Features: Mut Precinct, Dig Diary 2006

2006 Dig Diary: Week 7

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Raising the ram

The big excitement this week was the raising of the ram. To get ready, a workman had to excavate a pathway under the ram to allow it to be rigged. We were all a little tense–that's a lot of stone.

Man with crane

It's February 14 and the crane is here! We had almost forgotten how big it is. We are most grateful to the Centre Franco-Egyptien de Temples de Karnak and the SCA for loaning this piece of equipment a second time. There is no way we could have done this work without it.

Strapping the ram statue

It was vital that the ram be properly rigged to avoid putting pressure on weak areas of the stone. Frank Burgos, an expert in these matters, supervised the placement of the straps with their foam padding on the fragile surface of the ram.

Tightening the straps

As you can see in this photo, Frank really had to work to get the straps tight. We're ready to go, but will the ram break free of the earth it has lain in for almost two millennia?

Crane lifting the ram

Yes! The crane lifted and the ram came up off its bed easily.

Aerial view of crane lift

This photo is an aerial view Richard took of the operation. The pile of sand covers what remains of the ram's original base. If there had been problems with the lift, we would simply have rolled the ram onto the sand and finished conservation there.

Maneuvering the ram

The ram was more stable than we expected, so we didn.t need the sand bed after all. We quickly prepared a place for it nearby. Watching Frank maneuver the five-ton statue as it hung in the air was amazing!

Lowering the ram

Here, the ram is carefully lowered into place on pieces of wood padded with foam.

Ram installed on temporary base

And here it is on its new, temporary base. What a Valentine's Day present! The surface of the buried side is in much better condition than the side that had been exposed to the air.

Cleaning the ram's surface

Tina got to work immediately, examining the newly revealed surface and cleaning it of centuries of accumulated dirt. The detailing of the horn beside Tina is preserved, as is the fleece pattern on the ram's flanks (previous photo).

Lepsius Gate's new foundation

We continued to work on the Lepsius Gate as well. At the start of the week we removed the deteriorated limestone foundation and laid down a bed of gravel as a water barrier for the new foundations. The next level of the foundation is cement with an imbedded reinforcing grid of iron bars. The bars for the grid were cut on site.

Hand-tying foundation wire

Here, Salah, the assistant restorer, is hand-tying each intersection with wire.

Recreated sandstone base

The cement base was covered with the plastic (another water barrier) that you can see here. The actual new foundation was then built with local sandstone cut on site to the precise dimensions of the original.

Repositioned gate with new foundation

Here we are at the end of the week. The foundation has dried and the lowest two courses of the gate are back in place. It is slow, painstaking work as each block has to be positioned, leveled, and then secured in place.

Dig site

While all this was going on, we were also continuing to dig. At the east end of the work area (square 2) we began work on a round feature of stone and baked brick that was full of pottery and broken stone, as you can see here. What was it? Our first guess was a well. It isn't unusual to find ancient wells filled with pottery, stone, and other debris. They are a convenient place to dump garbage once they've run dry or are no longer needed.

Unidentified brick-lined structure

It isn't a well. As you can see in this photo, the bricks stop after four courses and were very skillfully laid.

Unidentified structure

The east end, more visible here, is made of stone instead of brick. The entire structure may sit in a mud brick-walled room, although that is not yet certain. The bottom was not brick-lined, and we are still unsure as to what this curious structure is.

South view of mud brick wall

At the west end of the work area (square 3) we uncovered a rather thick mud brick wall that runs behind the East Porch. You are looking south here along the line of the wall. We don't know yet if it actually makes a corner with the wall in the foreground. The northern part of the wall was covered in the heavy layer of burning that runs through this year's work area, and you can see a considerable spill of pottery just behind the meter stick.

South view of square 4

In this photo, you are looking south into the room in square 4 that we began to uncover last week. In the lower area at the north end (foreground) we found pottery, fallen stone, mud brick walls, and more of the big foxhole (left of the meter stick). The higher level to the south, which is a layer of thick ash, is another matter.

Excavators sifting through dirt

On February 15 we started to find a few small objects such as coins and amulets, so we began sifting all the dirt from the area shown here. It was quite productive.

Examining excavated artifacts

Ben was supervising square 4, and the finds all came on his last day with us. What luck. Here he and Jaap examine and catalogue the burnt area's many small finds, which included several coins and the head of a faience figure of Isis among other things.

Cleaning a soapstone dish

Here Ben is cleaning a shallow, highly decorated soapstone dish, one of the more interesting items to come out of his area. It takes patience and a steady hand, but Ben has both.

Excavated dish and bowl

The dish Ben was cleaning is on the left in this photograph. The figures on the inner side of the dish represent Serapis (left) and Isis. On the right is a handled bowl, beautifully carved, from the same area but found a little later. The back of the handled bowl (right) is carved with the veins and lobes of a leaf or tree.

Dish and bowl, second view

The bottom of the dish, shown here, has an elaborate rosette surrounded by a band of grapes and vine leaves. The inside of the handled bowl is plain. Both objects date to the late Ptolemaic or Roman Periods.

Bill caught in a dust devil

There's only one drawback to digging in mid-February and March—the winds. By mid-morning waves of dust can blow across the entire site making work and photography difficult. Here Bill is caught in a "dust devil," a swirling mass of airborne dust that looks like a small tornado. A strong dust devil can upend light furniture and tear pages out of notebooks, not to mention clogging eyes and camera equipment.