Sunday, 26 October 2008

Ankhtifi at Moalla

Ankh Tifi

It all started when I published a list of new ticket prices on my blog and one of them was El Mamela tombs at Esna. Someone emailed me asking for details of these tombs, well I had never heard of them personally. So they asked on EEF, there was no response there either so I decided to try and find out about them.

When I was going to Esna with some guests and a guide I asked him and he told me this was Ankh Tifi 1st Intermediate Period. So I published that on EEF and then loads of information came in.

Firstly they are normally known as the Moalla tombs not El Mamela. Although that name was in the list of ticket prices the name on ticket itself was Al-Mu’alla, Esna but the important bit is that the owner was Ankh Tifi the brave. I just love that. And here are the hieroglyphics that say it.

No I have not suddenly developed complete knowledge of hieroglyphics but I went with a guest who has been studying Egyptology for years and had been help down at Dashur on the GPR project under Dieter Arnold. She had actually written a story about Ankh Tifi and asked if it was possible to see it. Michael from the roof came as well. Her name is Noreen Doyle and here is a link to a bit about her story

Right logistics of getting there. We decided to go with the Aswan convoy and blag our way back. Actually my driver (Ahmed my brother in law) found a way back that avoided the only checkpoint between Luxor and Said bridge (which is what the Egyptians call it).

So you could go there and back any time taking this route. We also bought tickets for Tod temple. So before you get to the convoy get the tickets at Luxor temple which will help explain to the policemen where you are going as they had never heard of it. You also get the Tod temple tickets there.

The convoy leaves at 7am and we got there about 8, we did have a puncture just as we arrived so we left Ahmed dealing with that while we went on the visit. This was actually good as he was told this sneaky way back which was quite complicated but really pretty going through tiny villages and sugar cane fields.

The site is visible from the road and is about 15 km before Esna, you will have to look out for it yourself or have a knowledgeable taxi driver as there are no signs and the convoy police did not tell us to turn off or have any interest when we did. Bless them.

The guardian was on site no problem and took us up to the hill. Noreen told me there used to be a causeway leading from the tomb to the Nile. In front of it these days you can see remains of a mud brick pylon and a courtyard. The interior is surprisingly large with irregular shaped pillars. Apparently cone shape but they just looked irregular to me.

We found Ankhtifi's name and great pictures of him on his own and seated with his wife. There were also lots of wall scenes in various states of repair. There was a cartouche with the name of the king who Ankh Tifi had supported against the Theban alliance that produced the Middle kingdom. Noreen explained that the oars on the boat were one of the first examples of spoon shaped oars.
A nice scene of a man with a long eared hare looking very like Bugs Bunny. There were marsh scenes with herons and ducks, butchering, hunting, all sorts. The carving was interesting with glimpses of high quality work here and there but on the most part not of the standard of old kingdom mastabas of even Middle kingdom carvings.

There are a number of important texts in this tomb and it is unusual in that it departs from the standard texts with more personal accounts. This makes it a really important tomb. I would copy the texts here but there seems to be a debate about the proper translation and I do not know enough to select which one. He talks about starvation and even cannibalism which he relieved with grain and how brave he was. It is a very personal record

Here are few places he gets mentioned

o Crime, Cult and Capital Punishment (Mo'alla Inscription 8)
o Harco Willems
o The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 76, (1990), pp. 27-54
o Published by: Egypt Exploration Society
o Stable URL:

This article discusses the punishment that would be inflicted on the potential violator of Ankhtifi’s tomb. One of his arms will be presented to the god Hemen, the god will no longer accept offerings presented by the victim and the family of the violator will be ousted from office. The article goes on to discuss the author’s theory that this actual means ‘death penalty in ritual disguise’.

A recent lecture at the Wirral Egyptology society by Dr Bill Manley discussed whether the reports by Ankhtifi of supplying grain to other parts of Egypt upset the theory of universal poverty, famine and a divided Egypt. The tomb is large suggesting wealthy and stability rather than chaos. Could it be the case of history being rewritten by the victors with the Theban Middle kingdom royals suggesting they were to solution rather than the cause?

Rather like ‘the causes of the first world war’ we probably think we know the reasons for the end of the Old Kingdom and the fall of Egypt into disorder and chaos; the old and feeble Pepi II losing control, the rise in power of regional rulers, foreign invasion, climate change and poor inundations resulting in famine, even the strain on resources from building vast pyramids.
Not so. In this interesting talk by Bill Manley we were made to rethink the First Intermediate Period in the light of recent research and reinterpretation of excavations. In the first place, the First Intermediate Period lasted about 150 years. It was only in the last 40 or so that there was the disruption of civil war.
The long reign of Pepi II (96 years gives us no suggestion that there was any weakening of his power. Indeed it is probable that this long period of stability would have increased prosperity. Petrie’s belief that there was foreign invasion has now been discredited.
There is absolutely no evidence of this.

