Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Mummfication Museum lecture - Chicago House

Chicago House report 2007-2009 Ray Johnson

Sadly the last lecture in this season, what am I going to do on Saturday nights now. Nice to finish with Ray, as one person commented they had no idea just how much Chicago House does in Luxor. He has such a love for the work he does, it just shines through.

They have been working at 3 antiquities sites for 6 months Medinet Habu, Khonsu Temple and Luxor Temple.

Medinet Habu
30 years ago they did the big temple of Ramses III and now they are doing the 18 dynasty temple. The 1st volume of the publication will be the 6 painted sanctuaries of Hatshepsut and Tutmosis III. There will be 30 colour plates produced digitally as well as drawings. The Gods apart from Re-Horakhty and Atum have been attacked by Akhenaton. Drawings can show these various changes which cannot be shown by scans and photographs. Rooftop graffiti has been done by digital drawings. In the small Amun temple there has been conservation. There is stone decay in higher monuments on the west bank. A trench is being proposed which would be 100 meters into the cultivation. A huge amount of the decay has occurred in the last 10 years. They are using an infill of breathable lime mortar but in some places the stone has to be replaced. This stone has come from the same quarry at Gebel Silsila. The have put in 18 patch stones but these are already been attacked by the rising water.

The southern well of Ramesses III needed a girder to support the roof as the decayed foundation blocks have collapsed. It was documented 12 years ago and now has to consolidate it before they dismantle it. There was 2 courses, roof and lintel are all dismantled and on platforms. The dewatering has to happen before the decayed foundations can be removed and replaced.

A new block yard has been created to hold all the old block yard and blocks scattered all over the temple. There is 5 centuries of objects as Habu was the site of a Christian centaury.

There was a wharf in front of the temple like Karnak which led either to a canal or to Birket Habu. It is under the security area. Some parts of it have actually collapsed and have been removed in future after the dewatering it could be replaced.

This temple was published in the 50 and 60s. Because it was converted into a church and there were rumours of crypts with treasure the floor was ripped up. Before the floor was restored they had to document the foundations which consist of reused blocks. This was a huge challenge as in some cases there are very small gaps. Ramesses II had punched his cartouche over Horemheb which was over Ay. The 18 dynasty structure was modified by Ramses II not only cartouches but the actual figure of the king had recarved. Magically it should have been enough to replace the cartouches but Ramesses also changes the reliefs. He does this also at the Ramasseum where the head was originally Amenhotep.

Luxor Temple
Chicago has been there since the 70s and they are really getting into a lot of Roman stuff. The actual Roman town is still awaiting excavation. The frescos are unique and few examples survive and there are none in Italy. Ray thinks this a picture of the first tetrarch and interestingly Maximillian has been erased in antiquity. The heads have been removed but there is still evidence of halos which confuses the guides who think it is Christian. The roman gateway in front of Snacktime. The publication will include before, after and the 18 centaury artists and essays, so all aspects of Roman Luxor.

In the block yard there are Nectenebo sphinxes which will hopefully go into the reconstructed sphinx road. Medieval foundations were revealed by the dewatering project and they are leaving them in situ as these are the last vestiges of the medieval town.

Ray started work in the 70s and has been obsessed by the block yard. There are hospital mastabas in the block yard. The point of preserving is to consolidate and replace. Some excavators kept excavated blocks but other let them be used in the rebuilding of the Corniche. It is hoped some of those might come to light later.

In the NE corner of the Amenhotep II sun court a fragment group is being replaced similar to that of the Khonsu barque on the corridor.

The block yard is being made accessible and part of the tourist route to reduce congestion at the apse; this will be finished next season. You will go out from the barque sanctuary and they are putting lights so you can see properly. It will follow chronologically, middle kingdom, Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis III, Tuthmosis IV, Amenhotep III, Amenhotep IV Re Horakhty temple etc. Not all the blocks in the block yard belong to Luxor temple and some have come from Karnak. Some went into the rubble infill of the 9th and 10th pylons and then moved from there to Luxor. There is also a lot of talatat. Tutankhamen, Ay, Horemheb, Seti I, Ramses II, Ramses II, and animal display then 25th dynasty, Nectanebo, 30th dynasty and finally Ptolemy. Almost all of the later probably from the Mut temple.

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