Features: Mut Precinct, History

Exploration of the Mut Precinct

One of the earliest plans of the Mut Precinct was produced by the scholars of the Napoleonic Expedition of 1798–1801. It shows the main Mut Temple and the site's crescent-shaped lake. Later nineteenth-century explorers also visited the site and recorded their observations, including Nestor l'Hôte, whose 1839 reconstruction drawing includes accurate details not present on other plans. The Royal Prussian Expedition of 1842–45, led by Karl Lepsius, and the first Directors of the Department of Antiquities of Egypt, Auguste Mariette and Gaston Maspero, also recorded the site's monuments. From 1895 to 1897, Margaret Benson and Janet Gourlay conducted the first serious archaeological work at the site, concentrating primarily on the Mut Temple proper. Although they were amateurs as archaeologists, their work was not bad for their day, and they were able to call on the expertise of scholars such as Percy Newberry and Gaston Maspero. Their book, The Temple of Mut in Asher, is on a par with other archaeological works of its time.

No further work of note took place at the Precinct until the 1920s, when Maurice Pillet, working for the Department of Antiquities of Egypt, excavated Temple A, in the northeast corner of the site, and the Temple of Ramesses III (Temple C) west of the sacred lake, both visible in the aerial view. In the 1950s, the French archaeologist Henri Chevrier carried out limited excavations in the Mut Temple, and in the 1970s, Serge Sauneron, Director of the Centre Franco-Egyptien des Temples de Karnak, began work on the texts of the Propylon, the site's main entrance. His work was cut short by his untimely death in 1976.

In 1976, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Supreme Council for Antiquities) granted permission to the Brooklyn Museum to begin a systematic exploration of the site and its monuments. The Detroit Institute of Arts assisted in this work from 1978 to 2001. The Brooklyn team's twentieth season of work is currently taking place under the leadership of Richard Fazzini, Chair of the Museum's Department of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art and director of the expedition since its inception. Click here to read the Dig Diary. Since 2001, Brooklyn has shared the site with a team from Johns Hopkins University under the direction of Dr. Betsy Bryan, the Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptology. Although the two expeditions work independently, they collaborate on projects when appropriate.

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Napoleonic Map

Napoleonic map of the Mut precinct

Prussian map of the Mut precinct

Prussian map of the Mut precinct

Margaret Benson and Janet Gourlay

Margaret Benson (right) and Janet Gourlay