Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Old Mummification Museum lecture - Karnak and Sphinx Alley

Mummification Museum Lecture - Recent Excavations by the SCA - Mansour Boraik
Recent Excavations by the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities – Mansour Boraik
It is a great pity that I can not include the slides of this presentation as they were some of slickest I have seen at one of these lectures and illustrated the lecture extremely well. Mr Mansour was also a very good lecturer, speaking without notes, and I hope we see him on stage again (hint, hint).

Mansour Boraik was introduced (extremely wittily) by one of his colleagues. He started his career as an Inspector on the Giza Plateau and was the right hand man of Zahi Hawass for many years. He found the Valley of the Workers where the pyramid builders lived. He moved from Giza to Aswan to Sohag and came to Luxor 15 months ago.

He explained that when he arrived here there were many national projects going on and it was a challenge for the Inspectorate to manage all of then. At that time these were mainly on the East Bank but recently they have had the added challenge of the removal of Gurna Village on the West Bank. There is a budget of 600 million pounds for these projects.

He arranged for Mark Lehner to come to Luxor and to train the Inspectors. Also Ray Johnson of Chicago House has contributed in to professional development of the Inspectorate.

Mansour gave a big thanks to all his colleagues in the inspectorate and foreign missions and it is was worthwhile noting the respect shown to Mansour by the extremely high turnout. I have not seen so many people at a lecture since Otto Schaden gave his talk

The lecture was divided into the 4 areas currently under excavation
Sphinx Avenue
Behind Mubarak Library
El Madrassa

The Sphinx Avenue at Luxor temple
This was originally excavated in the 1950’s and although it was thought to run all the way to Karnak temple this was not proved at that time. The first place they excavated was the public gardens that were next in the line of the avenue after the police station. As this was SCA land that had been loaned to the government for a garden this area was politically easy to excavate. They found that the sphinxes were mostly destroyed, partly by inhabitations that go back to Roman times and also by tree and vegetation damage. They found sphinxes of Nectanebo and a lovely block carrying Cleopatra’s name which was used in the construction of the houses.

The East side of the avenue had a canal dug next to it probably in the medieval period which had pushed over many of the sphinxes. They found lots of pottery dating to the Roman period.

Eventually the police station will be demolished to make way for the connection between this area and the end of the Luxor temple sphinxes.

Behind the Mubarak Library
Excavating this land was much more problematic as it belonged to local farmers and they attacked the SCA. The plan was to do some transverse sections and then to use machines to remove the highest level of the site. Unfortunately some work by machines started before the trans-sections were done and the SCA rushed to the site and fortunately only 2 hours of work had been done and they were able to stop it. It did damage some Roman remains.

There is a layer of alluvial silt on the pavement and this indicates that there was a big flood which affected the pavement and sphinxes. The slides showed the wheel ruts of Roman vehicles which had dug into this pavement. Nectenebo had constructed this area and used sand with the pavement laid on top. In medieval times they decided to reuse the pedestals which were of a convenient size and structure and pushed the sphinxes of the pedestals. The area was then flooded and the silt built up around the fallen sphinxes, pedestals and pavement. A slide was shown of a reconstructed sphinx and its missing pedestal.

Mansour referred to the work of William Y Adam who studied the production of wine in Nubian and continually commented about the relationship between what they had found and the descriptions of Adams in his work.

They found a water wheel from medieval times and lots and lots of Roman structures including wine presses. There appears to have been a wine ‘factory’ in this area. There was evidence of 2 huge pots which would have been used for fermentation. Next to the cistern used for storing the wine they found amphora. There were three areas that had immense amounts of pottery and they found evidence of a pottery kiln. This fits with Adam’s studies where he said that around a wine producing area there would be pottery kilns. This area was just behind the East side of the Avenue of Sphinxes.

There was a slide of an old 19th centenary photo graph shown of a kiln surrounded by pots which fits perfectly with the evidence they have found.

There is no evidence of settlements and this fits with the supposition of a canal alongside the avenue.

Just 3 days ago they found a cistern and Mansour is convinced that this is an area of Roman wine production or ‘factory’.

They have found 2 stele one of Tiberius in a traditional Egyptian pose wearing the double crown and offering to Amun, Mut and Khonsu. It was perhaps taken from the Mut temple.

There was also one of Bakenkhonsou shown Sektnakht kneeling in front of Amun. From its location found underneath a palm tree and nowhere near any other remains they believe that it could have been stolen and hid with its location marked by the palm tree and never recovered by the thieves. This steel mentions Year 4 of Sektnakht and this is the first mention of such a high reignal year. It says how he did work to the termous wall, rebuilt the hyperstyle hall and replaced many statues. It is an extremely important piece expanding our knowledge of this time. There is quite an interesting article about this work here http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/827/hr1.htm

This was the time of the beginning of the rule of the priests of Amun and we have 4 statues of Bakenkhonsou in the Cairo museum but this stele has told us much more about him.

The army have built some retaining walls but before they go any further Mansour wants to excavate further away from the actual sphinxes as he believes there may be more behind them. He intends to reveal the entire route of the sphinx avenue as they can see there is much to find by their current excavations but there will be problems removing the houses and sadly they will have to destroy some medieval houses.

In Front of Karnak
From the tomb of Neferhotep we know that there was a large basin in front of Karnak temple but this was in the time of Amenhotep III. And not in front of the Karnak we see today. Before the area in front of the temple is tiled they want to do much more excavation. Shama’at of the SCA has been excavating just under the exit area of Karnak and has found a kitchen with 5 round pits or furnaces from the late Roman period. They want to re-excavate the area of the wall where they think the Nile came to, there being no basin at this time. The wall is probably from the 21/22 dynasty time.

Madrassa Area
This was the area used by the SCA to park their cars after the school was removed. The contractors were digging in this area and were allowed to go down 1 ½ meters but actually went down 2 ½ meters and found some blocks and mud brick; this actually follows the wall line from Shama’at’s excavation. They found an arch and at first thought it was a kiln but subsequently found it had been plastered. So this was possible a basement which had been subsequently filled with pots. They found 5 phases of occupation which the foundations of the old school had cut through. Just one month ago they found a 29th dynasty block of King Basamates (I think I must have got this name down wrong and it should be Psammuthis, if anyone could correct me I would appreciate it) the name was defaced but the Horus name left intact.

They also found lots of Roman houses and stairs similar to those found by Shama’at. They dug until they reached the water table and found an embankment wall (25/26th dynasty), bore holes taken by the side show sand and silt indicating the progression of the Nile to the West. In order to make this area part of Karnak they have had the asphalt road moved so it goes around the outside edge

Posted by Jane: - 11:57 am - Edit| 1 Comment »
March 5th, 2007

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