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Week 4: 28 January – 3 February 2018

Our second day in Luxor started with the visit to the Spanish mission at Dra Abu el-Naga. The distinctive feature of the site in the whole Theban region is that the history of the necropolis can be traced consistently from the Middle Kingdom to the 2nd century AD. Among the interesting recent discoveries there is the model garden found near the tomb of Djehuty. The facade of this tomb was inscribed with an autobiography and two hymns composed in cryptography. In the corridor, the earliest representation of the ‘opening of the mouth’ ritual was found. The next site we visited was the one-tomb excavation project of Suzanne Onstine: TT 16 of Panehsy, showing the contrast with the large scale excavation of the Proyecto Djehuty. The ceiling of Panehsy’s second room, despite being burnt, preserved traces of once magnificent images of birds and marsh plants.

At Deir-el Bahari Anne gave a site presentation on the upper terrace of the Hatshepsut temple and afterwards it was very nice to observe the site by ourselves looking for the famous scenes depicted on the temple walls. The last stop was in the Assasif where we visited the tomb of Kheruef, which is the largest 18th Dynasty private tomb in the area of Thebes.

The next day we set off to the east bank by ferry, a very fast, convenient, and pleasant way to get to the opposite side of the Nile. At first, we met with Jaap van Dijk who guided us through the Mut temple in Karnak. Among the interesting constructions of the complex was Chapel D of the Ptolemaic period where a unique image of the goddess Mut in a previously unknown form is depicted. Afterwards we made our next visit to the CFEETK (Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Etude des Temples de Karnak) where we were told about the digital survey project aimed to publish all inscriptions of the Amun complex in Karnak. Our next destination was the Khonsu temple. John Shearman from ARCE gave an interesting talk about the conservation project at the temple and the team consisting basically of Egyptians, in particular students whose training is a significant part of the project.

At the Assassif, on the way to the tomb of Kheruef

The following day we went first to the necropolis at Qurna, the excavation site of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. The head of the mission and the current director of IFAO, Laurent Bavay, told us about the history of excavation and discoveries of the mission. We went inside the tomb of Amenemope (TT 29) which until 2009 was designated as the ‘lost’ tomb bearing the number TTC3 in the Topographical Bibliography of Porter & Moss. In the courtyard of the tomb were the remains of the pyramid built for the vizier Khay (30-45 regnal years of Ramesses II), which is aligned with his tomb that must be located lower on the hill.

Our next stop was in Deir el-Medina where we visited the IFAO mission in the tombs of Qen (TT 4) and Neferhotep II (TT 216). Going down the shafts it was very interesting to see the subterranean parts of the tombs. Afterwards we were invited by the team for lunch on the terrace of the dighouse, with a magnificent view over the ancient settlement of craftsmen.

On Wednesday morning we went to the mortuary temple of Ramesses III in Medinet Habu. We were greeted by Brett McClain and Susan Osgood of the Chicago House Epigraphic Survey, who explained to us the elaborate method through which the artists and Egyptologists of the team create their extremely accurate facsimiles. Afterwards we concentrated on the chapels of the God’s wives of Amun and we were lucky to have the chance to see one of the chapels from the inside. Next stop: the Valley of the Queens to visit the wonderful tomb of Nefertari. In the afternoon we crossed over to the East Bank and visited Angus Graham in Karnak. He and his team of geologists use core drillings to understand the landscape around the temple during pharaonic times and reconstruct the river bed of the Nile. Being already on the East bank we decided to stay and wait until sunset to admire the beautifully illuminated Luxor temple. We ended the day drinking cocktails and playing pool at The King’s Head pub.

In Medinet Habu with the Chicago House Epigraphic Survey team

The next day we spent the morning in Luxor Museum, where some of the most beautiful statues of Egypt are kept. At Luxor temple we met Krisztián Vértes, who works for Chicago House and is currently documenting the Roman frescoes inside the temple. Since the Chicago House system was developed for relief, not painting, he invented a texture system to record the colour appropriately. We met him and Brett again in the late afternoon at the stunningly beautiful Chicago House, after having spent some more time inside the temple admiring the Opet festival scenes and marvelling at the unusual signs depicted on some cow’s butts.

Friday was our day off and we all rented bikes to visit some more sites on the West Bank. One part of the group went to see the mortuary temples of Mentuhotep, Ramesses II and Seti I, the other went to the King’s Valley to see the tomb of Ay. Due to the absence of a guard at the remotely situated tomb we changed plans and visited some more KV tombs. The highlight was the tomb of Ramesses III, not only because of a scene of a cat labelled as ‘mjw aA’ (liberally translatable to ‘big kitty’). Apparently, we had not yet had our share of spontaneous changes of plans, since our visit to Malqata, the palace of Amenhotep III, did not go as planned either. Somewhat disappointed by the underwhelming, knee-high mudbrick walls we spontaneously visited a nearby Coptic monastery.

On Saturday we started early in the morning to leave for Aswan. Our first stop was Mo’alla and the tomb of Ankhtifi, a local ruler who was really proud of his power and the large area he controlled. His tomb featured happy donkeys, shocked rabbits, and confused fish. After another 1,5 hours in the bus we reached Elkab, where we visited the tomb of Ahmose, son of Ebana, who is best known for his biography in which he describes his role in the war against the Hyksos under king Ahmose. Climbing the impressive, freestanding Vulture Rock, covered with inscriptions of priests of the goddess Nekhbet, definitely made the day for all the people who were not afraid of heights.

Evgenia Kalchenko & Elena Hertel

Biking on the Theban west bank
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