Sunday, 30 November 2008

Recent Work of the American Research Centre in Khonsu Temple, Karnak – Pamela Rose, Brett MacLean

Pamela Rose
The current temple is a Ramesses III structure incorporating an Amenhotep II bark shrine. Recently they have been working looking at the foundations of the temple. There are three projects going on
1) Conservation of the wall paintings – Ed Johnson
2) Restoration and repair of the temple access – Danny Roy
3) Epigraphic study of the reused blocks – Chicago House
Pamela Rose is an archaeologist who is investigating and recording the foundation material. This work is not disturbing the temple in any way as they are using ancient holes that have been filled with rubble. Once they clear these they are backfilling with sand and repaving the floor. They have found mud brick and limestone blocks but as to giving a clear idea of what these things are it is like making a novel out of post it notes. A lot of her work can be called key hole surgery as some of the spaces are very tiny.

Temple Axis’s
In late Roman times they removed the paving and dug large pits, these are enormous and contain nothing pharaonic. It is possible they were looking for gold. At one point the hypostyle hall contained a church. They have found no foundation deposits only late Roman and medieval material. From this they are able to deduce there was a medieval occupation of the temple but they are not sure exactly what it was although the evidence points towards a domestic use. They also found a 1979 newspaper!

The construction follows set patterns and there are multiple layers of foundation including blocks, mud brick structures and debris

In the sanctuary there were lots of reused blocks and they have cleared a large area. There were mud brick platforms on a trench of soft sand. It is possible the stones were part of an earlier structure but not sure the purpose of the mud brick. There was a mud brick covering to a hole but it was empty except for a limestone plaque.

It is possible the earlier structure had lime stone blocks as the current temple is made of sandstone but these reused foundation blocks are limestone. They were only able to remove 2 blocks one of which was inscribed.

They have spent a lot of time clearing rubble and in it they found another piece of the late 18 dynasty triad which is now 15 cm taller.

Brett MacLean
He talked about the epigraphic survey. Although the temple was only partly decorated it was recorded in a survey done in 1924 of all Ramses III structures. It is built of reused blocks from
• Amenhotep III’s peristyle hall from his mortuary temple
• Amenhotep son of Hapi mortuary temple
• Ay
• Horemheb
There are reused and recarved pillar drums of Amenhotep and architraves of Horemheb. On the roof there is an Akhenaton chariot scene. Bark shrines of Tutmosis III, Amenhotep II, and Amenhotep III. They wanted to record these blocks in the floor of the temple while they were available as when the temple is backfilled and repaved these will be hidden again. There are 150 reused fragments in the floor and 70% have inscriptions. Some were extremely difficult to access; where possible they use clear plastic and take a 1:1 traced copy. In some places they had so little space; they used aluminium foil to take rubbings.

One block was a lintel with inscriptions of Tutmosis IV on one side. There was only a 1cm gap the other side making recording really difficult but they found it was Tutmosis III on the other side.

After they make the 1:1 they then make a smaller copy and double check each other’s results and Ray Johnson does the final check. Where possible photographs are taken with film and digital.

One limestone block had raised relief dating to the middle kingdom or very early new kingdom.

A door jamb fragment of Tutmosis III, with a piece of graffiti of Khonsu so they think there was an earlier structure to Khonsu on the site.

There are three square pillar fragments approximately 70-75 cm wide with Khonsu in raised relief on one side and sunk relief on the other side. There is Amarna damage and restoration. They are not sure which king as the piece that would contain the glyphs is missing. Another fragment with a falcon headed god which could be Khonsu or Montu which must have come from the same building.

There were 5-6 blocks with raised Tutmosis style with pharaoh and Khonsu showing Amarna damage that had been recarved.

Some blocks show Tutmosis IV recarved in a Ramses II style or Horemheb changed to Ramses II

All the blocks are in the back area so all part of a single previous structure

It is a closed set of blocks there are none in the walls or roof
Lots of Khonsu or a flacon headed god
So it is possible there was a previous temple is a style similar to the small Tutmosis temple in Medinet Habu

It was built by Tutmosis III and finished by Tutmosis IV, there was damage in the Amarna period and it was recarved. An Atum figure was left intact. Ramses II changed it adding his long transparent robe and changing the design of the kilt. He also changed the nose and ear of a Tutmosis king, carving it more deeply and making it look more like Ramses II. Ramses II added an annex that was original to him and usurped something built by Horemheb

These are prelimary conclusions as the work is not finished.

Next week Karnak the Quintessential Sacred City of Egypt by Sylvia Caville

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Day Trip to Dendara on the Lotus Boat

Yes another first for me. I had been wanting to revisit Dendara for ages as we had a lecture showing the cleaned surfaces and I wanted to see it. So I was offered a treat taking the boat to Dendara. Again this was something I had meant to do but it got cancelled and I never rebooked so finally I got to go. The Lotus is operated by the Iberotel and you can book direct or through an agency.