Undoubtedly this was a period of increased regional government, but there is little to suggest that this was in opposition to the Pharaoh, rather that this decentralisation illustrates the king’s confidence in his prosperous and growing country. That the country was affluent with a strong government is illustrated by the development of trade in the north and the rise in immigration from less stable countries. The regions were responsible for their people, the production of food and maintaining the military. The nomarch was no longer buried with his king in a pyramid complex, but built his own tomb in the regions near his own people.
If the country was poor, divided and threatened by famine, then the tomb of Ankhtify at Mo’alla is hard to explain. It is exceptionally large. The importance of reading inscriptions carefully and in context was clearly demonstrated to us. Apparently the suggestion is that famine was so widespread and severe that they were reduced to cannibalism, even eating their own children, but a close examination of the inscriptions shows that far from eating their children they were perfectly capable of looking after their own people and were exporting grain both north and south. Ankhtify says ‘it is my grain that has gone to Wawat and Abydos. All the south may die of hunger but it will never happen in this district’. So far from suffering famine, he was producing a surplus!

The rather crude art of the period is another reason often cited as a sign of the turmoil and decline of the period. It is now thought that this is more likely to be the result of the freedom of the regions from central control and their palace-trained craftsmen, resulting perhaps in more crudely executed art but with lively and innovative interpretations. There is evidence of distinct regional styles.
In addition the democratisation of the country meant that there was an increase in the size of the élite population. Many more people were buried in tombs; it was no longer the preserve of the very closest to the king. His officials and soldiers also had their own tombs, so high standards of tomb production would have been difficult to maintain. What Bill calls the IKEA-isation of tomb art. Also the poor geological conditions in some of the southern regions would have made the production of perfectly smooth surfaces in the tombs difficult.

The end of the First Intermediate Period was precipitated by the Thebans, who opposed regional development and wanted to take over control of the whole nation. That they succeeded, perhaps accounts for the view of this period that has come down to us. As they say ‘history is written by the victors’.

Dr Bill Manley - Egypt in chaos: explaining the end of the Old Kingdom - Wirral Egyptology Society

• The Dark Ages in Ancient History. I. The First Dark Age in Egypt
• Barbara Bell
• American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Jan., 1971), pp. 1-26
• Published by: Archaeological Institute of America
This article discusses in considerable depth the dark ages that Egypt went through and cites Ankhtifi as a great description of the terrible times they went through.
So all this based on Ankhtifi, and no I didn’t have any idea how important he was either

This is the earliest accessible tomb in the Luxor area, so quite different from the majority of New Kingdom sites, which are a century later.

The area is a pyramid shaped mountain, Noreen had read of some speculation that it was an artificial pyramid but it did not look like that at all to us. There are quite a few obvious tombs.

Another known one is Sobeknakht and we persuaded the guardian to let us take a look in there. It was a bit scary as there are three burial shafts right in the middle of the tomb, the quality of the decoration is poor. It was another tomb with an obvious courtyard in front; Noreen said that he was believed to be Ankhtifi’s father or grandfather although this is not sure.

When we got back to the car Ahmed had sorted out a replacement tyre and found this sneaky way round the checkpoint. So we went to the temple of Tod. I have written about that a couple of times so won’t repeat myself but what are these? They look like Egyptian cartoon characters.

It was a great day out and we were back home by 11, it would have been a nightmare if we waited for the convoy as that does not come back until 2pm. If you want to go there contact me and Ahmed can take you the sneaky way.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Tuthmosis III excavations

As I blogged Tuthmose excavations they have started work.

The temple is made of mudbrick and very ignored and neglected. I am really pleased about this new excavations as I bet there lots there. But the road is an issue which ought to be resolved.

A couple of photos taken from the road of the new excavations at Tuthmosis III's mortury temple. The road actually goes through the first courtyard and these photos were taken from the car and show the second pylon.

BTW what should it be Thothmosis, Thutmose, Tuthmosis

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Christian Le Blanc Lecture

I meet Christian Le Blanc at the Ramesseum today, he is still searching for the sacred lake at that temple. He mentioned that he is giving a lecture in French at the Mummification Museum on 20th November at 8:00 on the Valley of Queens. He was so kind to my guests who spoke a bit of French giving them leaflets on the Ramesseum, Valley of Kings and Valley of Queens and the work he is doing in each place.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Update on French excavations

It is nice to see Christian Le Blanc back at the Ramesseum. They are excavating in two areas one by the royal palace and the other close to the road. So far they have found some mummies and canopic jars. It would seem that quite a cemetery was built on the site. Christoph is back at Merenptah so that is still closed.

Monday, 20 October 2008 Updates

Dear friends,

There are two pieces of good news for the English speaking people.

