2006 Dig Diary: Week 6
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Here we are at the end of work on the last day of week 6. On the extreme left is a small gateway at the east end of Mut's 1st Pylon that we cleared earlier in the season. It is now occupying our attention, as you will see. Of the rooms against the pylon, the 4th room from the left produced something of a surprise. On the right, we have cleared much of the east side of the temple's East Porch. And square 4, which had just a few stubs of walls last week, is finally beginning to make a little sense.
One day, towards the end of the day (it seems we always find things that require a lot of careful work at the end of the day), Qufti Amad called us over to look at something he was uncovering in the 2nd room in square 3. Richard immediately grabbed a gudoom (adze) and got down to work with Amad.
Here it is: a stela showing a king (left) offering a temple to the goddess Mut. The temple is represented by the pylon gateway in front of the king. Unfortunately the stela isn't inscribed, although the king's cartouche and the borders for two columns of text in front of Mut were carved. From the style of the carving, however, the stela clearly dates to the end of the Ptolemaic Period or the beginning of the Roman Period.
We began taking down the baulk between squares 2 and 3 this week, as we were certain the wall between square 2's 2nd room and square 3's 1st room lay under it. (See this week's first photo—an overview of the work area. Square 2's 2nd room is 2nd from the left; square 3's 1st room is next to it, 3rd from the left). We were right. Under the burnt brick debris are the remains of a vault, which Mahmoud is carefully clearing (photo left).
Remember last week's mystery feature in Square 3, room 2? We are now certain it is one arch of a vault that maintained its shape as it fell into the room.
The red brick with striations (previous photo, in front of the meter stick) is very much like the bricks you find in the vaults of Ramesses II's funerary temple, called the Ramesseum (photo left). While the Ramesseum is centuries older than the vaults at Mut, the construction principle is the same. The vaulting explains the thick walls we commented on in week 4—they are needed to support the weight of the brick vaulting.
Last week we also complained about the walls in square 4 that went from nowhere to nowhere. Nicely enough, the L-shaped stub (foreground) has become the southeast corner of a structure whose west wall runs behind the Mut Temple's East Porch, just visible in the background. The north wall seems to parallel the colonnade in front of Temple A that we excavated last year.
Square 3 ends at the east wall of the East Porch. This week we reached the bottom of the column bases on this side. At some time in antiquity, someone dug a large hole along this side of the porch. As with the foxholes, we had to excavate this intrusive element carefully to avoid mixing materials from two or more periods.
We consulted Frank Burgos, a stonemason who has worked for several years with the Centre Franco-Egyptien des temples de Karnak, and is now overseeing the restoration work being carried out by the Hopkins team in Mut's 2nd Court. We want to minimize the risk of the ram splitting apart when we try to turn it over. Frank suggested drilling 4 holes through the layers and inserting stainless steel rods held in place with epoxy—sort of the way toothpicks hold together a thick sandwich. Lisa looks on as he finishes the 4th hole.
Frank's electric drill creates fairly strong vibrations, so we packed the upper part of the ram with sand to cushion the drill's effects. While Frank drilled the ram's underside, Lisa and Khalid monitored the upper side for vibration damage. It was a tense time, but we were lucky, and all went well.
Tina March (on right), objects conservator at Brooklyn Museum, joined us on February 5, the day of the drilling. She got right to work with Lisa, injecting the epoxy that will hold the stainless steel rods in place.
This is the east wing of the "Lepsius Gate," so called by the expedition because we discovered it precisely where it appeared on the Precinct map drawn by Karl Lepsius, leader of the Royal Prussian Expedition to Egypt in the 1840s. When we finished clearing the gate, we discovered the east wing to be in poor condition. The south corner (foreground) needed to be propped up with bricks until it could be repaired, a fairly easy task. The north end, however, was in danger of collapse. With only a few weeks of work left we suddenly have a new conservation project.
The only way to solve the problem is to take the north half of the gate apart, build a new foundation, consolidate the blocks of the gate where they need it, then put the whole thing back together. We started this week.
We are finding a few re-used blocks in the gate, so Lisa, Tina, and Jaap consult while Khalid treats one of the more fragile stones. It's a real team effort as always.
In the lowest course of the partially dismantled gate, just behind the meter stick, there is a block with cartouches of King Merenptah, a son of Ramesses II.
This photo shows a rather nice relief of Mut that came from one of the higher courses. The re-use of these blocks and others confirms that the gate was built after the New Kingdom.
In fact, we can date the gate a little more closely. In a hole in the second course of stone (in front of the meter stick) we found a tiny falcon amulet and a small strip of bronze that seem to have been deliberately placed there.