2005 Dig Diary: Week 5
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When the West Porch collapsed, some of the columns simply toppled over, still in a row. This photograph of the south side (balk) of the excavation shows the remains of three sandstone column drums lying on their sides. All that is left of them is sand. The cloudy day provided clear, shadowless light that is very useful in site photography.
The large size of the columns in the West Porch doesn't really strike you until you stand beside a single fallen column drum, like the one in the left of this picture, which is over 3— feet in diameter. Imagine building a colonnade of blocks this size and larger without the help of a seeba (the tripod introduced in Week 1).
In this photograph looking southeast at the West Porch, taken February 14, the extent of the collapse of the west row of columns is clear. The large column drum from the previous picture is visible just in front of the ram-headed sphinx. Can you see a rectangular piece of dark grey stone in the shadow at the left side of the full-size picture? Given past finds in this area, any guesses what it might be?
Right, it is yet another lower half of a Sakhmet statue. That makes three lower halves and one upper half that we have found this season. After this photo was taken, we found two other pieces of the same statue that we were able to reattach. In order to mimic the even light of a cloudy day, our workmen held up a shade cloth (a bed sheet) to create a shadow.
When the Mut Temple's First Pylon collapsed, its mud bricks buried the south end of the West Porch. Richard decided to give the workmen a hand in clearing the debris from this collapse. Behind him is the tallest preserved column in the porch, with a ram-sphinx visible just beyond.
With the debris gone, we can finally see along the line of ram-sphinxes in front of Mut's First Pylon. The rams are symbols of the god Amun protecting the king, shown standing under a ram's chin. The Sakhmet statues between the sphinxes have been moved forward to be more visible.
The photos of the excavation may suggest that the Mut Precinct is in the middle of desert. Nothing could be further from the truth. These animals are grazing in pasture immediately east of the Precinct, amid a grove of date palms, and an ancient representation of the Precinct's sacred lake includes exotic fish and wild antelope. Today, the Precinct is surrounded by villages and farmland.
Once the decayed sandstone had been removed, the remaining paving in the northern part of the roadway proved to be surprisingly well preserved, as you can see in this photograph taken February 17. Closer to the gate in the First Pylon (rear), there is a great deal of stone debris from the collapse of the porches, which makes it more difficult to clear.
Out of the debris of the southern part of the roadway came these blue-painted fragments of a Ptolemaic inscription, probably from the East Porch. What makes them interesting is the name of the king: Ptolemy XII, father of the famous Cleopatra. This is the first Ptolemy XII cartouche we have found at the Mut Precinct.
February 17 was the last day at the site for Ellen Pearlstein and Herman te Velde. Richard, Herman, and Ellen sit and talk about work at the Precinct during a quiet moment.
It's Sunday, February 19, and we are in the last week of excavation. You can see the progress we've made in the West Porch even in the last five days. The remains of the first four columns have been completely cleared and work is under way on the fifth. Workmen are excavating the last of the debris between the east and west rows of columns.