Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Mummfication Museum lecture - North Kharga Survey - Dr Salima Ikram

Many thanks to Salima for correcting my obvious mistakes, much appreciated.

You should have been there. Every week we have trouble with the display of slides, sometimes it is the projector, sometimes the computer sometimes they won’t talk to each other. It is a nightmare. This week was no different, in fact it was worse. Salima had got there early to make sure the set up worked. It didn’t, various experts in the audience offered help but nothing. Another computer was sent for, that didn’t work either. Eventually a guy called Alex (Hamduallah) got it working about an hour later. So the lecture that was supposed to start at 7 was about 30 minutes late. But nobody minded Salima is so funny and had the audience totally behind her and the troubles. And I haven’t seen a turn out like that since Otto Schaden gave the talk about KV63. Every mission was there, all the members and of course the lay audience. When the talk eventually started the knowledge poured out of her like a flood. I did my best but it was hard keeping up. So please forgive the inevitable mistakes and as always I welcome corrections.

There is a really good website http://www.rakm.co.uk/kharga/home.html

North Kharga Survey - Dr Salima Ikram 19/1/9

Kharga is about 3 ½ hours away from Luxor and is the largest and most important oasis in the Western Desert. Its importance lies in the various trade routes that go through it from time immemorial. It has not been studied very much for any discernable reason. The project was a survey of the north run by the AUC, Cambridge University and Milan.

It started when Corinna was on holiday and then Salima and Corinna went to see these mud brick fortresses and perceived a need to map and plan before the agriculture took over. The area is over 100 sq km and their remit was not to excavate but just to survey. Kharga is actually mentioned in Luxor temple as a source of a mineral thought to be alum or ochre. Alum is used in tanning, incense and mummification. Kharga was also a big agricultural area from the 26th dynasty onwards. They exported wine, wheat, emmer, barley and fruit trees. It was also a place of banishment and mentioned on the Banishment Stela in the Louvre, you could not escape from Kharga (in fact there is a prison there now). Kharga has history from the pre dynastic to Islamic times. In antiquity it was greener than it is now.

The project is run by Salima Ikram and Corinna Rossi and has had lots of logistics problems due to its location and remoteness. The three areas covered are
• Survey
• Ceramics
• Architecture
• Archaeobotanical remains
• Zooarchaeological remains
• Understanding Settlement Pattern and the exploitation of space
• in the Darb Ain Amur, a study of the ancient environment and how it related to the rock art found there

Because of the prison in the area they could only use kites for their aerial photography and this was very needed as only from the air can some of these structures be clearly seen.

Ain Gib & Qasr el Sumayra
Roman fortresses located on an Ancient Egyptian route that linked Luxor with Dakhla. Also had links with Libya, Chad and Sudan. There is another team Rudolph Kuper at Dakhla is also tracing routes that go further West and South. Altogether they increase our knowledge of ancient trade routes going back to 4th dynasty

Muhammed Tuleib, Ain el Lebekha, Umm el Dabadib are huge garrison forts. Umm el Dabadib connects Ain el Lebekha

Ain Gib is the first fort on a small hill. The word fort can give you a false impression of thick walls, battlements and lots of soldiers. These are not like that. Only one brick thick it is only their architecture that is impressive, the actuality is rather flimsier.

Ain Gib & Qasr el Sumayra were like look out posts and tax collection points. There is water emplacement with 8 large wells and access to a complex water system. The water is trapped between the sandstone layers. It could support a train of 200 camels and was used until the 1970’s. They had a courtyard inside and barrelled vaults around. There was a thin wall with lookout points. There was not a lot of space. The external walls lean into each other at either end but they are only 1 or 2 bricks thick. Ain Gib has lots of water emplacements. Around Qasr el Sumayra there was a small settlement. Ain Gib seems to have been a command post.