You start early, yes early enough to catch sunrise. I went by motorboat and picked up my friend from the Sheraton and the motorboat took us direct to the boat. You actually climb on the roof of the motorboat and get on that way which was quite funny. All the other people coming from the East Bank dock and queuing up and us getting in the back door.

We got a seat on the top deck which was a great view but a little cold, especially at this time of year. We had jackets and huge Egyptian scarfs but there were some mad tourists in sun dresses and bikinis huddled under towels lol.
You could see the hot air balloons doing their sunrise tour.

It was wonderfully drifting along, watching the life and waving at the locals. Waiters went round offering tea and coffee and there was a real east end street trader reincarnated as an Egyptian selling all sorts of bits and pieces. Quite amusing and no hassle

If you are not catching up on seeing each other after 2 years like we were you might appreciate a book. They did actually have some on board. We left Luxor at 7am and arrived at Dendara about 11.

Included in the price was a coach to the site and a guide. There is a new visitor centre since I was last at the site and there was a short film shown. The site is now well labeled.

I have to be honest and say the guide was awful so we quickly ditched him and made our own way around. There were three coaches and 3 guides so we might have got the duff one.

The courtyard in front of the temple has some nice piece including this gorgeous Bes. You can also see the birth house and sanatorium

The cleaning was totally fantastic, the colours are really being revealed and look fantastic. When the whole temple is done it is going to be fantastic.

It is still going on so some of the ceiling was obscured by scaffolding. We were invited up to have a look but I am sorry no way was I going up that ladder.

Well worth seeing and we had a look round all the temple except the back where Cleopatra VII is shown with Caesarion.

We managed to get on the stairs by ourselves and made our way up to the roof. It is amazing the see the well worn stairs and think of the processions of priests that have been up and down that stair carrying their offerings and shrines up to the roof.

As Hathor was the daughter of the sun God lots of her ceremony's would have taking place in the sun. There is a small open air chapel on the roof and some fantastic panoramic views of the temple surrounds and the country side.

Other rooms on the roof celebrate the story of Osiris. The plaster copy of the zodiac ceiling now in the Louvre. another ceiling with Nut. Here is an Egyptian sex scene!!!

Then we got in the coaches back and on arrival had a great lunch also included. Beer and wine were available and then it was back to Luxor. It had warmed up a lot so the bikinis came out, not mine I hastened to add but I did take my socks off. Tea and cake was served at 5pm also in the price and we arrived back at 7pm. It takes a lot longer to go back because you are against the current. Our motorboat was waiting for us so we exited the opposite way to everyone else getting off on the gangplank which was quite good. Great day out and thoroughly recommended

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Egyptian Wall Painting – 2000 Years of Art History: Francisco Tiradritti

Egyptian Wall Painting – 2000 Years of Art History: Francisco Tiradritti

This is one of those lectures that are really difficult to write up without the slides but I will do my best.

Francisco started off with a little test. He showed a set of glyphs with one blanked out and asked us to guess what colour it was. It was the T in glyphs which is often described as a loaf of bread. This was done to make us really look at the thing properly. The colour was black which is not the colour of a loaf of bread. In fact ancient Egyptian bread was like modern Egyptian bread, flat. The early European Egyptologists though it looked like a loaf of European bread but in fact the colour of black, like the land gives away the real meaning, the primordial mound. This means we have to take a fresh look at paintings and colours and throw away our old ideas.

Colours can be viewed as (this is where you need the slides a lot)
• Primary colours
• Warm/cold
• Computer display
Egyptian colours should be viewed as the Egyptians saw the world around them Desert, Cultivation, Sun. He used an example that Italians have 2 words for blue because they see the division of the sky and sea all around them. Different nationalities have a different view of colour because of the world around them (he made a quip about Britain and grey).

The Ancient Egyptians had 4 main colours
• Hed yellow/white
• Deshret red
• Kemet black
• Wadjet blue/green
Dark blue does not have a colour name but is referred to by the word for lapis lazuli. It is very close to black and in fact the Ancient Egyptians had 2 different blacks which you can see in Old Kingdom tombs at Sakkara where they use a black background and then paint individual items like the T glyph a darker black (sorry you had to have seen the slide on this one). This is unique to the Ancient Egyptians. They had a concept of light and absence of light.

So their palette ranged from green blue dark blue black dark black brown red yellow white with positive and negative determinations like a man is red and a woman is yellow.

They had a good colour sense and there is a stele in the Louvre that shows the rays of the sun multi coloured like you would see through a prism.

They separated their world showing man at the centre like a bowl from Nagada II period which shows a man in the centre with his arms and legs spread just like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man surrounded by plants and animals with the desert on the edge.

Art was early in the culture e.g. tomb 100 Hierakonpolis which has complicated [pictures including what might be a boat procession and fighting

He then did an analysis of the medium geese from the 4th Dynasty showing how although they are very naturalistic they also obey all sorts of conventions. Three in glyphs means plural and there are 2 groups of 3. They were in two groups and the geese with its head down uses the same space as the two geese giving a sort of perspective that it is in front. There is mirroring of the image. There is motion with the 2 geese following the 1 goose. This painting was cut out by an artists and he could see the perfect balance.

