2005 Dig Diary: Week 6
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February 24 was our last day of work at the site. Time to clean up and take some final pictures. We're pleased with the work this year. Compare this picture of the front area of the Precinct with the one taken the first week to get an idea of what we've accomplished. Let's look at the results in more detail. The restored sphinx is in the lower right corner of the picture.
You are looking east across the main north-south road into the Precinct to the newly cleared colonnade that flanks the approach to Temple A. The fallen colossal statues of Ramesses II are to the left and right. In the background, Sakhmet statues stand on their new bases in front of the temple's first stone pylon. The decayed blocks in the middle of the picture are all that remain of the ancient road that connected the Taharqa gate and the temple. We hope to restore this paving in a future season.
We finally finished the West Porch! To our surprise, the west row of columns (to the right) is much better preserved than either the east row of this porch or the entire East Porch. During Dynasty 25, a small chapel was set into the Mut Temple's First Pylon at the south end of the Porch (rear) by Nesptah, son of Montuemhat, who oversaw the work ordered by King Taharqa. Both the location of the chapel and its dedication to a private person rather than to a king or god make it a rarity.
Of course, well-preserved is a relative term at the Mut Precinct. The desert across which this lizard is walking is actually the top of a column, which has crumbled so thoroughly that plants are growing through it.
We did not try to lift up the fallen column drums to the right of the West Porch. That will be work for another season, as will be the restoration (where possible) of the row of ram-sphinxes in front of the pylon. We will also have to try to figure out the purpose of the low baked-brick and mud-brick wall that starts at the Porch's third column and runs west across the center of picture. It stops just short of the mastaba built by the Egyptian inspectors who worked here a few years ago.
It is an archaeological tradition to find a mystery structure on the last day or two of an excavation, when there is no time left to explore it. This year was no exception. The circular feature shown here lies north of the brick wall seen in the previous picture and west of the Porch's first and second columns. It is made of stone and baked brick. There seems to be a channel of bricks entering it in the foreground, and possibly bricks running through it. Was it built to hold a tree? Is it a well? How does it relate to the brick wall and the West Porch? We'll have to wait until next year to find out. Sometimes archaeology can be frustrating.
Now that the area west of the Precinct entrance has been cleared, some of the relationships between buildings are easier to see. Chapel D is the long building across the center of the picture. It sits just inside (to the right of) the gateway built during Dynasty 25 when King Taharqa enlarged the Precinct to include Temple A, creating a new west-to-east processional. At the time the Ptolemaic chapel was built, the Taharqa Gate was still functional. In the future we hope to complete the excavation of this gateway to find out exactly when it was blocked and what lies to the west of it.
So far this report has been mainly about buildings and roads. Didn't we find any interesting objects? Yes. First is the larger-than-usual Sakhmet head and torso you last saw as it came out of the ground. Ellen Pearlstein was able to re-attach the uraeus-cobra to the statue's forehead and to re-attach part of her crown. Unfortunately we don't yet have a body on which she will fit.
Out of the debris over the West Porch came this lovely fragmentary stone object. The inner side shows a bearded man holding a lamp.
The outer surface is also elaborately carved. It is only about 2 ½ inches long and may be part of an early Coptic lamp.
We found the block with the wig and crown of this Hathor column capital over 20 years ago in the ruins of the East Porch. This year we found the remains of a face while excavating the roadway… and they fit together! It's fun and satisfying to be able to rejoin long-separated fragments, even if you have turn them upside down to do it.
Another dig tradition is discovering an exciting (or at least interesting) object on the last day. Here is one of this year's two late finds from the West Porch: a relief of a Ptolemaic king (right) offering to Onuris, a deity associated with goddesses such as Mut, who are "Eyes of Re." Relief-decorated walls once linked the columns of each row in the East and West Porches; this is the largest portion of such an intercolumnar wall that we have ever found.
New York isn't the only place plagued by graffiti. This inscription may have been carved by a long-ago Greek tourist. The inscription is not complete, however, which suggests that temple personnel may have caught the would-be graffiti artist in the act.
In the end, we cleared over 100 feet of this road. In some places the debris was almost three feet deep, so it was quite a task. We intentionally left the area just inside the main gate unexcavated in order to be able to bring heavy equipment into the site if we need to without damaging ancient paving. For the first time in over 1,500 years, you can stand at the entrance to the Precinct and look (or walk) south along the main processional to the Mut Temple on the original paving. A satisfying end to the season.