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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Drinking tea and overseeing work.

Rechecking stone fragments.

Meredith sketching a ceramic piece.

It’s early morning, and today is Coptic Christmas. Much of Luxor is celebrating, and it’s a national holiday in Egypt. However, due to our limited time to work this season, we are trudging onward. The workers may take the holiday if they wish, of course, but most do not. Early morning tasks include tea drinking: our Inspector Mr. Ahmed Abd el Raouf looks on to the trench with Meredith as they warm themselves and await the tea. Other morning work includes rechecking stone fragments from the refuse of the trench to look for decorated elements. Ashley and Andrew are busy doing this much of the morning. Meredith, on the other hand, picks up a small ceramic item from her square and sketches it in her notebook, making a description as she goes. The tasks are simple and repeated daily. It is in fact our dependence on that repetition and recording that will allow us to write up the work later.

Early morning shot of Chris' trench.

An early morning shot in Chris’ trench where Jay's photograph demonstrates well the situation we have. The upper small stones at the front of the wall run in a different angle to those larger ones beneath. We suspect that the additional ones above were placed for the purpose of shoring up this northwest corner beside the lake.  They were likely not at the time any longer part of a lake embankment. The dismantling of this top row of smaller stones will take place today to take any pottery under the stone and reach the larger stone that has been seen below.


At Shaina’s trench the slope is considerable, and it is difficult to follow the angle in the soil that varies between a hard packed surface and looser fill. Our aim is to identify any part of the stone embankment that may have continued around the temple peninsula.  Violaine and Shaina look on and discuss the large stone blocks in the square. Those visible in the photograph have slid down slope from above and are not part of the embankment – that ran at a lower level.

Shaina's trench.
Violaine and Shaina discuss the stone blocks.

Later in the day (note that the shedding of clothing layers always tells you the time) Violaine, Shaina, and Betsy continue the discussion of the stone. How this came to provoke laughter I cannot recall, but who says excavating is not fun?

Betsy, Violaine and Shaina continue the discussion.
Having fun while excavating.

Ashley brushing stone fragments.

Ashley is brushing every stone fragment from trench H where the top forty centimeters is largely stone rubble. We have found a number of decorated pieces from here already, and Ashley has found another, with well carved hieroglyphs. Her first duty is to measure, sketch, and describe the object. Then she will take it to Hiroko who will begin the conservation process. All you Egyptologists out there will recognize the familiar formulae indicating what a god provided to a king: given [all] life [stability] and dominion like Re forever. 

Close view of stone decorated with hieroglyphs.

Ashley recording her findings.


Today we are visited by the Japanese team that has been working on the west bank in Khokha, where elite tombs of the 18th Dynasty are located. Dr. Jiro Kondo heads that team, a superb archaeologist who has work in the tomb of Amenhotep III, in a variety of Theban tombs and elsewhere. He is particularly interested in the reign of Amenhotep III, and he is accompanied today by another excellent scholar, Dr. Nozomu Kawai – formerly a student of ours. Joining the group are our colleague and friend Dr. Tina DiCerbo and our own Dr. Richard Jasnow. Dr. J has been on sabbatical for the fall as he prepares another volume of his major work, The Book of Thoth, a collaboration with the German Egyptologist Theodor Zauzich. He is in Luxor with Tina and helping out with the Chicago House Demotic graffiti project she works on at Medinet Habu . They are all getting the tour from Betsy, but Richard and Tina stay on a little.

A visit from the Japanese team.
The Japanese visitors.

Hiroko cleaning a stone fragment.   Hiroko cleaning a stone fragment.
Richard Jasnow and Tina DiCerbo examine the fragment.

Hiroko has received a stone fragment from Chris, brought out from the dismantling of his upper wall in square C. It is encrusted on its surface and difficult to read, so she uses a combination of water and manual cleaning to attempt to remove the dirt. The encrustations will, however, make this more difficult. Clearly there is writing of some type on the surface, but it is difficult to see. Richard and Tina become intrigued and give it a try. After much looking (and cleaning) it became apparent that there are male and female offerers depicted with a text above them. The inscription is as yet too murky to read.

Dismantling the wall.   Bagging pottery finds.
Chris brushing stone fragments.

Back in Chris’ trench C, the dismantling of the upper wall proceeded in the morning, and the soil beneath the smaller stones was excavated in sub levels. The pottery was bagged from each of these levels, in hope that the sealed context will be helpful for dating when the upper wall was added. Afterwards Chris brushes each stone removed and does find two decorated pieces. You have seen one already.


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