Another example of naturalistic art is the cattle wading through the water in the Old Kingdom tomb of Titi.

He then did a detailed analysis of the tomb of Ankh Tifi (yes the one I wrote about). The painting of the papyrus was like an Impressionist work, the artist was not worried about proportion but about colour. The tomb has a pattern with the hunters on the back wall going towards the desert while the donkeys are going to the cultivation which is shown on the left hand side wall. There is a man looking over his shoulder and the scene on the front wall at that point is of the festival of Henen. A cow is looking directly at you on a pillar and the scene on the wall is the donkeys.

In the Turin Museum there is a man painted in yellow the woman’s colour and you can see he is an ‘office’ worker. Another picture shows blood spurting from the neck of a bull as it is being killed. A cow that has just given birth is licking the blood from its calf.

A picture from the 1st Intermediate Period shows bulls fighting

The Middle kingdom tomb of (sorry I am not sure of the name I though he said Ankh something but definitely TT60 yet that is Senet, mother of vizier Intefiqer, early Dynasty 12 if anyone can confirm I haven’t made a mistake I would appreciate it) has dancers again in groups of three clapping, those were drawn by the student and the master has come along and drawn more spoiling the balance but making a better naturalistic picture. You can see the difference in the legs.

At Beni Hassan, which is in need of restoration, they paid more attention to proportion and had short stories like how to catch a pigeon. The walls are divided into dessert, Nile and banks of the Nile.

The arrival of Hyskos altered the art and also makes it less insular with pictures of bulls leaping like at Knossos. There is speculation that artists came from Crete to do the decoration. (The tomb of Rekhmire shows a Minoan.). The 17th Dynasty was much freer in expression. There was artistic trade between Egypt Crete and Minoa.

18th dynasty has some great art
Picture of Senemut wonderful portrait
TT81 Ineni shows what looks like a hyena but it is huge like a monster demonstrating how brave the owners was
Rekhmire’s banquet the woman’s scene
The vine ceiling of Sennefer
In the tomb of Nakht the scenes of non scribal work are heavily influenced by the attitude of a scribe having the best kind of job. So the farmer is shown bent and careworn. Also Nakht is sitting in a pavilion with lots of supplies around him but the supplies for the workers in the field are much smaller even though it has to sustain more people.
Meena is a scribe who does counting of the harvest so his tomb shows that scene out of order at the top because it was the most important aspect of Mena’s life. The girls in the field quarrelling was copied by Monthemet. He also shows a chariot right in the middle of the field which is not logical but he wants to be shown so rich he uses a chariot even in the fields. Like Francisco would be painted with a Ferrari.

The three dancers are shown with slanting eyes which was a temple stele of painting rather than a pace style. Other paintings show the light behind the robe making it transparent.

The palace of Malkata has many beautiful pieces like a ceiling with birds flying everywhere giving the impression it was open to the sky.

Ramose's tomb the mourners are very natural one having a saggy breast but yet formal with their tears which are the glyph for crying. The carved walls were never intended to be painted the carving was so good it represented the painting.

The Amarna period was the height of creative work and after that art went downhill imitating the past.

Next week it is the temple of Khonsu Pamela Rose and Brett McClain

Thursday, 20 November 2008

KV63 - Otto Schaden returns in January

Just heard from the team that they are returning early January and expect to be opening the tomb then. It will be very interesting to see what further results they get from the study of the tomb contents.

And on a personal note I am happy that Otto's health problems have allowed him to come back to Luxor

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

From Ray Johnson about Luxor

A number of issues have been raised lately regarding the urban renewal program in Luxor and its effects on the local population, tourism, antiquities preservation, and the archaeological community.
The Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago based at Chicago House is one of many archaeological missions in Luxor which has borne witness to and been impacted by these changes, and is one of the many voices of the scientific community here who have joined in the development conversation between the city, the SCA, archeological missions, and the local population since the inception of the program by the city several years go. The community of archaeologists in Luxor has been far from silent during this whole process. We may not have been very effective in curtailing some of the more onerous aspects of the present program, but we have certainly not been silent.

Since I started working for the Epigraphic Survey in 1978, I have witnessed the transformation of Luxor from a sleepy, charming, provincial town into a 21st century tourist mecca, and I am still hard pressed to believe that so many changes could occur in such a relatively short period of time. In 1978 the horse and carriage and a few battered Mercedes were the main modes of transportation in Luxor; Peugeots came later, and I remember when the first big tour bus hit town in the 1980s. I have witnessed a series of development programs that were launched in response to changing conditions in Luxor, largely due to increasing tourism. The most radical until now was the riverbank development project of the late 1980s that transformed the natural, tree-lined riverbank of Luxor where sheep and goats still grazed, into a concrete, terraced mooring and touristic area four kilometers long.
This was accomplished in response to the rapidly increasing numbers of gigantic tour boats that began to appear in the late 1980s that dumped rubbish and tore up the natural riverbank wherever they moored; the riverbank had to be developed to provide services vital to the boats and upkeep of the riverbank. In that project the existing infrastructure along the Corniche was respected, the riverbank was extended outward, the Corniche was widened, and a pedestrian walkway with garden areas was created along the edge of the riverbank for the local families and tourists alike which is still tremendously popular with everyone.