--> First, the tomb of Userhat in Luxor, TT56, is now online.

--> Second, thanks to Jon, you have now an entirely new and enhanced
version of the pages on Qasr el Aguz, this small, almost unknown,
Ptolemaic temple, which nevertheless is only 50 metres from Medinet Habu.


Monuments of Egypt

Dinner and La Compagnia Rossini at Habu temple

Last night the Sonesta had a function at Medinet Habu, it wasn’t cheap at £80 GBP but it was an opportunity of a life time. I went with Michael from the roof, he knows quite a lot about opera which was handy. The big draw for me was the chance to see the temple at night. And it was very interesting, the carving looked a lot cruder with the deep shadows but the colours looked even fresher. If you were staying on the East Bank you got picked up by coach but as I live on the West Bank it was easier to make our own way there and then wait for the coaches to arrive.

You had to wait because there was going to be a torch light procession to welcome us. There were all these Egyptian men lined up with flaming torches. The procession from Aida was playing as we walked along. It was really quite special.

As we went into the first courtyard we were welcomed with cocktails and the ensemble La Compagnia Rossini that was going to sing for us. We had a bit of time there to admire the temple. It did look wonderful. I am afraid my photos are not the best but I decided to publish them anyway because you can get a flavour of the whole thing.

In the second court yard there were tables laid out and they were beautifully done, we were on the West Bank table lol . You got the menu done in little scrolls and your napkin ring was a fancy tassel and there was a scarab on your side plate. Really up market table settings. We had the first selection of songs, I probably shouldn’t call them that but I am not an opera buff. I could not help thinking of my father who was and would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Then it was a 6 course dinner, seafood salad, broccoli soup, medallions of beef and lamb, a desert, fresh fruit and coffee. Wine flowed, with a bit of encouragement.

At our table we toasted Ramses III and wondered what he would make of it. We decided he would rather approve. I certainly never imagined I would sit in Habu temple with a glass of wine, listening to serious music. After dinner there were more songs. Then there was the ceremony of the Torte which was a big cake processed in.>

If they do it again I would certainly encourage people to go, I really enjoyed it. Nice to have some culture and an opportunity to dress up.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Thursday, 16 October 2008

New Ticket Prices

Just to remind you these are reputed to be the new tickets prices, effective 1st November. If anyone is aware of any corrections to this list please pass them on.

