2006 Dig Diary: Week 9
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February 26, our last day of work and our last chance to get the ram onto its new base. Once again the Centre Franco-Egyptien des Temples de Karnak came through for us, lending us the big crane and one of their experts to rig the ram.
The ram flies for the last time. By now, some people might be blasé about seeing 5 tons of stone sail through the air, but we sure aren't. It's thrilling and scary.
We have to get the ram positioned just right on its new base before the straps come off. Once it's down, it's down for good. Essam and Khaled make sure everything is okay.
Now that the ram is in position, we can put the final touches on it and its base—filling the spaces we had left to accommodate the lifting straps, filling gaps between the ram and the base (there were a few), and finishing the surface of the base itself.
Tina carefully removes the strips used to support particularly fragile areas while the ram was being conserved and lifted.
This photo shows the ram as it looked for years (possibly centuries) with the remains of a small chapel crushed under it.
Here is the same area at the end of the 2006 season. The ram is back in its original position and what is left of the chapel's east wall has been given a new foundation. At the far end of the row of sculptures is the sphinx whose head we re-attached last season.
Here is the first of two detailed photos of the ram after restoration. This photo shows the side of the ram exposed for all those years; the original surface is entirely eroded away.
This photo shows the side that was buried; the details of the ram's fleece and its right horn are well preserved. Someone in antiquity even scratched a small graffito of a man just behind the ram's foreleg.
We completed the restoration of the Lepsius Gate this week. This photo shows the front of the gate—the restored east jamb is on the left.
When we rebuilt the gate, we put the re-used block with the Merenptah cartouche back in its original position in the lowest course of the gate's east face, but we left it visible. It didn't seem right, however, to hide the re-used Mut relief by putting it back in its original position, so with the approval of the SCA, we built it into a blank space in the gate's east face where it can be seen and enjoyed.
We also finished the Sakhmet restoration project this year. This photo shows the east half of the Mut Temple's 1st Court, where we put the last statues and statue pieces on new bases; we built a protective wall behind the row to keep dirt from drifting down from the mud brick pylon and covering the bases.
We built a similar wall behind the statues on the west side of the court. In addition to protecting the statues, the new walls provide them with an effective backdrop.
When we first worked in the area of the fallen ram, we found fragments of limestone with very fine sunk-relief inscriptions. We found more this year when we lifted the ram. They may all come from the same monument and probably date to Dynasty 25 or 26. In his last few days with us, Jaap van Dijk traced the fragments we found this year so that we can try to piece them together on paper at least.
We are pleased with the excavation work, as well. This photograph, taken on the last day of work after the final cleanup, shows the work site in Temple A's Forecourt, where we began, and the area north of Mut's First Pylon, where we concentrated our efforts. Here, instead of an unexplored heap of dirt we now have a clearly-defined set of structures and features, although we don't yet understand how they all relate to each other. Figuring this out will be one of next season's tasks.
Speaking of things to figure out, here is this year's mystery feature. You are looking south into one of the vaulted rooms, where we found a pair of unusual mud brick constructions. Does the curved brick wall belong with the vaulted room, or is it part of an earlier structure (a granary?) that was covered when the rooms were built? The straighter line of brick stood at least this high when the vaulted room burned, as we found ash on either side of it, as well as on top. Does it have anything to do with the curved bricks or not? We won't know until we finish the excavation next winter.
Bill Peck is a superb draftsman and mapmaker. On the left is his plan of the part of Temple A we excavated this year.