This current development program is the most ambitious one to date and is more radical than anything ever seen (even in the pharaonic period, which is saying something). As has been stated, the program has its good and its bad points. It has been mentioned that the plan was developed by Abt Associates, Inc. and the links to their reports are easily accessed. Another link (in German and Arabic, with lots of illustrations and photos) which people might find enlightening, is:

The development program for Luxor, including many of the artists'
projections of the changed landscape shown in the web site above (many of which have already happened) was announced to the archaeological community in 2006 in a PowerPoint presentation given by Luxor governor Dr. Samir Farag at the Luxor Museum, after which there was a fairly lively discussion among those present; I was one of them. During the discussions it was made clear that the programs planned for the antiquities sites themselves were designed by the SCA and city together, and were about to be launched. We had about two weeks warning.

The issues that the new development program address have been of concern to the Government of Egypt (GOE) and SCA for a long, long time, but until now the SCA alone did not have the resources to deal with them properly. The main issues are:

1. The need to enlarge and upgrade Luxor's infrastructure and antiquities site facilities to accommodate radically expanded tourism, east and west bank.

2. The encroachment of the modern community on antiquities sites, east and west bank.

3. The excavation and development of new antiquities sites (like the sphinx road between Luxor and Karnak temples) for tourism, but which (the thinking goes) will also safeguard the sites from future encroachment.

The GOE and city authorities have been primarily concerned with expanding the existing infrastructure of Luxor to accommodate many, many more tourists. Their primary incentive (as in all the development programs for most cultural heritage sites throughout the world these days) is to make money. And at the moment (at least for now), tourism is booming. Luxor is crammed with tourists, all the hotels and tour boats are full, and the streets clogged with tour buses, and it's not even high season yet. Hundreds of buses hit town from the Red Sea coast resorts daily in the AM, see as many sites as possible all day, and return at dusk.
The 6:00 PM convoy back to Hurghada is sometimes more than 250 buses long, stretching three kilometers along the Luxor Corniche. Add to this the traffic generated by Luxor's growing local population and you have a LOT of clogged streets. So this issue is a crucial one; the city cannot handle the present traffic even now (not to mention future projected traffic).

Increased tourist traffic is the major reason for the street widening all over town lately, which unfortunately has been at the expense of many historic residential and public buildings from the turn of the last century and earlier. The sphinx road project is requiring another chunk of historic Luxor to come down. In response to this, and to the demolition of the modern community in western Thebes, two years ago the Epigraphic Survey expanded its photographic documentation program of Luxor's ancient landscape to include those parts of 'moder' Luxor before, during, and after demolition (b&w and digital) to insure some record of what is swiftly disappearing. These days our photography team is hard-pressed to keep up. Other archaeological missions have been recording the changes occurring around them as well. We are dedicating a part of our Photographic Archives at Chicago House for this special material, and are currently designing a cataloguing system for it.

As most of you know by now, the Chicago House facility and its neighbors along the several kilometers of the Luxor Corniche are being directly affected by a new Corniche widening and development program sponsored by the GOE. The original plan proposed tearing everything down along the Corniche to create a completely new touristic zone along the Nile between Luxor and Karnak temples. A revised plan, announced this spring, allowed a number of existing facilities to stay where they were (Chicago House, the Coptic Catholic rest house to the south, the Luxor Museum, and a bishop's residence, all minus their entire front gardens).
Most of the residential areas along the Corniche are slated for removal, also the Mina Palace Hotel, the Bank of Alexandria, the convention center to the immediate north of Chicago House, and the Officers' Club and rest house, while the Etap-Mercure Hotel will be obliged to remove its entire front wing. The plan is to move the widened Corniche to the east, and cut away the riverbank to create a new pedestrian walkway at the river level.

No one took this quietly. There were diplomatic appeals to the GOE; much networking on the part of the many, many friends of Luxor and Chicago House (including the SCA -- sincerest thanks to all of you); and a lot of talking to everyone (including the governor). Finally, we were informed on November 5th by Dr. Farag that the amount of land along the Corniche required by the city has been reduced. For Chicago House this means that instead of losing our entire front garden area, 22 meters (as was originally discussed), we will lose 'only' the front part of it,
14.5 meters, including our local staff's gatehouse and rest area (we will build them a better one). It is my understanding that the Luxor Museum front garden area will remain intact, of tremendous importance for the fragile collections housed within, and less front garden area will be taken from the Coptic Catholic rest house to our south. Property owners will be compensated for the amount of property taken, and the city will finance and build the new enclosure walls. The foundation emplacements have already been dug for our new front wall, roughly dividing our front area in half along its entire 124 meter length, and reinforced concrete pillars will go up later this week. The city has promised to keep as many trees as possible from the garden along the new Corniche sidewalk, so our fingers are crossed.