Archaeological Site Price (Le)
Abdein Palace Museum 15
Abu Seir Pyramids 20
Abu Simbel Temples 80
Akhenaton Tomb 25
Alexandria National Museum 35
Amada Area 45
Anba Samaan Monastery 25
Areish National Museum 25
Ashraf Barespay School (Medressah) 8
Assasif Tomb 30
Aswan Museum 30
Ay Tomb 25
Babaza Tomb 25
Bahareia Oasis 45
Bashtak Palace 8
Beir Yousef 25
Beni Hassan Tombs 30
Beni Soueif Museum 15
Birds’ Villa At Kom El Dekka 15
Catacombs (Kom El Shokafa) 35
Causeway Of Unas Pyramid 5
Citadel Of Saladin In Cairo 50
Citadel Mahka 25
Coptic Museum 50
Dahshur Pyramid 30
Deir El Bahary Temple 30
Deir El Hagar Temple 25
Deir El Medina Tombs 30
Dendera Temple 35
Doush Temple 25 Giza Pyramids Archeological Site 60
Edfu Temple 50
Egyptian Museum 60
Egyptian Treasures Exhibition 15
Ein Aseil 25
El Anfoushy Archaeological Site 20
El Araba El Madfouna At Abydos 30
El Bagawat Area At Oasis 30
El Darb El Asfar 25
El Ghoueita 25
El Ghoury Collection 25
El Hamameya 25
El Harawy House 15
El Kab Tombs 30
El Khoukha Area 25
El Kousair Fortress 15
El Lahoun Pyramid 35
El Mamela Tomb At Esna 15
El Mozawaka 25
El Nasr & El Foutouh Gates 8
El Sebouaa Area<45
El Seheimy House 30
El Sennary House 25
El Set Wasila 15
El Shatby Site 20
El Towed Temple 25
El Zayan Temple 25
Electronic Guide 25
Elwet Abd El Gorna 25
Esna Temple 20
Ezbet Bashandy 25
Fostat City 10
Freizar Tomb 20
Gayer Anderson Museum 35
Gebel El Mawta (Mountain Of Dead) At Siwa 25
Graves Of The Royal Family Of Mohamed Ali 20
Great Pyramid 100
Greco-Roman Museum 40
Hawara Pyramid 35
Heibes Temple 30
House Of Gamal El Din El Zahaby 15
Islamic Art Museum 40
Ismaelia Museum 15
Jewelry Museum 40
Karaneis Area 25
Karnak Temples 65
Karoun Temple 25
Kom Ombo Temple And Crocodiles Museum 30
Kom Osheim Museum At Fayoum 10
Luxor Museum 80
Luxor Temple 50
Malawy Museum 10
Manial Palace Museum 35
Mariet Razna Museum At Zagazig Governorate 10
Matareyah Obelisk 15
Medinet Habu Temple 30
Meidoum Pyramid 35
Meir Metkal School (Medressah) 8
Meir Tomb 25
Mencaura Pyramid (3rd Pyramid) 25
Merit Amoun Statue 25
Mery N Petah Temple 15
Mohamed Bek Abu El Zahaby Collection 25
Mummification Museum At Luxor 50
Mummy Room 100
Museum Of Meit Rehyna ( Memphis Museum ) 35
Mustafa Kamel Archaeological Site 20
Nafisa Al Bayda 8
New Tombs At Sakkara 30
New Valley Museum(Al Wadi El Gedid 30
Nilometer At Rodah Island 15
Nubian Art Museum 50
Open Air Museum At Karnak 25
Pompay’s Pillar 20
Port Said Museum 15
Princes Tombs 30
Queitbay Fortress (Day Visit) 25
Queitbay Fortress (Night Visit) 25
Queitbay Fortress At Rasheid Tower 15
Ramesseum Temple 30
Ramouze Tomb 30
Rashid Archaeological Area 15
Rashid National Museum 25
Refaei Mosque 25
Roman Theatre 20
Romel Cave Museum 10
Royal Chariots Museum 35
Sakkara Archaeological Site 60
Saladin Fortress At Taba ( In Usd) 10 $ Usd
San El Hagar Museum 20
Sebil Ali Bek Al Kebeir In Tanta Free
Sebil And Kottab Of Sultan Queitbay 25
Sebil Island 25
Second Pyramid 30
Solar Boat Museum 50
Sultan Hassan Mosque 25
Taba Museum 15
Taftaf 2
Tanta Museum 15
Tel Basta Archaeological Site 20
Tel El Amarna 30
Temple Of Philae 50
Temple Of Hor-Moheb 25
Temple Of Kalabsha 35
Temple Of Oracle Of Amun At Siwa 25
Temple Of Seti The First 30
Tomb Of Nefertary 100
Tomb Of Bashedu 15
Tomb Of Menna And Nakht 25
Tomb Of Rameses Vi At Valley Of Kings 50
Tomb Of Tutankhamun 100
Tombs Of Roy & Sheroy 15
Tona El Gebel & Ashmounin 20
Tree Of The Virgin At Matareyah 15
Unfinished Obelisk 30
User Hat , Khonsu & Benya 15
Valley Of The Kings 80
Valley Of The Queens 35
Wekalet Al Ghoury 15
Wekalet Bazaraa 20
Zeinab Khatoun House 15
Zewiela Gate 15

Latest burial in the Valley of Kings - Alec Anthon

If when visiting the tomb of Ay you hear a Mancunian accent echoing of the gebel then congratulations you have just met the ghost of my Dad. He will probably be telling a corny joke. Regular readers to the blog will remember he died in Feb after a full an active life and I had the opportunity to say my goodbyes properly. Delicious Death entry

Now it was his mother that got me interested in Egyptology and he was in Egypt 1946/7. So it seemed fitting that part of his ashes should be buried here. They were brought over by Michael who lives on the roof yesterday. So today I went with the prayer book dated 1791 belonging to my great, great, great, great grandfather and read out loud the funeral service and scattered his ashes.

The policeman that always accompanies you up to the tomb of Ay was totally puzzled why I wanted to up there, had no ticket for the tomb and no guests with me. I had to shew him away. Egyptians do not believe in cremation and think something like this is completely weird. I really did not feel like explaining although I told my brother in law who drove me up there. But otherwise this was between me and my Dad

I felt a peculiar sense of satisfaction and happiness that my father had the send off he should have done.

His ashes mingled with dust and blended perfectly. They should totally confuse some future archaeologist if they ever find way to analyze dust

Friday, 10 October 2008

Mohammed Ismail's daughter got engaged

Lots of you know Mohammed, he is my walking guide and used to live in a tomb in old Gurna. I went to the engagement party last night, I knew I was an honoured guest as my Fanta came with a glass with ice in it!!! It was at the new village and there must have been about 150 people there.
The engaged couple sat on thrones whilst music played then the girls parents appeared with a tray with gold jewellery on it. This is what the groom would have bought her and is her security for all her life.

Shortly after this while the dancing was going on a load of either sugar or salt was thrown on the dances. I didn't get showered so was not sure what it was and got 2 different answers when I asked salt to keep away the bad eyes or sugar to make them sweet. The marriage will take place in about 4 months

I have loaded a short vidoe clip on Facebook which I hope you can see

The range of headscarves worn by the ladies was amazing, some were very beautiful and glamorous.

