Features: Mut Precinct, Dig Diary 2005

2005 Dig Diary: Week 4

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Excavated sphinx head

When we arrived this season, we found a new sphinx head (left) on our main mastaba. Archaeologists from the Centre Franco-Egyptien des Temples de Karnak found it a couple of years ago during a brief period of work in the Mut Precinct.

Excavated sphinx head

We found another sphinx head very early this season. At first we thought neither head went with any of the headless sphinxes at the site, but further study and measurement suggested that the French find might belong to one of the sphinxes standing in a row just inside the Precinct entrance.

Fixing the sphinx

It is dawn on February 12. We have wrapped the sphinx head to prevent it from rubbing against the sphinx body as we lift it into place.

Realigning sphinx head

We're almost there. A workman carefully aligns the head (which weighs several hundred pounds) with the body. It's a tense moment. Will it fit?

Reunited statue

It's a perfect fit! For the first time in possibly two thousand years, the head and body of this sculpture have been reunited.

Repaired sphinx

Looking west along the row of sphinxes. The repaired sphinx is in the foreground.

Herman te Velde

The last arriving member of our expedition, Dr. Herman te Velde, retired professor of the State University of Groningen, came this week. Richard Fazzini and Jaap van Dijk welcome him and bring him up to date on the work this year. Dr. te Velde is an expert in Ptolemaic religious texts, of which the Mut Precinct has many.

Remains of two Sakhmet statues

Although sphinx heads are rare finds at the Mut Precinct, each season we usually find at least one Sakhmet statue or statue fragment. This year is no different. Just behind the meter stick you can see the remains of the lower halves of two Sakhmet statues that were broken up in antiquity and became buried under fallen and deteriorated sandstone at the north end of the West Porch.

Putting back pieces of sakhmet base

It seems that we might be able to put back together two pieces of one of the newly discovered Sakhmet bases. William Peck and our inspector, Ahmed Araby Yunis, supervise the trial run. This is one of William's last projects with us before he returns home.

Upper half of Sakhmet statue

We also found the upper half of a third Sakhmet in the same general area. She does not seem to belong to either of the bases we discovered, but rather to an unusually large statue. Several fragments belonging to this torso were also found and will be re-attached.

Row of Sakhmet statues

This season, we are continuing our project of conserving the site's existing Sakhmet statues and placing them on protective bases. Here you are looking northeast at the Sakhmet statues on the east side of the Mut Temple's First Court. They are now protected from the seepage of groundwater and the salts therein.

West Porch

Work continues on the West Porch, which is finally beginning to look like a colonnade. In this view to the south, taken on February 13, you can clearly see the first three columns in the west row in the center of the picture. The two lower halves of Sakhmet statues uncovered in this area flank the northernmost column. On the right, in front of the workmen, are the remains of two and possibly three more fallen columns. We hope to be able to complete excavation of this colonnade before we leave Egypt.

Clearing the sandstone road

Work continues apace on clearing the road between the Precinct entrance (rear of photo) and the Mut Temple itself. The roadway is paved in sandstone, which has deteriorated to sand in many areas.

Road and west porch

In 1979, we discovered a beautiful ram's head with the head of a king below its chin. Based on its style, Richard attributed the sculpture to the reign of King Taharqa. In 2001, we discovered the well-preserved front part and poorly preserved body of a second granite ram-sphinx that is inscribed for Taharqa, confirming Richard's theory. This second sphinx is visible in the middle of the picture, in front of the first column of the West Porch. The sphinxes seem to have been left in place when the porches were rebuilt during the Ptolemaic Period. As you can see, the paving of the road in this area is in somewhat better condition; you can even discern individual paving stones.