Saturday, 27 February 2010

ARCE Conservation Work at Khonsu Temple – Ed Johnson

ARCE Conservation Work at Khonsu Temple – Ed Johnson

ARCE are doing a number of projects of which the Khonsu temple is only one. The conservation program is in its third year and a response to the dewatering project. This went live in the summer of 2007 and now they are training Egyptian conservators to handle the affects of the drying out of the monuments. All the work is done by the students and they train 25 every year.

Previously conservation work was not documented so nobody had any idea who had done the work, what had been done, what was successful and should be replicated, what should not be used and should be avoided. Students are now trained to analyse, plan and actually do the documentation. It is important to map the damage and they have the advantage of the Chicago House work as a basis. They use the same techniques as the Getty Institute used at the tomb of Nefertari. They are also taught photography, about materials, geology, small object conservation, use of Total stations and movement monitors.

When they came to the Khonsu temple it was a bit of junk yard although in the past it was the entrance to Karnak temple. By making it an attractive place to visit they hope to relieve the pressure on the main axis of the temple. The floor of the temple had been used as a quarry so there were structural issues to resolve. Also inscriptions were hidden under the floor and future scholars would want access so a wooden bridge is used to both protect and cover this area. The ambulatory was filled with stones making it impossible to walk around with ease. These have been removed.

Various techniques and chemicals are used to clean and reveal the poly chrome left on the walls. Brushing down the dirt with soft brushes, cleaning, poulticing and removal of the salts and soot. Infilling holes so birds cannot roost. The area around the temple has been landscaped enabling easy viewing. New irregular paving blocks have been laid mimicking the old ones

Lots of the old conservation and concrete had to be removed as it was attracting salts. Lime mortar is more sympathetic. Heba a naturally occurring material used in traditional construction is used as a poultice to remove salts. Once it dries it can be flaked off taking the slats with it. Several applications are needed. There is still 70-80% humidity in the walls and although the dewatering is good desalination is vital to go alongside it.

The Euergetes gateway has not previously been documented by Chicago House so the damage mapping there has to be done from scratch. Work is in progress there.

Although 20,000 cubic meters (?) of water has been removed from Karnak it is only at Luxor temple East pylon that any movement has been noted. This is giving cause for concern

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Night with the Stars by Michael on the roof

As everyone knows, light pollution has made it difficult to see the heavens as our forefathers saw them, and even here in Egypt where they have the advantage of clear skies, many of the fainter stars are not visible near the cities.
However, you can still get a good view of the night sky by joining a tour organised by a local company, Space Observers, who will pick you up at your hotel in Luxor , drive you into the desert away from the light, and serve you an Oriental Dinner, with soft drinks and tea included, shisha (hubble bubble) and Egyptian sweets.
On the evening that I went, it was a night when dinner was not offered, but I got back in good time to eat at a local hotel. The evening got off to a difficult start, as I had arranged to be picked up from the ferry terminal, at Luxor Temple. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister had decided to get married that night,and in consequence the town centre was closed to traffic. Thank goodness for mobile phones.
The very efficient tour organiser kept in touch with us, the air conditioned minibus was eventually allowed through, and off we went, taking the road to Tod, but turning left into the desert. After a drive of 20 minutes or so we arrived at a clearing where two large astronomical telescopes had been set up.
We were escorted to a viewing place with seats, and tea was offered, while the astronomer lecturer gave a lucid and interesting outline of what we would see that evening, and a brief explanation of the movements of the heavens.
The Meade 12" telescopes were amazing. Anyone who has tried to follow stars through binoculars knows how difficult it is to keep them in view, but by entering the co-ordinates into a handheld device, the telescopes were made to automatically track the planet or star we were interested in. I wish I could afford one, but I believe they would cost around £20000 each, and then the Customs here would probably double that with import duties!
The astronomer was equally fluent in English and German, had a wealth of knowlege at his fingertips, and his lecture was both witty and erudite.