Digital Karnak Project Website Launch

Digital Karnak Project Website Launch

The Digital Karnak Project is pleased to announce the launch
of its website:

The Digital Karnak Project, based at the University of California
at Los Angeles (UCLA), aims to make the ancient Egyptian site
of Karnak more accessible to students and instructors in the
English-speaking world. The features of this website have
been designed to provide college classrooms (and the interested
public) with easily accessible, up-to-date, expert material relating
to the famous temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak, located in
modern day Luxor, Egypt.

The website features a geographically-referenced "time-map"
highlighting the areas of the temple under construction during the
reign of each Egyptian king, thematic videos of a 3D Virtual Reality
model of the temple along with corresponding instructional texts,
individual descriptions of each temple building recreated on the
Virtual Reality model and a fully interactive Google Earth version of
the model. We hope educators and students will use these free digital
resources to more effectively teach and learn about the complex
spatial and chronological changes that took place during the 1500
years of building activity at Karnak temple.

The Digital Karnak Project website is best viewed using Mozilla
Firefox 2 (PC and Mac), Internet Explorer 7 (PC), and Safari 3 (Mac).

The Digital Karnak Project is funded by the National Endowment of
the Humanities (NEH) and the Steinmetz Family Trust. The project
was made possible through UCLA's Institute for Digital Research
and Education (IDRE). For more information on IDRE's Humanities,
Arts and Architecture, Social and Information Sciences Core
(IDRE-HASIS) visit

The Digital Karnak Project is directed by UCLA professors Dr. Diane
Favro and Dr. Willeke Wendrich.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

From EEF and I have been emailed about this as well

It has come to our attention that a new development program is about to be launched in Luxor by the Government of Egypt that focuses on the east bank Corniche Boulevard. The goal is to double the width of the Corniche to alleviate traffic congestion, create a pedestrian walkway along the Nile, and establish a four-kilometer touristic zone along the riverfront between Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple. If the current plan is implemented this zone will be at the expense of most of the buildings presently along the Corniche boulevard, most of which will be demolished or cut back to accommodate the widened street. Exceptions are the Luxor Museum, which will only lose its front parking area, and the University of Chicago's headquarters in Luxor, Chicago House, which will remain where it is, but will lose its entire front garden area to the new street.

It is hoped that the Luxor City authorities will reject this unecessarily extreme plan for a less radical approach that is also being discussed.
Building the riverbank outward would allow room for a widened Corniche but still preserve the buildings and gardens presently along the Nile that give Luxor so much of its charm and character.
Slated for removal are several older gardens: one part of a military club, one in front of a mosque, and another in the front of a Coptic Catholic rest house. The historic Chicago House garden in particular would be a terrible loss. Over 75 years old, its 24-meter palm trees and dozens of trees and flowering bushes were donated as cuttings from the botanical gardens of Cairo and Aswan in the 1930s, and are unique in Luxor. Two rows of royal palms along the front walk imitate the 14 open papyrus columns of the great Colonnade Hall of Luxor Temple, and symbolize the archaeological preservation work this institution has accomplished in partnership with Egypt for over 84 years.

It may not be too late. Comments in support of a less radical plan for the Luxor Corniche can be sent to the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif:

Anyone want to sponsor me - please

On the19th October 2008

A Magical Concert in Medinet Habu…
...with the talented international musical ensemble,
La Compagnia Rossini.
A rare opportunity to experience exquisite music and delicious food in one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt.
Don’t miss this wonderful event!
Reserve with Kate at the Guest Relations Desk Sonesta St George
from 11.00am - 12.00 pm or from 2.00pm to 3.00pm or call Ext. 6802

La Compagnia Rossini originate from Switzerland. They have an extensive repertoire of operatic arias from a wide variety of romantic composers such as Rossini, Bellini, Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi and others. The programs elegantly combine these with traditional folk songs from their home region, sung in their native language of Rhaeto-Romansh. Their performances are exciting, unique, vivacious and joyful and each of the members has an outstanding voice, developed with the help and support of their founder, opera singer, Armin Caduff.

La Compagnia Rossini Gala Dinner
Sunday 19th October 2008
Medinet Habu, West Bank, Luxor

Cocktail de Fruits De Mar
Fresh Poached Red Sea Shrimp, Sea Bass and Calamari served
on a Bed of Garden Greens
With a Light lemon Mayonnaise
Potage De Broccoli
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Le Trio
Beef, Veal and Lamb Medallions Topped with Sautéed Sliced Ham, Morels and
Small Glazed Onions in Red Wine Sauce
Mille Feuille aux Fruits
Fresh Fruit Mille Feuilles
Seasonal Fresh Fruits
Coffee and Tea
Petit Four

Evening Programme
Transportation schedule:
7.00pm Depart Sofitel Karnak
7.15pm Depart Mercure
7.20pm Depart Sofitel Old Winter Palace
7.30pm Depart Sonesta St George
7.45pm Depart Maritim Jolie Ville
8.30pm Arrive Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu, Temple of a Million Years of Pharaoh Rameses III; is one of the most
enchanting and evocative of the Temples of Ancient Egypt. Created for the archetypal soldier-Pharaoh; the stories of his legendary victories cover the walls and the
combatants seem to come to life and breathe in the light of the flickering torches.
Event schedule:
8.35pm Torchlit Arrival and Welcome
(Accompaniment - Grand March from Aida)
Walk in the steps of Pharaoh.

