The month on the traditional Egyptian calendar known as “Imsheer” (mid-February to mid-March) began this week and so far is living up to its reputation for unpredictable weather and high winds. Monday was incredibly hot. Tuesday the site was scoured all day by clouds of dust borne on the blustery Imsheer winds that continued to kick up on Wednesday. No treat for people or digital cameras.
On the 8th we restored the last of the blocks to the facade of the Taharqa Gate’s north wing. With all the blocks in place, the masons began to apply the final facing, using an improvised scaffolding to reach the upper levels.
A view from the west of the north wing of the gate at the end of work on Thursday, just as the light is beginning to make the figures on the facade visible. You can make out the back of Amun’s crown with its hanging streamer on the west face of the top block – the first time in centuries that it has been back in its proper place. I just wish we had his face and the rest of Taharqa’s body!
Khaled and his team did a great job on this wing of the gate, seen here at the end of the day on February 12. The blocks that could be restored are in place and the color of the finishing coat matches the original stone very well (the darker patches are still drying). Congratulations guys!
We have now turned our attention to the gate’s south wing. At some point in history, the east face collapsed to the south, leaving a heap of large blocks (left) that had to be removed before we could begin work. This was accomplished fairly quickly on the 8th, revealing the wing’s foundation course (right), which is in pretty good shape. We have found no trace of a core of large blocks similar to the north wing’s. Either this gate was built without one or the core blocks were robbed out ages ago, leaving only the facade. At any rate, even from the back you can see that this wing has not fared as well as the other.
In fact, the blocks of the south wing are in worse shape than expected; perhaps the lack of a supporting core caused the more serious deterioration of this wing, or perhaps it was simply made of poor stone. Khaled and crew immediately got to work cleaning and consolidating these fragile blocks.
With perfect timing, conservator John Steele arrived this week in time to see the last phase of work on the Taharqa Gate’s north wing and the start of work on the south. Welcome back, John! Here he and our inspector Osama examine a few of this season’s deteriorated bronze coins that John will be treating. John will begin blogging soon on his work at the site.
In the southern part of the square west of the Taharqa Gate we have been digging mostly through earth with a heavy concentration of pottery, mostly large cooking pots and storage jars. While it is probably the remains of an ancient dump, it may also have been intentionally deposited as landfill to level up the area. To give you some idea of how deep we have dug from the modern surface, Qufti Abdel Aziz (arrow) is about 6 ft. tall.
And finally Abdel Aziz and his team are getting some reward for their work. They have uncovered a substantial mud brick wall running across the entire south end of the square (rear of photo) with a narrower wall to its north. The large wall meets a north-south wall uncovered some years ago; it is just to the left of the man with the wheelbarrow.
In the south square, we continue to find mud brick walls that continue to be somewhat confusing. In this photo, for instance, the bricks labeled 1-3 are all part of the same wall (cut by later pitting) that runs under the course of bricks labeled 4, so 1-3 are earlier. Wall 5 is not part of wall 4 but was built against it. It is a shallow wall, only a couple of courses deep, so was probably the latest part of this construction. The pottery at the lower left lies against wall 1 on a surface that is associated with the wall. Confusing isn’t it?
We did make one interesting discovery in this area this week: at least the north wall of the baked brick building has a sand foundation trench, just visible behind the meter stick, and 2 small walls run up to its face. By the way, the rather dramatic curve to the building’s foundations is the result of a subsidence of the land on which it was built; it is not intentional.
Here are a couple of the small finds from the season so far. On the left is a very detailed mould for making wadjet-eye amulets. On the right is the upper part of an odd terracotta figure that seems to be a bearded man with what we think is a heavy wig that is broken off on the proper left side.
On Thursday we saw our first cattle egret of the season wandering among fallen mud bricks and camel thorn in the area of the houses west of the Taharqa Gate. We wonder if it’s the same bold bird that we saw last year as he allowed us to get quite close before flying off.
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.