To have a private tour SpaceObervers need a minimum of four guests. This tour is possible on all days except Tuesday and Thursday. Otherwise, you can join tours without dinner every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
Pick up time is usually at about 5.15 pm, depending on the time of sunset, and we were back in Luxor at about 8.15.
The cost of a tour without dinner is 180 Egyptian pounds.
For more information, details of dinner costs and to book a tour, please contact Space Observers direct at

I shall certainly go again.

Michael Campbell-Smith

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

BBC News - 'Malaria and weak bones' may have killed Tutankhamun

Here is the announcement from Dr Hawass re Tutankamun, Luxor's most famous son. I am 100% sure this will not be the end of the argument and many theorists will carry on with their pet ideas. Also the interpretation will vary and finally acceptance of the evidence. So basically this is not the final answer to Tutankamun's life and death. Even the headline says 'may' BBC News - 'Malaria and weak bones' may have killed Tutankhamun

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Mummification Museum Lecture - Djehuty – Jose Galan

Djehuty – Jose Galan
Totally excellent lecture with 203 slides! Their website in Spanish but you can use Goggle translate to view it. I also have previous notes and (search on TT11)

The Spanish team have been working there 9 seasons at the northern end of the Theban necropolis at Dra Abu Naga. This was a special place in ancient times as it was connected to Karnak, the sun roses between the pylons across the river and set behind Dra Abu Naga. It was also the 1st landing place of the Beautiful feast of the valley, which was Luxor’s most special ancient festival.

The first excavation was done by the Marquis of Northampton with the Egyptologists Newbury and Spiegelberg but this was a very short season back in 1899. In 1909 both Gardiner and Weigall started work trying to protect tombs and around that time a number of photos were taken which are in the Griffiths Institute. The situation in 2002 was not much different from that of 1909 with TT11 only half visible and TT12 and TT399 not visible at all.

The original aim of team was to document the courtyards of the tombs and in fact TT11 has the longest recorded courtyard. The tombs of TT11, TT12, TT399 and Baki are all connected; TT11 is a t-shaped tomb. The fa├žade is quite original for the period as it is decorated with 2 steles which although they look alike are quite different texturally.

On the right the text is autobiographical there are cartouches of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, the cartouche of Hatshepsut has suffered damage and erasure. Additionally Djehuty himself has had his name removed; however they have recovered 200 funerary cones where the name is perfectly preserved and contain the titles overseer of the treasury, workman, treasury and cattle of Amun. He lists some of the task the workmen have carried out such carving the obelisks Hatshepsut erected at Karnak, the barque of Amun, in the role of treasurer he recorded the goods from Punt.
The one on the left is a religious inscription with a hymn to Amun Re. the text shows clever use of horizontal and vertical texts and shows of his skills as a scribe. Inside the hymn to Amun Re his figure has been hacked out. There are singers making a song. The hymns are written in cryptographic form.

In the doorway Djehuty is shown with a small picture of his father both names and figure have been attacked. The transverse hall is the worst preserved, at one end there is another biographical text which expands the text outside. Reconstruction of the wall from the fragments has revealed that the father’s name ended in a T glyph. Inside the next hall it was full of debris which they hoped would mean they got some well preserved pictures and they did. There are scenes describing the funeral of Djehuty which are rare at this time. One scene shows the strangling of Nubian, one hopes this symbolic.

At the end of the room were statues of Djehuty and his parents, there is mention of a wife and children so he is thought to be single. Much to their surprise on clearing the room they found another burial shaft. There was one outside and they had thought that belonged to him but maybe it was his fathers. This interior shaft was 8 meters deep and led to chamber full of debris.
They had researched Speigall's diaries at the Griffiths Institute and found no evidence that he had been there but in the debris of the shaft they found a newspaper dating to 1898 so he must have been. Also amongst the debris they found a big jar with a sketch of the king offering and other pieces which might have been contemporary.