8.45pm Cocktail Reception in the 1st Court of the Temple
Look around you; you are part of history. See the scenes of battle. Gaze up and see
colours, painted on thousands of year ago and still surviving until now.

9.00pm Seating for Dinner and Concert in the 2nd Court of the Temple
Move further into to the Temple. The scenes change to a spiritual theme, telling of processions and Ancient Deities. Time will stand still as beautiful music transports you to another world.
9.15pm La Compagnia Rossini Perform their 1st Selection
9.45pm Dinner is Served
11.00pm La Compagnia Rossini Perform their 2nd Selection
11.30pm Ceremony of the Torte

11.40pm Departure to East Bank and Hotels.

A Night to Remember

The price is GBP80 (around LE800) p.p.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Karnak Visitor Centre opening soon

I just spoke to Ibrahim Soliman the SCA Director of Karnak asking him when the lectures will start at the Mummification Museum. He told me that they were really busy with the new visitor centre and there were not any missions in Luxor yet. So no lectures this month but maybe November. He was really excited about the new visitor centre. He said there was going to be a VIP opening next week. So look out for that at Karnak

Friday, 3 October 2008

Museums in Luxor

Everyone always thinks of Cairo Museum when they think of an Egyptian museum however there are loads of other really high quality museums in Cairo. Also outside Cairo, in fact all over the country there are excellent artifacts on display. I went the museum at Kharga and that looked as though it had not been visited since Ramses II but was full of some interesting objects. In Luxor itself there are 4 museums and they all have appeal to me.

Luxor Museum does not have vast quantities of artifacts but I prefer it to Cairo because everything is properly displayed, labelled, conserved and controlled. Humidifiers and temperatures controls contrast strongly to Cairo’s open air policy. Having said that I am really excited about the proposed new museum. Having seen what they can do with the museums at Sakkara you realise the new Giza museum is going to rival the pyramids for sheer wonderment. Back to Luxor, the main museum is a wonderful setting and you feel the objects are properly looked after. The Mummification museum is even smaller but fascinating for is display of specialised mummification material. The Open Air Museum at Karnak is my personal favourite although it is extremely challenging to visit as there is little explanation. But today I want to concentrate of a very little known small but exquisite museum at the temple of Merenptah.

The temple is situated within walking distance of the ticket office and the museum is located on site. The ticket is 10LE and that entitles you to a visit to the temple area as well. The museum is often closed but what happens is while you go round the temple the guardians make a phone call to the inspectors office and the inspector with the key comes and unlocks the museum. Alternatively if you don’t want to see the temple you just sit and wait and the guardians will probably make you tea. Although the temple is open at 6 am I have never been able to get into the museum until after 9.

The Swiss spent nearly 20 years excavating this temple and found lots of artifacts from a wide time period. Obviously of Merenptah himself and the adjoining temple of Amenhotep III but also Hatshepsut amongst others.

The temple is very sparse in its remains but its storage areas and the museum are hidden treasures. The two underground chambers have pieces from the gateway of Amenhotep III well displayed with explanatory steel panels. Anyone who lives in Egypt will understand the need for washable steels panels, the dust is pervasive. The storage area has many objects which I guess were judged too large or duplicates or not good enough for the museum contents. I love the jackal head sphinxes personally. One wonders whether this was an East v West Bank difference. Rams on the East Bank jackals on the West? Recent excavations at the temple of Ramses II have also revealed jackal headed sphinxes.

The museum was designed by the architect Horst Jaritz and describes itself as the site museum of the temple of Merenptah done by the Swiss Institute with support from the SCA. The museum itself has a very detailed display board showing the work of the Swiss team during their clearance of the temple. Before and during pictures are always evocative but these show clearly the state of the temple. And it is in Arabic and English, it is challenging in Egypt to make things accessible to such a wide variety of nations but with the use of pictures they have done pretty well. And yet amazingly this has to be about the least visited site on the West Bank. And some of the interesting and unexpected discoveries that were made.

