1904. Using the database they hope to identify the statues in these photos. Also letters from the time tell us some of the story.
Legrain had water table problems and had to use pumps and shadufs to remove the water. 28 shadufs operated by 56 men could remove 92,000 litres of water an hour. They excavated to a depth of 15m, there is a photo from 1906 taken by Frank Baum the author of the wizard of Oz. The pit was 5 m diameter and located in the n/w corner. There was a mixture of New Kingdom and 30th dynasty objects buried together. It is believed the cachette was created at one time in the last decades of the 1st millennium to protect the treasures of Karnak and this was ritual deposit. Flat stones were put on the top of the cachette. They need to analyse all caches to understand it better.

The cachette was re-excavated in 1955-1957 and they found additional statues and there may be more fragments closer to the walls but it would be hard work to recover than for small benefit. The walls need to be protected.
The cache was made by native Egyptian priests, for a ritual purpose and the date is debated.
The fact that there were no Roman statues does not necessarily mean it was not done after this time as few Roman statues were made.

Next week is the Osiris chapels Jeremy Hourdin

1 comment:

Stuart Tyler said...

That was incredible to read. I could carry on reading that story all through the night.

Thanks Jane for sharing.