They also found coffin fragments some from the Third intermediate Period which were of poor quality wood, probably 21st dynasty. Others are early or mid XVIII dynasty and are black with yellow, these are burnt and there is evidence of a big fire in the antechamber which must have occurred between the 18 and 21 dynasty. Excavation of this room revealed yet another shaft which led to the burial chamber. Inside they found fragments of gold leaf and some earrings which are of gold or electrum. It depends on how you define electrum; these are 10% silver and reminiscent of the jewelry of the Thuthmosis III princesses. The rings which make up the earrings are hollow. There were also beads from a necklace carnelian, turquoise and hollow gold.

The burial chamber is decorated which although unusual is not unique. Other decorated burial chambers are
• Neferu TT101 which is like a coffin
• Khety TT508 also decorated like a coffin
• Senenmut TT353 decorated with the Book of the Dead and an astronomical ceiling
• Amenenhat TT82 dated to year 28 of Hatshepsut which is after Djehuty and has Book of the Dead and Pyramid Text
• Useramun TT131 year 33 with the Litany of Re and the Amduat
• Nakhtmin TT87 year 36

So Djehuty is one of the earliest tombs to have a decorated burial chamber. It is similar to Tuthmosis III looking like a papyrus painted on the wall with cursive hieroglyphic script. Red ink is used for emphasis and to mark the beginning. He is asked questions about the secret names of the barque of Amun. Here both his name and that of his parents is preserved. His father’s name is spelt several different ways perhaps indicating he was of foreign origin variously Ipti Ibutu and Ibo, perhaps Palestine and meaning father (Abu). It is apparent that different scribes were working here. The name of the mother is always spelt the same Dediu. There were also pictures of all three. Some scholars try and use the order chapters appear to create a canon. At the time of Hatshepsut a large number of chapters and sequences appear and Djehuty is one of the earliest , with chapters 78, 86, 81D, 88, 87 99B transformed Djehuty into various things like a papyrus and is similar to Ani papyrus in the British Museum. So Djehuty was wrapped in the book of the dead. The ceiling was also decorated and an important area is a picture of Nut and has chapters 42,114,112,133,108,109,125 the knowing of the souls. Chapter 42 each part of the body is assigned to a deity and interestingly enough there are 18 which the same as the 18 squares using in the cannon of proportions.

One of the earliest copies of chapter 125, where the picture of Nut interrupts and its surrounding yellow text is from the Coffin texts, everything else if from the Book of Dead which is often written on the top of the coffin. There are 5 registers on the ceiling but there are only 2 remaining and there is a big hole. They have had to design a collapsible iron table to protect them while they work from any further collapse. They have found over 1000 fragments. There are big cracks in the ceiling although the rock at this level is good, they have done geological column. Also a humidity recording which shows human activity is not good for tombs. The portrait was in danger of falling off so they have safely removed and conserved it.

Next week it is Ed Johnson on Khonsu; there is also another lecture Monday night.

KV63 Update

A New KV-63 Update is now available.

February's 'Otto's Dig Diary' features the latest news on:

The reattachment of Coffin B’s facemask
Coffin A's Incised Collar
Mended blue painted pottery from KV-63
Registration and Removal of resin from the Infant Coffin (D)

Plus 24 *New* images under the '2010~Images' tab.
Available online at

Friday, 12 February 2010

Publication of Mosque of Abu-El-Haggag

If you want to learn more about the mosque at Luxor Temple and the inscriptions inside it Mansour Boraik has published in in Memnonia XiX 2008 pages 123-149 I read it today at Chicago House. This publication, from Christian Le Blanc, is mainly in French but the article by Mansour is in English. It has all the epigraphic work detailed out

New excavations at Malqata

Malqata is the location of the palace of Amenhoptep III in Luxor and Catherine Roehrig is leading the dig and they have a blog set up where you can follow their progress.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Luxor Temple Excavations

