The Brooklyn Museum Mut Expedition’s 2010 season of fieldwork is just getting underway. Once again we will be posting a blog each Friday describing the work of the past week. We hope the blog will help viewers understand the complexities of archaeological excavation and the many activities it involves. If you aren’t familiar with the precinct and our work there, check out the Mut Expedition part of the museum’s website.
As always, the flight from Cairo to Luxor was fascinating. This year’s route took us closer to the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea than usual. Imagine how this would have looked when the ancient rivers were full and fed into the now-long-gone lake. The Red Sea is a blue haze in the background.
I thought my eyes were playing tricks when I saw this sweep of orange, but it was real.
I’m a sucker for ancient waterways, particularly when the streams feeding the rivers look like veins on some strange leaf.
Our first day of work, Wednesday, January 13 was devoted to cutting back the vegetation that had grown over the past several months. Much to our relief there was very little this year, mostly camel thorn rather than thickets of tall grass.
Once the thorn-cutting was underway, Richard had a chance to sit with our inspector, Hassan Mahmoud Hussein, and our foreman, Reis Farouk Sharid Mohammed and discuss plans for the season. We are pleased to be working with both of them this year.
Thursday we started to work while the thorn-cutting continued. Qufti Abdel Aziz Farouk Sharid (left) was back tackling the confusing mud brick north of the Mut Temple’s 1st Pylon, while Qufti Mahmoud Abbadi, a superb excavator, is working in the area west of the Taharqa Gate. We are glad to have both of them with us, along with Qufti Ayman Farouk Sharid and Abdullah Mousa, who are supervising other areas today.
Hassan and Mahmoud discuss the work underway.
On the left is the kiln area north of the Mut Temple’s 1st Pylon at dawn on Thursday. We finally had to remove the square, baked brick feature from a later phase that we’ve been using as a mapping reference for several years. Once it was gone, Abdel Aziz almost immediately found mud brick – what a surprise! As you can see on the right, the brick isn’t terrifically clear yet, but we are hoping it will make sense in a couple of days.
Our first task in the Taharqa Gate area is to finish the work on the approach we began last year, starting in the SW corner of the square. What looks like a projecting wall in front of Mahmoud (left) is really a single course of bricks sitting on debris. Its removal confirmed that the boundary wall that you can see behind Mahmoud continues into the baulk as expected. The stub of brick sticking out below the boundary wall in the picture on the left is now revealed as the remains of an earlier wall over whose remains the boundary wall was built (right). Mud brick is never easy!
The sacred lake (“isheru”) at Mut is once again full (the Johns Hopkins team had drained it in 2009 to explore the shoreline) and the water birds that we missed last year have returned. Unfortunately so have the reeds. The east side of the lake (left) is once again pretty well clogged although the west side is still fairly clear.
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.