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Week 4: 25 January–1 February

Another sunny day in Luxor, on which we headed directly to the Karnak temple on the east bank. In the Centre Franco-Egyptien d’étude des temples de Karnak (CFEETK) we met the director Luc Gabolde and his team, who first presented the websites they have established for the study of Karnak. Then we left their office to go to the Karnak temple with Luc, who gave us a guided tour, explaining about the Nile flood impact on the temple (Fig. 1). We walked to the open air museum within the temple precinct, where he told more about the restoration part in this area, and about the chapel of Senwosret I. Afterwards we visited the ARCE conservation lab where Hakim El-Badry described the mission of the laboratory and showed us some samples of their work.

Fig. 1: Luc Gabolde speaking about the theology of Karnak Temple

In the afternoon we were welcomed at the Mut temple by Betsy Bryan from John Hopkins University, who discussed in depth the history and function of the temple (Fig. 2). After lunch Charlotte gave her site presentation focusing on the description of an exciting scene about a circumcision ritual from the reign of king Taharqa from the 25th Dynasty. At the end of the day we were free to explore the lovely Karnak temple.

Fig. 2: Betsy Bryan discusses the Mut Precinct

On Monday we started the day by going to Medinet Habu to meet Brett McClain from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Brett and two of his team explained very thoroughly the epigraphic method they use on the site. Afterwards he guided us around the site and showed us their different projects of restoration and conservation (Fig. 3). While we were still in Medinet Habu, Cheyenne gave a presentation about the battle reliefs in the mortuary temple of Ramses III. We then headed to the Valley of the Kings to meet Susanne Bickel and her team from the University of Basel. She explained to us very carefully their mission and their discoveries from the excavations of KV40 and KV64. Pottery expert David Aston discussed in depth the differences between the various kinds of pottery found in these two excavations. We then went to Deir el-Medina, where we met Cédric Larcher and his team from the IFAO. He showed us the tomb of Neferhotep, which was the largest tomb in Deir el-Medina. After that we entered two beautiful, well-preserved tombs that belonged to Sennedjem and Inherkhau, in the latter of which Elisabeth Bettles talked to us about her work on the painting techniques. At the end of the day Jake gave a presentation about the Ptolemaic temple of Deir el-Medina, where he focused mostly on the scenes found in the sanctuary.

Fig. 3: At the Western High Gate of the Temple of Medinet Habu

On Tuesday we crossed over from the hotel to Luxor temple, where Eleonore started the day with her site presentation. We then met Krisztián Vértes, Egyptologist and senior artist at the Oriental Institute of Chicago House, and he showed us his current epigraphic work on the Roman frescoes in relation with the underlying 18th Dynasty relief (Fig. 4). We also met Hillary, the digital photographer from Chicago House who showed us the open-air museum where thousands of Amarna Period blocks are kept. Her mission is to photograph each of these blocks in order to make 3D models of them, which serve as the base to make epigraphic drawings from. We then walked over to the Luxor museum, where we had the chance to see, among other things, the coffin that the team from the University of Basel had recently discovered in KV64. Later in the afternoon we went to visit Chicago House, where Brett McClain gave us a full tour of the house and its facilities. Krisztián Vértes showed us his digital workflow his art studio, where he further elaborated on his epigraphic work and showed us his final work for the Roman frescoes and the 18th Dynasty reliefs.

Fig. 4: Learning from the expert: Krisztián Vértes shows the ins and outs of digital epigraphy at Luxor Temple

The next day we visited the Belgian Mission at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, where we were welcomed by Laurent Bavay from the ULB (Fig. 5). His team has wrapped up excavations in the tombs of Sennefer, Amenemopet and Amenhotep in 2018 and is now holding yearly study seasons to analyse in detail the material that was found. These New Kingdom tombs are richly decorated and even allow for individual painters to be identified, as Dimitri Laboury and Gabi Pieke explained to us. We then descended the hill towards TT45, which is currently being studied and excavated by the team of Carina Van Den Hoven from Leiden University (who has lectured a number of the Leiden students in our group). After a quick lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon visiting some of the many famous tombs in Qurna: the combination of traditional Egyptian art and Amarna-style in the tomb of Ramose, the hunting and cattle branding scenes in the tomb of Userhat, and the beautiful craftsmen scenes in the tomb of Rekhmire (Fig. 6).

Fig. 5: Laurent Bavay speaks about the Pyramid of Khay
Fig. 6: Exploring New Kingdom Theban Tombs

Thursday began at the so-called Colossi of Memnon, the giant monolithic statues that used to flank the entrance to the first pylon of the large mortuary temple of king Amenhotep III. The temple itself was mainly built in mud brick and was largely destroyed in antiquity, causing the two colossi to appear lonely in the flat landscape surrounding them. We met Hourig Sourouzian, who informed us about her restoration project and its accompanying field excavations (Fig. 7). For more than 20 years, her team has been digging up parts of the original mortuary temple with the aim to restore some of the stone monuments in situ. So far they have reassembled large parts of two other granite colossi that were standing in front of the second pylon but were largely destroyed.  This season they are putting together pieces of yet another set of colossi (this time in alabaster).

Fig. 7: Hourig Sourouzian talks about her work at the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III

In the afternoon we drove to nearby Dra Abu el-Naga, where the Spanish mission of the Djehuty Project works under the leadership of José Manuel Galan (Fig. 8). He explained to us the many features of the site, including the New Kingdom tombs and the unique funerary garden that was found a few years ago. In the tombs we could see the Chicago House method of digital epigraphy being used in the field by some of the members of the project. We finished the day with a stop at the Valley of the Queens, were we visited the tombs of queen Nefertari and two sons of Ramses III, known for their extremely well-preserved decoration.

Fig. 8: José Galan in the tomb of Djehuty

Friday is our usual day off, so we were free to do whatever we wanted. Part of the group decided to hire a taxi and drive to Malqata, the mud brick palace of king Amenhotep III. When we arrived we noticed that the site has been heavily damaged through time, with only the lower parts of the walls remaining. Nevertheless, the inspectors at the site showed us some fragments of the original wall paintings that used to cover the entire inside of the palace. After our visit to Malqata, we drove to nearby Medinet Habu for a more relaxed and extensive visit than earlier this week. Then we went back to the hotel for an afternoon at the pool.

We left the hotel early on Saturday morning for a long bus ride to the temple of Edfu. On our way, we stopped at various archaeological sites. The first one was the First Intermediate tomb of Ankhtifi at Moalla, built in the “provincial style” as was common in that era. The second one was Elkab, which has been a Belgian concession since Jean Capart first started excavating there in 1937. We visited the decorated New Kingdom tombs but unfortunately were not allowed to visit the inside of the famous mud brick enclosure wall. We drove further into the Wadi Hillal to see the Vulture Rock, a large rock that contains both prehistoric art and inscriptions from Old Kingdom priests who worked in Elkab. The last visit of the day was one to the temple of Horus at Edfu, where we stayed until we were the very last visitors. We stayed overnight in a very Egyptian hotel in town, ready to leave for Marsa Alam the following morning.

Sara Ayad Zaki & Martijn Jacobs

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