I had a great morning at Luxor temple with Mansour Boraik. There is so much excavation going on in Luxor at the moment and one of the areas under investigation but not mentioned in his talk is the 'tell' behind the Pashas House. This is the last part of medieval Luxor left when the area was cleared decades ago, because of its proximity to the Pashas House. It is very early days and I can’t mention what they have found until official publication but what I did like to see was the field school in operation. They have a number of skilled inspectors who are passing their knowledge on to the new young inspectors. One of the benefits that Dr Hawass has brought to the inspectorate is making them a professional trained force; I have seen one of these field schools in operation at the Khonsu temple, and Mark Lehner led one in Sphinx Avenue. It is so nice to see these enthusiastic young men and women learning on the job.

This photo was taken from the road, so I am not breaking any rules showing it :) You can see the scale of operations.

Mansour also took me over to the new entrance to Luxor temple. You now enter on the East side and when they made this new entrance he took the opportunity to excavate in this area. He found a small church made of reused blocks which he exposed. There were a number of talatat included in the walls.

The first is an unusual portrait of Nefertiti looking like Akhenaton and the second is a picture of priest with one of the princes!!!! Yes I did ask him to repeat that several times, one of the princes. Could it even be Tutankhamen? Who knows but it was a very rare thing for me to see.

You can see these blocks as you enter the temple, just as you exit the bag scanning area it is immediately in front of you.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Mummification Museum Lecture - Luxor Temple Mosque and Sphinx Avenue – Mansour Boraik

Luxor Temple Mosque and Sphinx Avenue – Mansour Boraik
I love Mansour’s lectures; he is amusing, knowledgeable, with excellent English and crafted slideshows. He gave us a through update about the work in Luxor. The President comes on the 2nd March and Sphinx Avenue has to be open then. However excavation and restoration takes a long time so they are having to balance things. The first part of the excavation is being down by mechanical diggers under control of the army who have subcontracted the work. But he is very conscious that “if we miss anything history will not forgive us”.

Firstly he talked about the Abu Hajaj mosque at Luxor temple, it had been his dream to reveal the inscriptions and in May 2007 he visited and took many photos. However the guardians of the mosque would not allow him to change anything. Then in July 2007 there was a massive fire which destroyed the mosque and he was able to take advantage of this and offer to do a complete restoration in return for revealing the inscriptions. The only thing registered as an historical object was the military observation/beacon tower from the Fatimid period.

All the columns and architraves were covered by tefler, a thick clay mortar with concrete on top of that. Fortunately this clay material had not damaged the inscriptions and was easy to remove, the concrete was more troublesome. One of the photos he showed us was the tomb of the saint that had boats above it, the festival of the birthday of the saint involves a huge procession of boats and this is exactly like the Opet festival. The tomb was built in 1244.

They began the restoration outside removing all rendering revealing the construction materials of the mosque. These were a combination of mud brick, red brick and stones from the temple itself. The entire temple was documented with the help of ARCE. There are two prayer niches which are very unusual, one is built but the other was actually carved from one of the columns. The pictures on the architraves were defaced, Sheikh Ahmed had built the mosque 13 years after the death of his father and it is thought it was built on the remains of a church and the defacement was done in the Christian era. The architraves were epigraphically documented with help by Christian Le Banc.

The structure of the mosque had a lot of wooden supports incorporated in it and this was removed and replaced with fresh wood. They used the same techniques in the restoration that were used in the original build. He did try and excavate between the pillars but was stopped by the guardians of the mosque.

The architraves show the two obelisks being brought to the temple by Ramses II and the 2 statues. Also the titular of Ramses II and the dedication to Amun. As well as showing offerings being brought from elephantine island and a very peculiar depiction of an elephant as the glyph. This was recorded by Lepisus. Inside the eastern wall there were religious scenes of Amun and Osiris. So the outside was scenes of military prowess and inside was more religious.

