This is the posting intended for January 28 but not sent because of the lack of internet service in Egypt at that time. Richard and I have decided to post this dig diary entry as originally written and will follow up next week with an “end of the season” posting.
We were able to finish the short study season as scheduled and never felt at risk while in Luxor. By February 1, though, the options for getting a flight out of Luxor were becoming rather limited as most tourists had left and few planes were flying into or out of the city. We decided to cut down our post-season “leisure time” and leave for home a few days early. Although the internet was back up by about February 2, the need to complete reports and last-minute details before our February 4 departure left us no time for dig diary postings before we left.
We thank everyone for their expressions of concern and their good wishes. This is a very difficult time for the Egyptians and for anyone who knows and loves Egypt. We can only hope for the best.
For those interested in what is happening with the monuments, Dr. Zahi Hawass, now the Minister for Antiquities, has been posting regular updates on the situation on his website, www.drhawass.com.
It’s hard to believe that our study season is almost over; our last day of digging will be Saturday, January 29 followed (we hope) by a week of mapping, photography and study. It has been a successful, if short, season. We now know that the wall along the south side of the new square is, indeed, part of the south boundary wall of the approach to the Taharqa Gate. It was built in 2 sections; the join is just to the right of the narrow baulk between the 2 parts of our excavation. The western section (right) goes one course deeper than the eastern section in order to accommodate an unevenness in the ground on which the wall was built.
It has been an interesting week (at least to us) in what is a relatively small excavation area. On Sunday morning we came on this pale grey rectangle abutting the boundary wall in the SE corner of the area, which contained a great deal of pottery.
The rectangle proved to be a shallow enclosure bordered with compact grey clay-like earth that reminded us forcibly of the very similar feature from last season in which we found a number of oyster shells. This year’s feature, like the one in 2010 was not only full of pottery but was built on a layer with many pieces of baked brick and sherds, including much of a large storage jar (behind the meter stick). Unlike last year, however, we found no oyster shells.
The narrower western section of the excavation wasn’t dull either. The photo on the left shows a solid grey surface with a narrow wall across it, cut at its west end by a fairly large pit. This surface was continuous across both the east and west parts of the excavation at the level of the bottom of the boundary wall. At first it seemed that the pottery-filled pit was fairly shallow. In fact, we thought we had emptied it on Tuesday, but found yet more pottery on Wednesday (right, looking north). This time we were even more certain we’d reached the bottom. Not so. More pots early on Thursday (not shown)!
It wasn’t until we hit this large sandstone block sticking out from the west baulk late on Thursday that we were sure that we had, at last, reached the bottom of a pit that ended up being 60 cm deep. If you look closely you can see a pot sitting on top of the block right at the baulk. The block of stone really piques our curiosity.
On Thursday we finally hit the 25th Dynasty paving about 110 cm below the bottom of the boundary wall. It continues the curve toward the south that we discovered in 2010. We still don’t know the reason for the southward turn, but we now know that it is intentional rather than an illusion caused by a few oddly laid blocks. We hope to reach the paving in the rest of the area, east and west, on Saturday and to find out if the block in the west trench is actually a displaced paving slab.
I thought I’d end this week with this picture of Temple A, taken early Wednesday morning when the light was particularly clear. You are looking directly west along the temple’s main axis and can just make out the Taharqa Gate in the background.
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.