We flew up to Luxor from Cairo on January 13. The view out the window was absorbing: the mountains of the eastern desert always take my breath away. And the contrast between the fertile fields and the desert edge is dramatic. The desert begins precisely where the irrigation stops. You can literally stand with one foot in a green field and the other in desert sand.
We got our first look at the site yesterday, January 15, and what a change! The reeds around the Isheru, Mut’s sacred lake, have been cut down and the lake itself is empty. In the lower photo, Dr. Betsy Bryan, Director of the Johns Hopkins University Mut Expedition, and one of her team walk along what used to be the shoreline on the west side of the Mut Temple. Dr. Bryan is working with the American Research Center in Egypt (with funding from USAID) to drain the lake and excavate the shore and as much of the lake bottom as possible. A complex system of wells, pumps and pipes keeps the water level down. When Dr. Bryan’s work is finished, the pumps will be removed and the lake will refill itself. It is hoped that this renewal will improve the quality of the water in the lake. The ancient Egyptians would have approved: the concept of rebirth and renewal were fundamental to pharaonic thought, so the renewal of the Isheru fits well with pharaonic tradition. You can follow Dr. Bryan’s work on the lake at www.jhu.edu/egypttoday.
We start work on Saturday morning, so on Thursday we met with our senior Egyptian team members to discuss the plans for the season. Let me introduce them to you.
Our inspector from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) this year is Osama Saad Alla Hamdoun and we are very happy to have him with us. Richard and he made a tour of the site to talk about the work.
We are overjoyed that our foreman, Reis Farouk Sharid Mohammed, will be working with us again this year. He has been with the Mut Expedition almost from the first season and is an old and valued friend as well as a gifted archaeologist.
We are also very happy that Khaled Mohammed Wassel (right) is able to join us again this year. Khaled is the talented conservator who supervised the restoration of Chapel D last year. This year he will be concentrating on the Taharqa Gate. Before work, starts, though, he Richard and Osama share a light moment.
We are looking forward to an interesting season. Other team members arrive over the next several days, so work should be well underway by next week’s posting.
Mary McKercher holds a BA in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (specializing in Egypt) from the University of Toronto and is also a trained archaeologist. In 1979 she joined the Brooklyn Museum’s expedition to the Precinct of the Goddess Mut at South Karnak as photographer and archaeologist, roles she continues to fill. She has contributed to the Mut Expedition’s “Dig Diary” since it began in 2005, and put together the photographs for the 8 Mut Expedition photo sets on the museum’s Flickr site. With her husband, Richard Fazzini, she has also researched and written about the West’s ongoing fascination with ancient Egypt, commonly known as Egyptomania.