The military tower dated from 1093 and there is a similar one at Esna, they were used in communication over long distances like beacons. It was actually built over the architrave.

As part of the restoration they moved the toilets and baths and other ancillary buildings from the area around the mosque leaving it with space around and also restored the original colours.

Sphinx Avenue
It is almost empty now and has been a huge task taking 800 staff and 20 inspectors. They had divided into 4 sectors and one was a big problem as it was full of houses and they had to move 700 families who were paid 13 million to move. As they had built on archeological land they had no choice but to move. Previously they had found 16 sphinxes in the Roman gate and these were returned but no replicas are being made as the destruction of the sphinxes is part of the history. Both the Romans and medieval Luxor used them as parts of the foundations of their houses. In the late Roman period there was a huge flood and many fell, fully or partially at that time.

They tried to keep the minaret of the mosque that was moved but it was made of mud brick and collapsed. They found various Roman structures that had used sphinxes in the walls of the buildings. There was also an industrial area of pottery kilns and some sphinxes were leveled in order to provide a flat space in this area.

Another problem they had was one area was congested with cables, electricity and telephone, sewage pipes and the SCA were asked for 7 million to move them. So they have gone back to the governor and asked him to sort this out. The various 700 houses had septic tanks and sphinxes were used as walls in these so they are in poor condition.
They have just reached a school which will have to be partially moved and they are hoping any sphinxes under this might be in good condition.
They only have permission to excavate 54 meters but are finding the edge of structures like the remains of a chapel so are hoping to get permission to fully excavate. There appears to be evidence of Men Kepher Re the successor to Herihor which Nectanebo had cut into but perhaps this chapel is even earlier. It is 5 meters down under the modern debris. There is another structure which might be an early church under the school.

Where a pedestal has no sphinx it is being left but those with sphinxes are being restored to safely support the sphinx. The area around the Mubarak library contains the best preserved sphinxes.

Another industrial area was a wine distillery with wine presses, galleries for the workers, storage system. In one are an amphora is being used as plug in a sink. There is a cistern used in different times with various layers of plaster and reused blocks in the wall.
The method of presenting the sphinxes in a canal with slopping walls is not his preferred choice and the SCA have experimented with vertical walls of mud brick. The site cannot be left open and access will be carefully controlled. The walkway will be to the side at a higher level.

Next week it is Jose Galan on Dra Abu Naga

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Chicago House Day

If you get a chance to financially support the Oriental Institute which runs Chicago House in Luxor go for it. I was there today and it is such a privilege to be able to use their facilities. I was reading for my second essay and it is so good to be able to get hold of all the books but the main use of the library is for field archeologists working in Luxor.

They have such wonderful resources that you even have to use white gloves. Dr Otto Schaden the discoverer of KV63 was doing this. researching some of his discoveries from the tomb, it is a study season this year.
I left at 3pm having spent 8-2 reading for my essay and the last hour I was waiting for taxi and just picked a volume at random of the shelves, as a little treat.

It was Ancient Egypt 1934-1935, some A5 magazines bound in tooled leather bindings. Published by UCL price 7s (that is old British money about 35p or 50 cents). The telephone number was MUS 8101, do you remember when London codes were letters. There were some total gems in there Mr Mallowen going to Iraq because that was a troubled region and there was limited time to excavate. He was the husband of Agatha Christie. The obituary for Budge, Breasted and Quibell. Articles by Margret Murray and Flinders Petrie. Permissions being granted by the Persian government. Flinders Petrie talking about paying 2 piastres (5d) for every ancient weight bought to him. It was one of his clever moves to stop locals selling to tourists, to pay for articles bough to him. 5d is five old pence about 2p British. There was a report of the Kings Birthday Honors awarding a knighthood and a Lantern Lecture being given by Flinders Petrie. But in amongst all this was some little gems, an article about false eyes, a report on a statue of Titeshiry, the Syrian problem in the Amarna letters as well as some dated conclusions regarding matriarchal descent.

