It’s hard to believe that the season is almost over: this was our last full week of work, and it has been hot. Still, we finally reached the level of the paving west of the Taharqa Gate. In the center and north the paving is fairly well-preserved. On the south, however, it has been widely robbed out. Directly above the paving lies about 50 cm of fairly compact soil (although still with considerable amounts of pottery) that built up over the years and was probably a walking surface. Built on this level is the mud brick wall mentioned last week that forms the southern boundary of the area.
To the north we have been excavating mud brick structures built on a higher level of accumulated debris or fill that included the concentration of broken blocks of stone and pottery visible by the meter sticks. The wall in the rear of this photo eventually meets the wall running north from the Taharqa Gate, but we don’t yet know how far down it extends or if it is contemporary with the gate. The odd-shaped hole in the center, by the way, is an ancient animal den dug into the wall.
The situation with the mud brick in the excavation north of the baked brick building remains complex, as you may be able to tell from this photo. The walls in the foreground, to the left of the meter stick sit on a level of black ash that is itself above a thicker level of fairly dense grey ash. These walls are all earlier than the walls in the left of the photo, which are clearly built over the south end of the long narrow wall in the foreground. Mud brick architecture can be complicated.
Now that the walls of Chapel D have been restored (you’ll see the finished results in next week’s blog) we can turn our attention to the paving. We cleaned what is left of the paving in the central room of Chapel D this week. As the last phase of our restoration of this building we will be replacing the missing or badly decayed blocks with new stone next week.
Just to refresh your memories, the photo on the left shows the back (south side) of the Taharqa Gate’s south wing early in the restoration process, with a long board holding the remaining blocks of the facade in place. On the right is the same area on Thursday. Following the footprint of the gate’s foundations, we have built a new core to support the blocks of the facade.
On the left is the east face of the south wing, with its single decorated block (the lower part of a kneeling fecundity figure) back in place. Originally two of these figures faced each other and supported the king and a deity, as on the west face (right). Here we have given the king and the goddess back their feet. The tilted block on the right is the last block, which will go back on the prepared area to the left on Saturday. All that will be left then is to cover the repairs with a final coating tinted to match the stone, as we did with the north wing.
We found a couple of nice fragments of sculpture this week. On the left is part of the belt and kilt of a king, whose name would have been written on the belt buckle – just where the break is. On the right is a sandstone fragment of an elaborate robe. We’re not quite sure what part of a statue it comes from. If only we had more of both!
Even we tend to take Sakhmet statues for granted, rarely looking closely at them. Richard, however, noticed these two busts, which are on view at the front of the precinct. At first glance, both seem equally beautifully carved, with detailed manes and wigs. But look at the eyes: the Sakhmet on the left has the usual well-proportioned, clearly-defined, somewhat sad eyes. The other statue has tiny, shallowly-carved eyes that are out of proportion to the rest of the face.
And finally, here is our on-site office: 3 metal tables under a pair of tented shelters. Here John can work on coins while Jaap registers objects, Ben draws a pot and Richard consults his notes. It’s the only shade on the site and is popular with us all, particularly on hot days like we’ve had this week.
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.