There are a number of display boards, the higher level ones given a description and the lower level photos.
1) Sets up the geography of the temple and its relationship to the other temples in the area. It shows the plan drawn by Petrie after his original excavation in 1896, little remained as it had been used as a quarry.
2) Then in 1971 until 2000 the Swiss Institute worked here. Their plan is only a little more detailed than Petrie's and has more of the mud brick structures.
3) There is then a detailed pan of the temple palace and treasury. The basic layout of this temple does not differ greatly from his grandfather Seti I
4) Shows the reuse of stone quarried from the Amenhotep III temple. It would seem that this temple was already abandoned and wrecked. It position on the flood plan probably was the major contribution and once the damage started it was an obvious place for subsequent Pharaohs to come for stone, maybe it was even considered a sort of holy relic to incorporate it. There are several large pieces and they are in underground chambers within the temple itself. The display board shows how they fitted together. The pieces themselves show definite Amarna damage
5) This display board shows the sphinxes, there were a lot. These originally belonging to Amenhotep III and had been usurped by Merenptah. There were 2 large human headed ones and on display was half the head of one of them. Dimensions were not given but the head alone was approx 1 metre, 4 smaller ones 1.3 – 1.40. And then these wonderful jackal headed ones. Just like at Karnak temple with the ram headed sphinxes guarding the figure of the king between their paws these are jackal headed ones doing exactly the same things. There was one large one 6.50 ad 12 smaller ones 4.90. They were all found in the foundations of the temple, used as hard core
6) There were three colossal groups which Merenptah usurped from Amenhotep III. Parts of some of these are in the British Museum
a. A triad of Hathor, the king and Osiris, the torso is in the British museum
b. A Dyad of the king and the god Amun
c. The royal couple again the torso is in the British museum

The display then continues with a chronological selection of objects from Hatshepsut to Merenptah. Some of the contextual settings are particularly clever with use of small steel plaques that show the entire scene and where a particular original piece fitted into that scene. Lots of the small pieces have bright and vivid colours. They are mounted cleverly, displaying themselves well. There are also some cabinets with a variety of objects.

The first object is a column of Amenhotep III very reminiscent of those at Luxor temple, it approximately 3 metres high. It is from a door jamb and there are various pieces from the same door jamb some with colour still remaining. Then there were various parts of the sphinxes tying in the display board. There was half the human headed sphinx wearing the nemes head cloth and with a little colour especially around the eyes. Above it is a piece of what looks like the bottom of a wall frieze. There is a palace façade surmounted by wadjet and ankhs and that is normally at the bottom of a wall.

As many of these pieces were around pre and post Amarna you can see where Amun has been re-carved into blocks.

Then we come to the jackal headed sphinxes that have a kindly almost smiling face and the sandstone has been covered by a thin layer of plaster on which details have been painted. The inside of the nostrils are red, you can see whiskers. They really are benevolent. The statue of the king between the paws looks middle aged. The picture of the king on the pieces of the monumental gateway looks young, virile and athletic but these portraits are more serene and very handsome. Quite a human face and not remote or miserable. Colour remains on the ureaus, eyes and the collar of the jackal.

Then there are some various blocks of Amenhotep IV and Hatshepsut which were reused elements of a wall. A large approx 1 meter diameter cult vessel on a stand dated to 18/19th dynasty. After these objects we come 1 short wall and another long wall dividing into sections on these there are various fragments which have been mounted (stuck?) on to metal rods and placed into the approximate relationship to the other pieces. A bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Next to them is explanatory plaques showing the whole scene and bold out lines showing where these original pieces fitted. The short wall has a Merenptah pieces a steles from the treasury with the king in front of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. There are also numerous private steles that were found in the temple precincts.

The long wall has many pieces from the temple walls some with bright and vivid colours. The various scenes are the king in front of Horus. Various pieces with part of the king’s name complimented by a small plaque showing the entire name with all the hieroglyphics. Warriors, enemies and prisoners some with a bag hair style, some with the curly lock hair style and the warriors with the Egyptian bob. The smiting scene had a prisoner with a hair style like the nemes hairstyle. The last section has various members of the royal family and Gods, this section has the most colours and there is a lovely loaf with individual sesame seeds painted on it. Flowers and ladies robes with blues various shades in ribbons and petals. When you looked at it from a distances it looked like pieces of a puzzle laid out in groups ready to be assembled but when you got in close you could see each piece was careful selected and showed you artists work.