Chicago House can live with these changes, and we are grateful that we will be allowed to continue our service to the Luxor archaeological community with our library facility and temple documentation / conservation programs, in the spot where we have been since 1930. But some of our neighbors are not so fortunate. One of the saddest parts of Luxor's new development program (which has been commented on previously) is that rather than encouraging the mingling of the tourists with the local population, which enriches the visitors' experience (and generates valuable income for the locals), the GOE's policy promotes segregation of the two groups.
That is a great pity since meeting Egyptians in their natural home setting is one of the great joys of visiting this country, and this city. We should all continue to strongly urge the GOE to reconsider its program in this regard.

A related issue is the encroachment of the modern community on the antiquities sites. The city's clearing of the residential area around Karnak (including the residence and historic offices of the Karnak Franco-Egyptian Center) and creation of a huge plaza all the way to the river, occurred at the same time the residents of Gurna and Dra Abu El Naga were moved from their homes - which were then torn down - and re-settled in the newly constructed community of New Gurna to the north. This form of site management - clearing away all modern encroachment from the vicinity of antiquities sites - has been the ideal of the GOE and SCA for generations, conceived when there were far, far fewer buildings around Karnak or houses over the Gurna necropolis.
Now, finally, the GOE has the power to implement its program, and as you all know, it has been a painful process. The sight of gigantic bulldozers demolishing the mud-brick houses over the fragile necropolis was something that none of us will ever forget; the sorrow of the Gurnawis was heartbreaking. Far from being silent while this was going on, the Egyptological community talked at great length with the SCA and the city about that program, not that it did much good; the city had its mandate, and forces had been started that were beyond anyone's control.
The result is that the community of Dra Abu El Naga is gone, and most of Gurna. But talking eventually had a positive effect, and the program was curtailed. Now parts of Gurna and most of Gurnet Murai will remain standing as monuments to the more recent history of western Thebes (the present inhabitants will still be resettled elsewhere).

As has been noted, the sad reality for the scientific community and local population in Luxor - and in many cultural heritage sites all over the world - is that the prime motivation for the city's new development program is increased tourism. The entire GOE is behind Luxor's program, and the goal is clear: to create the means by which the maximum number of tourists can visit the maximum number of sites in the shortest time possible. The challenge of our community is to continue our conversation with the city, the SCA, and the local population to help Egypt mitigate any potentially negative affects on the antiquities sites that we are all committed to preserve. There are many years ahead for this program; this is just the beginning. In this case, you win some, and you lose some, but believe me, it's not for lack of trying.

Ray Johnson, Director, Epigraphic Survey Chicago House, Luxor November 16, 2008

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Block Statue of Amenhoptep son of Hapu - Luxor Museum

If you are visiting Luxor Museum do not be surprised if you find things there which are not in the catalogue. I was asked about a block statue of Amenhotep son of Hapu and for the life of me had no recollection and suggested to the questioner to ask EEF. This is a fantastic resource which I subscribe to and no matter how obscure the question they come up trumps. At first everyone was pointing at the seated scribal statue but Victor V. Solkin pointed out a statue not on the catalogue and Ray Johnson of Chicago House elaborated further. I do love the way so many Egyptologists are so approachable and helpful.

The block statue in question is a colossal indurated limestone block statue (1 meter in height) of Amenhotep Son of Hapu (Cairo Catalogue 583). It was found in the 19th century by Mariette between the Third Pylon of Amenhotep III and obelisk of Thutmosis I at Karnak; Legrain found additional pieces in 1903. The statue was moved to the extension of the Luxor Museum a few years ago from the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. That is why it is not listed in the Luxor Museum guide books. It was moved to the extension - which has a military theme - because of the reference in the autobiographical inscription where Amenhotep refers to his early years as a 'scribe of recruits.'

The front, back, and sides of the statue are completely covered with the longest autobiographical inscription that survives from Amenhotep's monuments. Although half the face is missing, the style of the surviving eye (very long and narrow) indicates that the statue was commissioned as a royal gift to this favored and extraordinary official during Nebmaatre Amenhotep III's last decade.

For photographs, descriptions, transcriptions, translations, and commentary of the extensive autobiography inscribed on all sides of the statue (in French), see Alexandre Varille, "Inscriptions concernant l'architecte Amenhotep, fils de Hapou," Bibliothèque d'étude (BdÉ) XLIV (Cairo, 1968); pages 32-49, plates V - VIII.

Ray Johnson, Chicago House, Luxor

Connecting with Thebes and Communicating in Cambridge

Connecting with Thebes and Communicating in Cambridge 15th November 2008 Dr Sally Ann Ashton

Dr Sally has been working for 5 seasons at the Montu temple at Karnak and just arrived 2 weeks ago. She explained that having given a lecture on this last year she had nothing new to say after just 2 weeks so thought she would tell us something different. She is the curator for the Fitz William museum which is part of Cambridge University and the lecture would be about that.