And that was just one volume, fabulous. However I am aware that the librarian has a limited budget to buy new books so please support their work. It really adds to the work going on in Luxor by every archeologist. Never mind all the work they do themselves

Friday, 5 February 2010

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


I am working on a borrowed computer as mine has a hard disk problem so might have problems communicating with people sorry

Monday, 1 February 2010

Royal Family Necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period at the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri Dr Szafranski

Royal Family Necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period at the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri Dr Szafranski

Discovery of these burials has been a side effect of their excavations of the temple, its surroundings and foundations. The Polish/Egyptian missions has been excavating there for 50 years. The Third Intermediate Period used many temples and locations as necropolis like at the Assasif. This was the time that Africa and Asia came to know each other and to come into conflict. Dynasties 21, 22, 25 and the beginning of 26 are all found at Thebes.

They knew there was a tomb under the protective platform (4th terrace) and around the temple of Tuthmosis III which was discovered 40 years ago. Photographs taken in the time of Naville show many tombs, over 20 were discovered. There was a big earthquake around 1200-900 and the tombs were after that. From 800BC for about 150 years the area was in use as a royal necropolis.

Various chapels were used dependent of whether the roof was still existent. The Amun chapel, both the northern and southern chapel of Amun, the Hatshepsut chapel in the royal mortuary complex and the vestibule. They also excavated the third terrace festival courtyard and coronation colonnade, the solar court to the right. The mortuary complex to the left is like a small temple within a temple with a main barque hall, 6 niches, statue hall, 3 niches one of which was changed in the Ptolemaic period and dedicated to Amenhotep son of Hapu and Imhotep. The portal leading to the chapel has pictures of the king wearing the whit crown on the south and the red crown on the north with the cartouches replaced by Tuthmosis III. It is decorated with a barque of Amun and shows various members of the royal family Tuthmosis II, Tuthmosis III, Neferubity (Hatshepsut’s sister), Neferure (her daughter by Tuthmosis II).

The tombs situated inside the Hatshepsut chapel are simple in design, a shaft, and chamber, they are undecorated. Typical sizes are 2 meters long and 1.8 meters high. The position of the crossed arms indicates they could have been royal.

The so called Bahris tomb had a lot of cartonage and they are trying to collect pictures from various museums over the world so they can publish a collection. Typically graves were furnished with a rectangular outer coffin, an anthropoid inner coffin, shabities, a canopic chest and a stele.

The cartonage of Padiamonet a vizier is of high artistic quality but over 1000 fragments. The occupants are mostly Amun priests although there are some Montu priests. One structural element of the tomb is a small hole in the floor underneath the sarcophagus.

Further excavation revealed shrouds dated to year 27 of xxxxx Maat-Re which fits to Wsir-Maat-Re Oskerkon III

The temple is constructed on an artificial platform but they found the original gebel with plant material.

Grave goods of ‘dolls’ small flat wooden models of goddesses like Nephthys and Sheshat. He is unsure as to their purpose.

Various mummies in different states, the crossed arms could indicate royalty although Salima Ikram says that this arm position was common in the third intermediate period

Ostraca from both Hatshepsut and Ramses II, both Ramses and Horemheb restored the temple from Amarna damage
Evidence of a Coptic monastery

Funerary cones from Menhemhat and his wives, these together with other objects originating in the Assasif and Ramasseum were probably moved there by Copts

Instruments from the opening of the mouth ceremony

Simple ushabities, only 5 were inscribed

So the site was used from 800-660 BC 150 years approximately 5-6 generations of prominent or eminent people

Why this location?

At various other places like Medinet Habu there are chapels to God’s wives and tombs. The tombs are located in special places within chapels, under offering lists, or offering bearers or offering tables so they could benefit from the decoration. Tombs were not found in the solar complex or other areas with no roofs as these quickly filled with debris. Further excavation is needed in the area above the Tuthmosis III temple.