The fort at Lebekha has towers at the corners but these are just for show having no access. There are uneven sandstone foundations. At Umm el Dabadib the towers are useable, they have opened up due to the thin walls so have had to be buttressed. Outside the fort there is a settlement that has a wall around it but again only one brick thick. The houses were very close together so protected you against wind and sun. The buttresses are very fragile being only one brick think. There is a later text that had people from the black sea coast. Lots of trade routes converge here. There are 2 -3 basic house types. Dakhla has proper Roman villas but not here.

Ain el Tarakwa is Coptic and has temple like structures, very simple of stone that has been plastered and painted. People have settled within the temple precincts in the late period. There is a church built in the very early Christian period. A very transitional place. Only one inscribed block has been found. It is one of the earliest churches dated to the 5th century AD ceramically. The Copts ‘killed’ the temple by blocking the doorway with mud brick and putting the church in front.

Ain el Dabashiya is another temple made of mud brick with stone elements with good architectural points. In the temple walls there were doors to external shrines possibly for the people to interact with the god. There is an atrium, house, grain processing and fields of emmer, barley, apples, olives, grapes and big cemetery. There is a 2 story pigeon tower that would have held large numbers. Pigeons have uses both as food and as fertiliser.

Muhammed Tuleib has a little bit of text with a Horus, there are large tracts of cemeteries but these are not associated with a known settlement. Tombs can be rock cut, shafts or built with vaults. There are brick lined tombs, multi burials with simple mummification. There was a set of very shallow graves with young children and older people perhaps indicating some kind of disease had taken the most vulnerable members of the community.

The mummies were Late Roman to 4th centaury AD and not good quality. They were wrapped with palm ribs and stacked. The rock cut tomb occupants were eviscerated and excraniated, had Coptic textiles and cartonage.

There was large canid cemetery with a mass burial of every age from young pups to old dogs with cursory mummification. Roman soldiers adopted Anubis as a mascot so that might be a connection. There was 26 and 27th dynasty activity and even 4-5 centenary remains. A complicated water system with underground aqueducts which need shafts to clear sand.

At Ain el Lebekha there is reuse of a Roman aqueduct with the same technology as ancient times. Plots of land have palm trees remains at the corners like today’s Egyptian land. The area was self supporting and exported goods. Gates have stone lintels some with a cross inscribed on them.

The temple at Dabadib has corvetto cornices and other familiar architectural elements. A grape arbour, line of Gods, a dado painted with faux stone.

There is a lot of destruction being caused to these monuments because of their remoteness but now the guards are being supplied with motorbikes and are more mobile and it is hoped this will cease.

The Darb Ain Amur is Roman and connected Unm el Dabadib with Ain Amur. It has a spring and herds of gazelles and is 4 days by donkey. Along the route they found huts associated with Alum mining and traces of rock art.

Aa’s rock comprises very friable sandstone so inscriptions are being lost. There is a serekh of Aa from Dynasty 0 or 1. There is some dispute about this hieroglyphic but Salima says it looks like an arm. The earliest inscription and it was as barren then as now. There are Nagada II pictures of giraffes, falcons, elephants and lioness with what looks like a collar and cattle. Others from late Old kingdom, First Intermediate Period or early Middle Kingdom. Pictures of Antef’s donkeys

At Darb Ain Amur there is Fish rock with a picture of a fish. Neolithic tools and huts. Ceramics from Roman and Ptolemaic and even the Old kingdom

Split Rock
Looked like a lion with random glyphs plus an inscription. Predynastic origins with the only known inscription of a spider which is an image associated with the sun. A Nagada II hippo

Seth Rock
Has shrines, steps to a cave and a mixture of hieroglyphs and hieratic with a mention of Amun which combined with Seth is unusual.

Scribes Rock
Late 18 dynasty or early 19 at the end of Ain Amur. Temple with an enclosure (recorded by Winlock) with houses, industrial activity, cemeteries used for 5,000 years to make a highway. Coptic Shelter. Site with small cave dedicated to Seth and Amun which might have been a tomb. Seth is the God of the Desert and Amun of Thebes.

Other sites found on the Darb Ain Amur include another site dedicated to Amun and Seth

(Sorry I know the last bit is very disjointed but I was getting tired)

Next week it is Earl on KV63

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