There is a very good website that you can look at and this a direct link to the Egyptian collection

There are over 17,000 objects in the museum and the website is an important part of it. Museums are becoming increasingly aware that not everyone can get to visit in person and good websites are an important way of making collections available to everyone. Their website is also in Arabic which is another aspect of making it more available, the Petrie also has an Arabic version.

The museum was founded in 1817 by 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam and is particularly famous for its paintings. They have objects from all over Egypt and these are a mixture of excavated and donations. The later are a big challenge for any curator as provenance is often not known or obscure. The objects she selected were from Deir el Medina, Deir el Bahri, Ramasseum and Karnak in Upper Egypt and Faiyum in Lower Egypt. Since opening the galleries she has increased the objects on display by 200 to 1200.

The first object in the collection was Nespawershefi'. He was Chief of scribes of the temple of Amun Re at Karnak. This object was acquired about the time of Napoleon in 1822 by 2 clergymen Hanbury, Barnard Waddington, George (BTW I encourage you to have a look around the website it is really informative and easy to navigate) and was donated to the Fitz. It is from the III Intermediate Period and made of small pieces of cross thorn and sycamore fig. You do not realise this because it is plastered over. The Egyptians were very clever at joining pieces of wood; they had to be with no native large trees. They are expecting all their coffins to be published soon by (I didn’t catch this name properly it sounded like Gryowski but might have been Grajetski if anyone can let me know I would be very grateful).

Their next object is an enormous sarcophagus lid of Ramses III acquired in 1823 The Louvre have the base and there is some old correspondence between the two museums try to get each other’s half. The Louvre argued as they had the largest bit they should have it all. It was a fascinating insight to the way things used to be. This object is 7 ½ tons and was given by Belzoni legend has it he hoped to get a fellowship in exchange but he died a year later. It is the King in the form of Osiris flanked by Nephthys and Isis.

Her next slide was amusing as it showed the accounts kept by Wallis Budge when acquiring antiquities. It was apparent he was told to keep to a budget, in this case £100 and the accounts show the packing prices and transportation fees. I have to say these old records have the loveliest handwriting. There were letters from the EEF later to be EES about the Amarna dig, with a follow up detailing all the objects sent to them. The problem with this is that objects found together might be spread amongst many museums. For example one museum might have the outmost coffin, another, the innermost and in those days neither would swap or lend to each other.

A big source of objects is the Gayer Anderson collection which is a collection built by a medic and major in the British Army who was seconded to Egypt in 1906 and was eventually awarded the title of Pasha. Of course this is the bane of many a curator objects without provenance, bought from antiquities dealers in Cairo. He was very into masks and face so there is a good collection of those including the lower jaw of Akhenaton. There is a lot of Amarna objects and these tie in well with the Petrie excavated objects which have full provenance.

There are a number of pieces of ostracha and there most famous one, which regularly goes on tour, is the stone mason

(You can do your search for the links now or I am never going to get this finished).
25 Dynasty piece of one of the God’s wives of Amun, a gold ring and seals from the priests quarters in Karnak, sculptures models similar to that of Nefertiti’s head which only seem to have been produced in the Amarna and Ptolemaic times. Often still with their grid lines.
Cartonage from a burial in the Ramasseum excavated by Quibell, the bandages have 2 different dates on them from the period of Orsokan indicating that people used up old linen for burials. The body is missing and it is a shame how these early excavators torn apart burials. The face is gold indicating a high status and it has amulets, leather menets and a posy of garlic, 4 sons of Horus and a box with some poor quality ushabitis

From the Middle Kingdom is a magician’s wand clearly showing signs of wear. Frome Deir el Bahri there are 2 reliefs on excavated and the other from Gayer Anderson collection one shows a fox attacking a nest of chicks and the mother bird coming to the rescue. They also display ugly things like a votive object of wood with a socket for an erect penis.

One piece is the book of the dead of Ramose. Luckily this piece had never been fully displayed and as a consequence is in fantastic condition. One colour in particular, a yellow, fades almost immediately on contact with daylight. He was a royal scribe to Seti I, they expect to publish this in 1-2 years.

Recently they booked some of the collection in for CT scanning; they were admitted as private patients on Sunday afternoon. Even animals were scanned. This non-destructive technique has revealed lots of useful data about the collection.

The museum wants to make more of the collection accessible in a variety of ways and to give more information about it. As Egyptology is in two parts of the national curriculum they get 1-2 school parties a day. They have also been working with the prison population, especially those on long term sentences and they have come up with suggestions such as making a virtual gallery tour. This should go live in spring 2009. 50% of prisoners cannot read and write and as she put it those of African descent are over represented in the prison population so they have been taking an African centred approach to Egyptology as well as utilising Muslim connections with modern Egypt. She should some art work were Egyptian and Nigerian themes had been mixed. There are 3,000 students in prison, some had learnt hieroglyphics and were using them to communicate to their families. She had to provide the authorities with a translation of this code 

Next week it is Francisco Tiradritti on Harwa

Monday, 10 November 2008

Only in Egypt - bless him

This morning I went out, caught a service car to the ferry and whilst going there realised I had left my purse behind with all my money. I hadn't got a piastre on me. When we arrived I went to the driver and told him in my terrible Arabic I was really sorry I had not got any money. He smiled and said no problem. As he saw me go towards the Nile he called me back and offered me enough money for my ferry fare. Can you believe it. I didn't even know him.

