Like New York, Cairo is a city that never sleeps, and the floating restaurants and nightclubs along the Nile are a main focus of activity. All expedition leaders have to pass through Cairo in order to complete the paperwork with the Ministry of Antiquities that allows them to dig. We arrived on January 15, signed the contracts on the 16th and were off to Luxor on the 17th for another season in the Mut Precinct.
On January 18 we presented our papers to the Luxor officials of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Only when that was done could we make our first visit the Mut Precinct. We were very happy to see Betsy Bryan, Director of the Johns Hopkins University Mut Expedition (third from the left). It was a very pleasant surprise to encounter both Salima Ikram, a specialist in faunal remains, and an old Egyptian colleague, Sayed Hegazy (second from the left) at the site.
We also caught up with Abdel Aziz, our foreman for several years; and met Mai, the inspector who will be with us for the 2018 season. Work starts on Saturday, January 20 and we look forward to a pleasant and productive season, if a short one.
The twin spires of Luxor’s new cathedral and a nearby minaret seen at dawn on January 19.
A Spanish archaeological mission working in Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank has discovered a unique funerary garden almost 4000 years old. The discovery of the garden may shed light on the environment and gardening in ancient Thebes during the Middle Kingdom, around 2000 BC.
A unique discovery out of Egypt is the first of its kind. While scenes of funerary gardens have been witnessed in mosaic’s and paintings, this is the first one discovered in situ. It comes with the root and trunk of a 4,000 year old small tree. And a bowl with dates and fruit inside.
on May 3, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
It is very hot in Luxor right now, so the team often takes a break under the marquee that the Hopkins University team has loaned us (thank you, Betsy!). From left to right are Dr. Jacobus van Dijk of Groningen, who is studying the Sakhmet statues and their epithets with me; our senior Egyptian inspector, Mme Shemaa Mahmoud Ahmed; our second inspector, Mr. Yusuf Mohamed Ahmed; and me. Mary McKercher, of course, is behind the camera as usual.
While we’re not excavating this year (the season is too short), we are carrying out a few useful, small projects. First, at the request of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) we began on March 4 to cut back the reeds that have once again taken over the northern ends of the sacred lake, particularly on the east side. You can see how thick and tall they have grown in the past year.
Our second project is to clean off the dirt that has accumulated over the past 35 years or so on a Ramesses II doorjamb that we discovered lying on what’s left of the mud brick core of Temple A’s 2nd Pylon. We’ll build a small wall around it to prevent further encroachment. We decided to remove the large undecorated block standing beside it because it obscured a re-used relief in the pylon’s stone facing.
This was no easy task as the rock is not only heavy but awkwardly shaped. However, our workers were able to get it up and out fairly quickly; they do this kind of thing all the time. We admire both their strength and their skill.
To our surprise, we found that the bottom of the Ramesses II block, which we had never cleared, was also decorated! The way the block is lying, the “new” scene, probably from the east face of the 25th Dynasty pylon, is upside down. Seen right side up here, it consists of the crowns of 2 facing figures and several columns of text. The tall plumes on the right probably belong to Amun, and the plumes and sun disk are probably a king. Unfortunately no names are preserved.
You are looking southeast at Temple A’s 2nd Pylon, built in Dynasty 25. The blocks came almost entirely from earlier monuments, including the Ramesses III temple southwest of the sacred lake, which was no longer in use. The reliefs and sculptures were split apart when necessary and their rear surfaces smoothed to form the face of the pylon. This is most obvious in the pylon’s north wing (bottom of picture) where the decay of the mud brick core has made the blocks more visible. The south wing seems to have been built entirely of stone.
Here’s a more detailed view of the inner side of the east facing. The two torsos and upside down head came from the Ramesses III temple. Other reliefs date from earlier in the New Kingdom. The relief on the left, by the way, is the one that was partially hidden by the block we moved.
At the end of a long, hot day, we sit on our hotel balcony and watch the sun set. One evening recently, this enormous flock of ibises flew by heading north. There must have been hundreds altogether.
At the end of a long, hot day, we sit on our hotel balcony and watch the sun set over the Nile. It is a sight that never fails to awe and amaze us.