In the middle of the room there were cabinets with various finds from the site.
• Lots of pottery including what looked like Blue Malkata ware. A large 1 foot diameter shallow bowl reassembled from 3 pieces. Bowls dishes, decorated shreds, wine jar dockets, jars, bottles, bread moulds, beer jars, cooking pot (which was blackened), jars and stoppers
• Lots hieratic ostraca but sadly no translations, rings, beads, some tools (possible miniatures put in foundations deposits), some paint jars and the rocks used to get the colours
• Various small pieces from the 3 colossal statues like toes, plaited beard, tail, feathers, hair, necklaces
• Black (possible basalt) pieces from a statues which might have been Ptah or Osiris as it had clasped hands and the wadjet sceptre
• Several partial faces of Amenhotep III with nice happy faces
• Enemies most of these pieces seems to be in poor condition but you could make out non typical Egyptian features like thick lips, different check bones and hair

Sadly although the museum was obviously equipped with temperature controls these all seem to be either switched of or to have malfunctioned and not been repaired. The air conditioning was not on and a temperature recorder was not registering

What defines a museum for me is not its artifacts but how they are looked after and displayed and how accessible they are to the general public. This museum may not be large like Cairo but each piece has been chosen very deliberately and compliments the other pieces, it is displayed sympathetically and full information is given about it. The jackal sphinxes are definitely the best. Shame about the temperature control.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Lots more on the Mamela tombs aka Ankhtifi at Moalla

My Egyptian guide friend Hussein having correctly identified the tomb for me, now the information has come rolling in.

Francois Tonic tells me he has visited there as an ordinary tourist and it is quite easy from Luxor although you have to use the convoy.

Elke Noppes gave me two websites Wikipedia:
and another Site which pictures from Moalla:

And big thanks to Ed Johnson who has given me a detailed description

It is a 10th dynasty First Intermediate Period Tomb, one of a group situated on the East side of the road, about one half to two thirds of the way up the hill. It is the best preserved of the group and is therefore secured with a gate and lock. The others are not, there is a lot less remaining of them and they are all smaller than Anktifi's.

The layout of the tomb is such that you enter the long transverse chapel from the door in the center front face of the tomb. Upon entering the door you are facing the tomb shaft, the opening of which is now quite large and is fenced off and which drops down about 10 feet. The burial chamber proceeds from the bottom of the shaft on an east-west axis The chapel is fairly large, at least 30 feet to each side of the shaft. The roof is mostly of wood, a modern construction, though closer to the back face of the tomb there is still the remains of the original rock cut ceiling supported by some of the original pillars, though some are fragmentary. The entire tomb was cut in a layer of limestone which is badly fractured and has led to loss of the ceiling and other parts of the tomb, as well.

While the burial shaft is undecorated and not readily accessible, the rest of the tomb is. It is done in typical provincial style, which some people consider crude and inferior, but which has a certain charm and vitality of its own. Some of the remaining wall paintings are well preserved and remain quite colorful, if I remember correctly, mostly on the rear of the front wall and on some of the columns. However, some of the scenes have suffered and are unclear, having been effected with water over the centuries, as parts of it were clearly open for extended periods of time before it was rescued and conserved and even now the roof is not watertight, as they never are. These areas appear almost erased or to have been covered over with water borne plaster and mud, obscuring the surface.

The tomb has been the subject of several campaigns of conservation, most recently by the SCA conservators from Esna and there is a large modern SCA magazine and conservation lab just down the hill and a bit to the south. The last conservation efforts were undertaken some years ago and were aimed at trying to ameliorate earlier treatments with consolidants which were less than ideal, such as PVA and some others. These are hard to remove and the efforts have met with limited success. These consolidants have contributed to the inability to clean up some of the obscured scenes.

Some of the internal pillars are unusual, being cone shaped, with the large end toward the ground and tapering to the top. These are also decorated, some nicely, some with their decoration a bit muddy looking as noted above.

There are several other tombs in the hill, none as large and none as well preserved as Anktifi's, though there are isolated surviving scenes in some of them, which have also been the subject of some conservation efforts.

It is not a major site and visitors are few, but it is worthwhile to see if you can drop by and spend perhaps 30 minutes looking around. I used it last year to illustrate some points and geology for our class on the way to Send, as some of our students were based there and a couple had actually been involved with the earlier conservation of the tomb and had worked at the site, so we were all interested to see what they had done.

1st October Eid and my University Course

Today is Eid and when Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, everyone has new clothes and visits each other. I went to my husbands family house wearing my new clothes and promptly got baptized by 5 year old Doa'a dancing round showing off and knocking a big mug of water flying. I had to stand in the sun and drip. Everyone is really happy and it is a lovely time to visit. Even the men at the ticket office are smiling.

It is also the first day of my university course. It was so exciting logging in today and seeing what we had to do. The first task is to visit a museum and report on it. Well Luxor Museum came immediately to mind but then I thought it would be more interesting to do something a bit more obscure so I going to do my report on the Merenptah temple. This is a very neglected site but I really like it and think it well worth a visit. Firstly the way the Swiss have reconstructed it is quite clever and gives you a sense of proportion and grandeur but without confusing you about what is original what is reconstruction. The museum has some wonderful pieces in it, all found on the site and from quite a wide period of time.

It is will be nice to be visiting a site again, I am afraid I stay in doors during the summer these days, air conditioning is a wonderful things.