For a second time this year, Egyptologist Betsy Bryan and her archaeological crew are sharing their work with the world. Online now is a special bonus season of their popular digital diary, a virtual window into day-to-day life on an archaeological dig.
With new posts appearing daily through early July, visitors to "Hopkins in Egypt Today" at www.jhu.edu/neareast/egypttoday.html will find photos of Bryan and her colleagues working on the second portion of The Johns Hopkins University s 12th annual expedition in Luxor.
Bryan scheduled the summer season of the excavation to compensate for a change in the university's academic calendar, which featured a shorter January intersession this year. The shorter break between semesters meant there was not enough time to bring any students to the site in January, so Bryan planned a summer season to allow them to participate in the study of pottery and small items found during earlier work.
The crew this season includes a stone mason, two artists who will train the three undergraduates who are participating, and one conservator, in addition to local workers, many of whom are specialized in moving large stones. James Schaefer, a member of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Council, will also be volunteering on-site.
The goal of the "Hopkins in Egypt Today" Web site is to educate visitors by showing them the elements of archaeological work in progress. Photographer Jay VanRensselaer will capture images of the team. The daily photos and detailed captions emphasize not only discoveries, but the teamwork among Bryan, her colleagues, students and their "gufti," the local crew members who are trained in archaeology. That teamwork is essential to a successful dig, Bryan said. The Web site typically garners more than 50,000 hits every winter when the dig is active.
The team's work is now at a point where the publication of the first seven years at the site is planned before any further excavation occurs behind the lake near the temple of the goddess Mut. To that end, all the new digging will be taking place inside the temple, with graduate students conducting test excavation to study the sub-foundations. Major dismantling of temple walls in order to correct the effects of ground water is to be accompanied by the removal of architectural elements in the name of Queen Hatshepsut buried under the present temple. This material was discovered in 2006, but must await the work to restore the temple walls before it can be retrieved.
Meanwhile, the undergraduates — Emily Russo, a rising senior majoring in Near Eastern studies from Morristown, N.J.; Jessica Popkin, a rising junior majoring in Near Eastern studies from East Windsor, N.J.; and Dorothy Knutsen, a rising junior majoring in biology from Lakewood, Ohio — will work to draw pottery and small finds from the past six years in an effort to ready that work for publication in academic journals.
According to Bryan, modern-day Luxor is rich in finds from the New Kingdom, like last year's major discovery by the Johns Hopkins team: a 3,400-year-old nearly intact statue of Queen Tiy, one of the queens of the powerful king Amenhotep III. Bryan has said that the statue is "one of the true masterpieces of Egyptian art."
Bryan is the Alexander Badawy Professor in Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Johns Hopkins. Her work is made possible by an American Research Center in Egypt sub-grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
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