Features: Mut Precinct, Dig Diary 2006

2006 Dig Diary: Week 4

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Large brick wall in Temple Forecourt

Well, we didn't find what we expected in the sounding in Temple A's Forecourt. Instead of an earlier enclosure wall running north-south under the 19th Dynasty Pylon (rear), we seem to have found a fairly large wall running east-west (foreground, under meter stick) with 5 courses of brick preserved. We'll have to come back to this later in the season if we have time. The arrow beside the meter stick points north to orient you.

Archeologists on scaffold

Friday is our day off, so some members of the team headed to the Luxor Temple with Hiroko Kariya, a former Brooklyn Museum conservator who has been working with the University of Chicago's Epigraphic Survey for the last few years. Bill took this picture of the brave members who climbed the high scaffolding to get a closer look at the restoration work the University of Chicago has been carrying out.

Mary giving a talk

On Saturday Mary gave a talk on Egyptomania in American Architecture as part of the weekly lecture series organized by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) for Egyptologists working in the Luxor area, as well as anyone interested in Egyptology. Here she is describing Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. In a couple of weeks, Richard will give a lecture on the work at the Mut Precinct.

Surveying north area of Temple

Our first big job this week was to lay out 10-meter squares in the area north of the Mut Temple's 1st Pylon, using a grid system French archaeologists established for Karnak. Using a theodolite, Bill starts from a determined datum point and sights along a line, focusing on the string and plumb bob Elsie is holding. When the plumb bob (a pointed weight that makes the string hang perfectly straight) is over the precise spot, a metal stake is driven into the ground. Four of these stakes mark the corners of the square.

Border between squares 2 and 3

You are looking north along the border between squares 2 and 3, marked by the white string running up the center of the photo. The strings on either side mark the edges of the baulk (wall) between the squares. The vertical faces of baulks preserve a record of what has been excavated in the square and are generally drawn and photographed before being removed. Under the meter stick and extending across both squares 2 and 3 (east to west) is an extensive area of burning. If you look closely, you'll see that to the right of the meter stick are several rows of brick burnt red in what must have been a large fire.

East baulk of square 3

Here is a view of the east baulk of square 3 a few days later. We have removed some of the bricks visible in the last picture that had clearly fallen and were lying on dirt. What we have left is this interesting curved row of bricks that continues into square 2 to the east. Are we looking at the remains of a vaulted ceiling or is the curve coincidence? We don't know yet.

Southeast view of square 3

Here is a general view to the southeast of square 3, taken at the end of the week. The thin line running from right to left in front of the workmen is the northern edge of a large brick wall or platform (we don't know which yet). On the right, Qufti Shergawi (squatting) and a workman are looking for the face of the pylon, which became buried under fallen mud brick and blown dirt over the centuries. In the center, Qufti Mahmoud and another workman carefully work in the square's eastern room, which at this point is much more interesting.

Exposed west and north walls of east baulk

In the eastern room, whose east baulk has the possible vaulting, we have defined the west and north walls. The west wall (right) is wider than we expected given the slim wall that was visible before we began excavating. In front of the north wall we uncovered two pottery bins or ovens. The one on the left is rather broken; the one to its right (in front of the meter stick) is carefully placed within its own thin brick walls. The center of the room is filled with burnt brick debris; we have yet to reach the floor of the room.

Draftsman Bill

Bill is our draftsman. He prepares the detailed plans we need to be able to understand the site and publish the results of our work. The paving he is standing on (and drawing) is the main road leading from the Precinct's front gate to the gate in the Mut Temple's 1st Pylon, visible behind him. A workman assists him by clearing dirt off the paving.

Lower portion of doorjamb

In 2005, Jaap van Dijk was able to piece together the lower portion of Chapel D's east doorjamb from broken fragments of stone the SCA discovered working in the Precinct from 2001–2003. We built a foundation for the blocks at the end of the season and assembled them roughly in position, in preparation for the final reconstruction this year. It's like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

Lisa preparing rebuilding compound

Lisa has to prepare a special cement-like compound to use in rebuilding the doorjamb. All the ingredients have to be hand-sifted, which is a tedious but necessary job.

Workers during reconstruction

For the actual reconstruction Lisa has lots of help. Jaap is on hand to be sure the blocks are positioned properly. Khaled Mohammed Wassul (in the black shirt), an SCA conservator from the Luxor Temple, is working with us this year. He and Lisa are ably assisted by Mohammed Gharib (in front of Lisa), a skilled restoration technician.

Archeologist restoring doorjamb

The doorjamb as it was Wednesday morning. We expect to finish this restoration project by early next week.

Builder with wheelbarrow

It is interesting to watch a mud brick wall being built. The bricks are merely earth mixed with water and fine straw and shaped with a hand mold. In the upper left corner, you can see a man preparing the mortar that is brought to the builder in a wheelbarrow. The mortar is simply a thinner mix of earth, chopped straw, and water. It is prepared on site.

Row of Sakhmet statues

The wall behind the Sakhmets in the Mut Temple's 1st Court is coming along nicely. It should be finished early next week.