I refused because I knew I get a free lift on a motorboat. I was telling the story to the boy on the motorboat and he offered to lend me some money!!! He knows me and knew he would get the money back but it was still a lovely gesture

This is why I live here, Egyptians are so friendly and do anything to help you whether they know you or not.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Mummification Museum Lecture Recent Investigations of Undecorated Tombs in the Valley of Kings

2008 Recent Investigations of Undecorated Tombs in the Valley of Kings
8/11/8 Donald Ryan

If you ever get a chance to attend one of his lectures I do encourage you to go. Not only is he knowledgeable and interesting but he is amusing as well. First class lecturer

His work is the unglamorous side of excavation and not normally seen by tourists as it is tucked away behind the mountain in the middle of the Valley.

He gave a brief background of how he got into Egyptology, started young ready National Geographic’s. In 1981 he was working in the Faiyum and got a chance to visit Luxor. He came in July, on a bike, that remark caused a ripple of laughter. 18 months later he came on a 2 month visit to Egypt and went round everywhere. The Valley of the Kings contains the new kingdom burials of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom. The 18, 19, 20 dynasty Pharaohs but he was intrigued by the undecorated tombs. He then started researching one of his sources being the great book The Royal Necropolis of Thebes by Elizabeth Thomas

In early times the undecorated tombs were considered very uninteresting, with no decoration therefore no owner and o treasure the early archaeologists were singularly unbothered about the tombs and their contents. Often they were just a shaft leading to a single room.

He wanted to know the WHO, WHEN and WHY of KV21, 27, 28, 44, 45, 60

If you look at the list of tombs in the Valley of Kings from the Theban Mapping Project you will find a number of tombs with question marks against them. Some like Tutankhamen (KV62), Yuya and Thuyu (KV 46), and Maiherperi (KV36) were discovered intact and the last two if made today would attract huge attention as they were spectacular discoveries. But many others we have no clue about.

Currently he is working in KV27 which is the last of the tombs on his list. Believed, by Italian archaeologists, to have been discovered in 1853 by Mariette. The shaft was full of flood debris. It has been flooded numerous times and the debris reaches nearly to the ceiling with some large stones. All debris that was excavated was painstakingly sieved which took 3 ½ field seasons. There were 30 large storage jars which had been shattered by the flood debris. Floods can be very powerful crushing everything in their path and the contents have been totally destroyed. They counted them by indentify the mud stoppers. There were thousands of potsherds and these have been investigated by Dr Barbara Aston, a pottery expert, and have been identified by style to the early – mid 18th dynasty. Using 2 outstanding local experts a number of matches have been made and new styles not previously attested have been identified.

There were also pieces of calcite/alabaster but these do not seem to be pieces of the same jigsaw. Some glyphs but these tell us nothing about the owners. He also found remains of the occupants a headless torso and other bits and pieces.

They got excited about a large piece of a canopic jar but this was the wrong part of the pot, identifying it as the stomach but not the owner. But they were fortunate and the other side appeared and identified God’s father Userhet. But this turned out to be a red herring he had seen something similar before at Harvard, 3 canopics were found in KV45. So with 3 canopics found in JV45 and only 1 in KV27 it seems more likely that KV45 was the tomb of Userhet and we still don’t know who KV27 belonged to.

He thought they were going to finished last year, excavators should never think this as it goes wrong. They found organic remains that turned out to be a coffin approximately 1 metre of the floor. This is in a very fragile state and needs very delicate handling.

They found a skull and it appears 3 individuals are embedded in solidified silt which is very difficult to deal with. One is identified as male. He hopes to get gender and ages of the rest but doubts they will get names.

In his opinion this was the first undecorated tomb in the time of Hatshepsut.

He is hoping to publish his results next year. As part of this they are making an inventory of all the finds from the 6 tombs
• Face piece of a wooden coffin where you can see the adze marks where the robbers took of the gold
• A chair leg from burial furniture, why only one is a puzzle
• There are some glyphs of some of the fragments but again they don’t tell us much
• A piece from the side of the coffin of SitRa, the royal wet nurse
• Fragments of papyrus
• Various seals some with 9 captives and a jackal
• A seal found in the shaft of a seated man and a Mut glyph which has not made any sense
• Graffiti on the walls of wadjet eyes which he believes to be 18th dynasty
• Evidence of moringa oil• Large head end of a coffin which was covered in black resin. You could see the brush strokes where the resin was applied. When studying the piece for the inventory it appeared there might be glyphs under the resin. Subsequent painstaking cleaning revealed Nephthys standing on a basket with accompanying text identifying the owner as a temple singer called Ti. It is possible that this is a reused coffin as there are masculine pro nouns and the name looks squashed in.
• In one of the niches there were pieces of the foot of the coffin and this also underwent cleaning and revealed Isis
• Painted plaster on linen which they might be able to match

