Monday, 22 December 2008

Mummfication Museum lecture - Luxor After the Pharoahs

Luxor after Pharaohs Michael Jones, Luigi De Cescires 13/12/8
An ARCE project in collaboration with the SCA and funded by USAID

In today’s archaeological world projects are multi discipline so a report has to be as well. Michael Jones will set the archaeological context for the conservation work Luigi will talk about.

Archaeology is about managing change up until modern times where the temple is a modern landscape. From Tutmosis III, Tutankhamen, Ramses II, Nectanebo in Pharaonic times through to its condition during Napoleons’ time.

Some old slides showed how the temple was part of a living breathing Luxor. There were pigeon houses in front of the obelisks and it was surrounded by ancient settlement. There were houses on top of the roofed section on the Amenhotep III temple. It became overcome by settlement.

In 1881 the temple was cleared in a project funded by international public subscription. You can trace the height of the debris by the dates of the graffiti.

By 1933 it had become the triangular shaped area we know today and there was a beginning to understand the Roman remains on the site. In front of the temple was the house of the descendents of Abu Hagag which was difficult to remove but by the 1950’s the sphinx avenue was found and the cleared the front of the East pylon.

The North Colonnade of Amenhotep III sun court was taken away by the Romans. Many statues were taken away by the Romans to decorate their houses and this explains a column base found by Howard Carter in 1902. There is a line through the temple which lines up with MacDonald’s, which was created by the Romans.

They installed an arch in pylon 2 and the very beginning of it can still be seen on the side of the pylon. There are bullet holes where tourists used to practise their shooting. Clearance of the temple revealed that the floor consisted of column drums which had altered the floor level necessitating the provision of steps. There was a shelf in the apse. In 1960 a doorway was put in through the apse to save the tourists having to walk round to the areas at the back.

In 1856 Wilkinson draw a series of pictures which included a portrayal of horses on the Roman fresco inside the apse. The room was filled with debris so the lower part was not recorded. These paintings are useful but not accurate.

The 4 figures in the Apse are the four tetrarchs Diocletian and Maximian, Constantius and Galerius At this stage the Roman Empire had been divided into East and West and each had two emperors. After Diocletian abdicated in 305AD Constantius was proclaimed Augustus and eventually became sole ruler. There was a statue base inscribed for Constantine. During the making of the Corniche there was a huge loss of archaeological material as debris was just shoved into the making of the bank. (One wonders if in 50 years archaeologists will be making the same remarks about Gurna)

Underneath the mosque there is a church.

The fortress is often portrayed as a rectangle that has lost its south west corner but Napoleon showed that part as having ramps like those newly discovered at Karnak so it might well have been an ancient quay. The fortress might well have been out of line like the old Cairo fortress.

The Luxor temple today is suffering from traffic the cruise boats and the raised humidity. From the 1980’s until now there has been a big deteriation in its condition. There was a big credit given to Chicago House for the work they have done there.

Luigi’s have of the lecture was quite technical and for fear of making mistakes and leading some other conservator astray I will confine myself to a few highlights.

They had to conserve the plaster as well as clean the paint
Trial cleanings were undertaken
It was a big chance to study the frescos
Previous conservation had to be removed
Maximian’s face was erased almost as soon as it was painted and there are only 3 out of 4 heads of the tetrarchs
Had to use abrasive to remove guano deposits
In some places 95% of the paint layer has been lost
Wilkinson’s work shows mistakes like horses and there is not a laurel in his hands, so can’t be relied on. The West wall has gone completely
Documentation is an important part of their work. Need to have a diary as some parts could not be deciphered prior to cleaning so could not be drawn
There was a need for emergency restoration before the project started
The Romans closed the door way with reused blocks and from the marks they can work out what tools were used
Had to work out how many layers and the fresco composition
They worked out the drawing layer and found string whipping used in preparation. They can see the details of the brush marks made in the wet plaster.
Details like the embroidery on the shoulder pads was added later
When conserving they must make sure the wet does not penetrate too far into the plaster
A mechanical method is often the best for removing the salts. They restore pigment colours by removing the glaring white of the plaster with aqua spoca
They are training Egyptian staff
Need protect the surface after cleaning

Next Week Hidden Thebes Ted Brock

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