Features: Mut Precinct, Dig Diary 2005

2005 Dig Diary: Week 3

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Fully excavated east colonnade

It is February 3 and we have now completed work on the east colonnade. The east colonnade consists of two rows of three columns each. It flanks the entrance to Temple A, whose granite threshold is under the red-and-white meter stick. (The pylon in which the threshold used to sit has completely disappeared). Although little of the colonnade remains, we can tell that it was built at least in part during the Ptolemaic Period.

William Peck mapping the colonnade

Now that we have exposed the colonnade, William Peck is able to map it. For such a relatively simple structure, William uses only tape measures; for more complex plans he would use a surveyor's instrument called a theodolite.

Plan of colonnade, rough copy

A rough copy of the finished plan is shown here. The final version will be added to plans of adjacent areas made in earlier years, gradually building up a clearer picture of how the site looked in antiquity and of what the relationships were among its buildings.

Temple A's threshold

Here we are looking south across Temple A's threshold. Just in front of the largest granite block you can see what looks like a sliver of granite. We wonder what it is. We are also curious about whether the threshold's blocks might have been re-used from an earlier structure: granite is a hard stone that was brought from quarries far to the south, so it was often recycled.

Archeologists brushing dirt from granite

We have now cleared the sliver of granite, which proved to be a large square block that had slipped out of its original position in the threshold. When we turned it over we found that it had indeed been re-used. This photo shows Richard and William brushing the dirt from the newly exposed side.

Base of granite statue

This piece of granite turns out to be the base of a statue of an adult figure, flanked by two pairs of very tiny feet. The only period in which you find such long, thin feet in combination with children's feet is the Amarna period, which means we have the remains of a large statue of either Akhenaten or Nefertiti. What a surprise! Another, smaller block from the threshold is the side of the head, but with only an ear and part of the headdress preserved. We may never know where the statue stood originally.

Ancient remains in West Porch

We have finally reached the ancient remains in the West Porch. The whitish heap to the left turns out to be broken up and badly decayed sandstone debris. The larger heap in the middle is also largely debris, although we hope to find the remains of the nothernmost column of the western row underneath it.

Entrance to Mut Temple's First Pylon

For this year's expedition, we decided to clear the main roadway from the Precinct's entrance to the Mut Temple's First Pylon. The present road is a build-up of dirt over the ancient levels. We are beginning at the south end, nearest the First Pylon, where there is much broken stone as well as damaged remains of ancient flooring, visible to the left and right. Just in front of the workmen are fragments of a column, probably from the East Porch, that shattered when it fell. We are not surprised to find such debris, as the porch columns seem to have fallen uniformly to the west when they collapsed.

First Pylon's gateway

Two phases in the construction of the gateway in Mut's First Pylon are visible here. In the center you can see the paving that runs underneath the threshold of the present gateway. Between that paving and the granite threshold block is a thin layer of sand, which is often used to level foundations. The paving that is contemporary with the granite threshold is visible to the left and right. The existing gate is Ptolemaic in date, but we don't yet know the date of the earlier paving.

Piece of ceiling block

This large piece of ceiling block, with one wing of a protective vulture, is one of several decorated fragments we've found so far in the road clearance. It probably came from the First Pylon's gateway.

Photographer capturing a worked block

In order to document our work, we photograph everything we find on site, which requires some improvising. A table, a board supported by blocks of stone, and a bed sheet make a fine impromptu photo studio. Here Mary McKercher, the expedition's photographer, takes a picture of a recently uncovered worked block.

Baked-brick vault

Work continued this week on the unusual feature in the north enclosure wall. The arch turned out to be a baked-brick vault that extends into the wall, narrowing as it goes; only the entrance is stone. We didn't want to dig too far lest the whole thing collapse. We found no drain leading into the clay pipe visible at the bottom of the picture, although there were a number of fallen bricks. Pottery in and around the pipe seems to be Roman in date.

Purported drain and surrounding area

A view of what may be the drain and the area in front of it, after excavation. The stone border of the feature seems to be later in date than the platform in front of the Sakhmet statue, while the careful placement of blocks behind the statue suggests they were part of the feature.

North view of vault feature

A general view north of the vault feature, with the alleged drain running under the sphinx. The mud-brick enclosure wall here rests on baked-brick foundations. The construction of the vault seems to be contemporaneous with the foundations. Are we looking at evidence of the repairs to Mut's walls by Emperors Augustus and Tiberius that are commemorated on stelae from the Precinct? The stone platform in the foreground may be the original base for the sphinx. We will probably never know when or why it was turned sideways.

William Peck's plan of vault

William Peck's plan of the area.

Chapel D's doorjamb

Chapel D (we don't know its ancient name) was excavated in 1978 by the Mut Expedition and, although we restored as much as possible at that time, very little remains. Recent work in the area by the Luxor Antiquities Departments uncovered many fragments of decorated stone, which we examined this year. To our delight, we were able to piece together the lower right doorjamb from these fragments. They are roughly in position in the front left of the photograph. We hope to be able to do a more formal reconstruction this year or next.

Conservators standing together

Danny Roy, stone expert from Chicago House, and Hiroko Kariya, a conservator who worked at the Brooklyn Museum and now at Chicago House, came to the site on February 6 to consult with Chief Conservator Ellen Pearlstein about reconstructing Chapel D's doorjamb.

Ellen works in the Mut Temple's First Court

Meanwhile, back at the Sakhmets . . . Ellen works in the Mut Temple's First Court on a Sakhmet that had broken into three pieces. Two of the pieces have been consolidated and are held in place with straps. The shiny areas show where Ellen has applied a coating that will strengthen break edges in preparation for re-assembling the statue.

Ellen treating a sphinx head

We have two new sphinx heads this year. Ellen treats the one we found at the beginning of the season while Richard examines a head discovered earlier by the French.