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Friday, January 16, 2009

The group visits the Valley of the Kings.

Today is Friday, our day off, and we head to the Valley of the Kings where Inspector Ali Reda greets us to give us a tour of the newest Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) excavations there. The first location is below the tomb of Merneptah (son of Ramesses II).  The photograph shows the ancient rainwater course cut to accommodate flash flooding in the Valley. At the top of the photo (which is above and behind the tomb) is a cliff that produced a water fall when it rained, and at the bottom of the photo you can see a deliberately cut winding path that brought the water safely away from Merneptah’s tomb. As they are digging they are looking for the tomb of Merneptah’s mother, Isisnofret. Both the waterfall and the queen’s burial place were mentioned in an ancient inscription found in the Valley.

Below the tomb of Merneptah

The watercourse.

In front of Tutankhamun's tomb.
Remains of workmen's huts.

The second area of the excavations is directly in front of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Ali shows us the deep clearance toward the south and KV 63 discovered by Dr. Otto Shaden quite recently. Workmen huts of the New Kingdom are seen throughout the area cleared. Ali points out that Howard Carter cleared down through most of this during the period of searching for Tutankhamun’s tomb. But now the SCA is beneath Carter’s debris and found a cut floor. Very interesting.

Ali describes the SCA excavations.

The annual dig picture.

A real treat for us today, thanks to the SCA and Dr. Zahi Hawass, was a visit to the tomb of Nefertari. Here we take our annual dig picture, with everyone present and beaming from the great visit. It is truly a special site to see.

Visiting the elite tombs.

After lunch we headed over to the open elite tombs and visited a total of five – Userhet and Khonsu, both funerary priests for kings, Benia, an overseer of works for Thutmose III and certainly a foreigner who did well in Egypt, Nakht, and Menna, two of the best known and beautifully painted tombs. The tomb of Menna is now being studied by Dr. Melinda Hartwig and a team of scientists.

Visiting a friend of Betsy's.

On our way back to meet the taxi we saw an old friend of Betsy’s. The young lady Fatima was a child who lived and worked at Qurna when JHU was working at the tomb of Suemniwet. Fatima was then 8 years (1994). Now she has three daughters of her own and the oldest is 5 and in the English language school. She showed us her impressive ABCs that she wrote herself. Fatima is determined that her daughters will have advantages in school that she never had. We came away quite inspired.

Betsy with Fatima's daughter.

On the ferry.
Betsy checks her email.

Back on the ferry heading east, the end of a wonderful day. The group chats, and Betsy checks email on the Blackberry. The world has almost returned to normal--- but it’s Luxor. And there is never a bad sunset in Luxor.

Sunset over the Nile.


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