He then gave us some of his tentative conclusions. He believes that KV60 was turned into a cache tomb containing Sit Re, Hatshepsut and Ti. Although the Valley was used for the burial of kings he believes that it was reused and that there were burials on top dating to the 22nd dynasty III Intermediate Period. KV44 and 45 which Carter found in 1901/2 which were a shaft leading to a single room were burials on top. KV44 there were three coffins on top of the debris. The tombs are nicely cut. In KV28 a III Intermediate Period coffin was found, KV27 the coffin is 1 meter high above the debris which suggest a later burial

Belzoni found KV21 in October 1817 in October 1817 and the plan looks like a small royal tomb with corridors, stairs, ramp and a pillared hall. He noted that it was clean; there were 2 female mummies with long hair. He left it open and published it. The team found bat guano and graffiti of 1820’s. Large pots which appeared to have been destroyed by a 19th century traveller. The 2 mummies had been ravaged by the flood damage and they found everything that Belzoni said had been there indicating he had taken nothing away.

In the 1890’s when it had been covered and filled by flood debris a trench was dug through and in this they found newspapers of that time the newest being at the bottom dating to 1896.

Dr Ryan believes that these were royal females and noted although it is called the Valley of Kings there are a heck of lot of burials which aren’t kings some even animals.

Howard Carter excavated 3 of the tombs and Dr Ryan was disparaging of his methods. KV45 was rummaged through in 1901/2 and revealing no treasure they left it with its contents of human remains, coffin fragments and crude clay ushabitis.

With KV60 Carter only devoted a paragraph and a half and does not mention room B at all which could make you wonder if we have the right KV60 except al l the other measurements are correct. This room had mummy wrappings and indications of a ceiling. There was an intrusive burial that had been stripped.

Present and Future
The big responsibility of anyone excavating in the Valley of Kings is conservation and restoration. The Theban Mapping project is ongoing. Now people remove their debris from the valley (there are huge mounds of debris in the valley which can add to the damage a flood can cause). The biggest threat to valley is water, which might seem strange to those visitors who stand there is a parched valley in the baking sun. But as the flood of 1994 showed these sudden rain storms can cause huge damage. Water got into KV21 at that time and left silt on the floor. There is a great need to protect and to monitor geological movement with crack monitors etc. They themselves had installed crack monitors in 1993 which had fortunately indicated no movement so far but we must always be on our guard.

In 1870 Belzoni said there was nothing more to be found in the Valley. Theodore Davies repeated this in 1910. We know this was mistaken and Dr Ryan believes we are entering a new age of exploration in the Valley of Kings, he thinks we are only just beginning and it is still full of surprises.

In the question and answer session he said they had left a pillar of the debris, a so called witness column so future excavators with different techniques could study it and maybe find more.

Next week it is Sally Ann Aston

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Al-Ahram Weekly | Heritage | The development plan for Luxor

Al-Ahram Weekly | Heritage | The development plan for Luxor

TT353 Senenmut

A quick chat in passing to Francisco Martin Valentine and his wife who told me that the Spanish minister is coming next week and they are hoping he will agree to fund a replica of chamber A at the site so everyone can see the wonderful inscription and astronomical ceiling. wouldn't that be wonderful

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Dr Zahi Hawass in Luxor

Today there was a plaque unveiled to the Polish Mission at Deir el Bahri by Zahi Hawass. It is amazing to think how long they have been there and how much they have achieved

Monday, 3 November 2008

Chicago House Library

I just died and went to heaven and it was called the library at Chicago House. I had asked if I could use their facilities in connection with my Manchester Uni course and I went along there for the first time today.

It is a proper library with a musty smell and shelves of tooled leather volumes. The index is on cards, they have field reports dated 1920,1921 etc. There were sections of German and French books. Folios, wonderful prints. It was truly fantastic.

They also had all the modern stuff as well so I read one book on my list and got to chapter 2 on another. I must admit to complete curiosity and rummaged around the returned books as people left to see what they were reading. Kent Weeks was there when I arrived and I think he was looking at some hieroglyphic texts, there were 2 Egyptian girls look at tomb publications.

Honestly you could spend all day in there, there were some wonderful black and white photos in the corridor when I went to the loo. Men in dinner jackets, ladies in wonderful old costumes all posed in front of Chicago House

Sunday, 2 November 2008 October Release

Dear friends,

The October News page is now on line


Monuments of Egypt

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Mummification Museum Lectures restart


Just talked to Mansour Boraik and the lectures start next Saturday at 7pm. The first speaker will be Donald Ryan. These lectures are free, everyone is welcome and they are held at the Mummification Museum

Luxor Corniche Development and Chicago House

Talking to Ray Johnson it would appear that the volume of protest has made people think a bit more about the proposal. NOT change their mind as yet so please keep up the momentum it does seem to be making a difference.

Here is the email again
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: