egypt 2008 : pharaoh's curse or pharaoh's gold
Saturday, 2 February 2008
The title alludes to the fact that I'm not sure if this season was cursed or blessed or perhaps both. So before I delve into this season's adventures I've decided to get all the complaining out of the way. So if you want to skip all that just scroll down. Here is a list of the things that sucked this season:
1 : Being sick - practically the entire time, nose like a faucet, sore throat, coughing (major hacking), can you bruise your trachea? well it felt like it - it was so swollen and painful to the slightest touch, headaches, muscle aches. Frankly it was a miracle I lived through it all.
2 - 5 : EDITED (because I'm just a big complainer... but people seriously get on my nerves sometimes...)
6 : Missing the opportunity to have cocktails with eminent Egyptologist, Kent Weeks and his wife Susan. Kent came out to our site and I did get to shake his hand and chatted a bit. It was a dream come true I've wanted to meet this man for like 10 years now. We arranged to have cocktails at The Winter Palace the following Tuesday and when I arrived the reception desk wouldn't let me in because I was wearing jeans. Other than my dig pants all I had were jeans. They were very clean, it was the first time I was wearing them there and I had a very nice blouse on but they wouldn't give. I've never heard of a place in Egypt where you can't wear jeans. My flatmate suggested I wear her black pants so I walked back to the flat but the only black pants I could find were wet and hanging to dry. I was crushed! I think I cried for like an hour - hey this was a dream people! I was so upset because we could have moved our little cocktail party to the Nile Terrace of the hotel where jeans are allowed. But Wilkinson assures me that I have only delayed the inevitable. The Weeks' will be in town when we return and they have invited us to have dinner on their dahabeeyah (houseboat on the Nile). Sigh.
Basically a big ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!
Ok on to the good stuff! :)
Our workmen add buckets of excess dirt to our ever growing pile.
Now I can't give away too much here but once the final report has been published I can share all. (Reports from our previous seasons can be found on our website : University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition.) Our goal this year was to locate the back of the temple so that we could determine how many seasons we will need to finish the project. So the far south and far north trenches (TA1 and TA14 respectively) were pushed back. By the end of the season we may have reached the back of the temple in TA1 but have yet to reach the end in TA14 this is because many good things were being uncovered in this trench. MANY GOOD THINGS!!! One of the center trenches was also excavated.
Once the many good things started being unearthed I realized that I'm a bit bored of running the total station. It was a job that I took over in 2005 because I knew that it would make me a necessary team member and gave me the guarantee that I would be invited back each year. Don't get me wrong I love doing the mapping but archaeology is my true love and I so desperately wanted to get down into the trench and oversee and remove certain things. I was given the opportunity to do so a couple of times and this confirmed that in the trench was where I needed to be. So I discussed this with Wilkinson as he's always been very good about making sure I'm given opportunities to do and learn whatever I want. So next year another student will be brought out to run the total station but as I am the Director of Mapping I will basically be instructing them while running a trench. And I will still be responsible for doing the Auto CAD from the data collected. This makes me very happy!
I also received a promotion! As of next season I am now an Associate Director instead of an Assistant Director. What does this mean? Well I'm right below Wilkinson and there are only 4 Associate Directors (myself included) and we are all in that position because we are advanced students who are in the process of completing or have completed their PhDs (save for one who is a unique case). This makes me even happier! *edited Apr 11 2008 to say: since I have decided to finish my degree back at the UofA or effectively 'start over' the promotion will have to be delayed until I am a year or two into the program since it is only for students who are finished or are nearly finished with their PhDs. Zut! But I'm still Assistant Director!
Looking northeast across the site - these units were uncovered last season and show some of the foundation stones we found in situ.
I also got around to discussing my future career with Wilkinson. We talked about publication and speaking at conferences - two things that I'm working on. I definitely plan on giving a paper at least two conferences next year and have outlined some ideas for articles. But Wilkinson tells me that what looks better than submitting work to be published is being asked to write something. So... Wilkinson has asked me to contribute a chapter to the book he will be publishing on Tausert!!!! Holy cow!!!! I was so totally floored by this! He's also asked me to help in the production of a CLASSIFIED PROJECT. This makes me the happiest person alive!
Our expedition is also growing in prestige as we continue to recruit experts from the field. We now how have R.J. Demarée from Leiden University working for us as our official hieraticist. He's been helping us in the translations of any hieratic material we've found. And just recently it has been announced that Elena Pischikova from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be joining forces with us. Elena has been working across the way from us in the hills of Southern Assasif in the tombs of Irtieru (TT390), Karabasken (TT391) and Karakhamun (TT223). These tombs date to the Late Period around the 25th Dynasty. Elena and her team have done a lot the recovery and restoration of these tombs - it is simply magnificent. Being teamed up with Elena means that we (being the students) will have the opportunity to work with Elena in these tombs where she has generously offered to teach us field conservation techniques. This is the icing on the cake!
So petty people, illness and the damn Winter Palace aside it was a great season!
Working in the winter was a lot nicer than the summer - the weather was perfect! We even got to experience a bizarre storm - it sprinkled on and off for a couple of days and then poured for an entire day. Apparently this only happens every 10 years or so. The only downfall of a winter season is that the kids are in school so I didn't get to see as much of them as I usually do. Plus last summer we spent a lot of time at the pool but it's too cold for swimming in the winter. We did get to celebrate Amira's birthday though and that was fun - Amira is the oldest daughter of our Reis (reis means chief or in the case of archaeology chief foreman), Ali. Next year I'll just have to make sure I get over to their house more often or get Amira out so we can hang out together. We love getting together to give each other manicures!
A beautifully inscribed and graffitied wall out in the Wadi Hammamat.
We only took one side trip this year and we decided to trek out into the eastern desert to Wadi Hammamat. This was the location of an ancient quarry used throughout Egyptian history, from predynastic (roughly 3100 BC) as is seen from the "primitive" rock art and images of predynastic boats to Roman times as evidenced by the remains of Roman forts at the tops of hills. We explored a lot of the area hunting for hieroglyphic texts as well as vivid scenes. It was truely magical and extraordinary. We even came across sarcophagai that were being manufactured but they were abandoned due to damage. A lot of the ancient inscriptions are unique because the people working these quarries probably had more freedom to say what they wanted to say without retribution from the throne. Although quite a few of them are nice inscriptions where an individual is shown giving praise to various gods, pharaoh or even the cartouches of the pharaoh; some of the inscriptions show individuals writing their own names in cartouches! The graffiti is amazing too and is written in hieroglyphs, hieratic, Coptic, Greek, Arabic (one I found dating to 1946) and English (dating to the late 1800s). I'd like to visit this site again sometime in the future because there is so much more to see.
Hatshepsut (Maatkare Khnumt-Amun Hatshepsut : Truth is the Ka of Re Joined with Amun Foremost of Noble Ladies) prepares an offering table in her Red Chapel at Karnak.
I also visited the usual : Luxor Temple (this time at night), Karnak Temple (check out the photos for behind the scenes shots of the Roman Baths currently being excavated), Hatshepsut's Temple at Deir el-Bahri - then hiked up and over and down into the Valley of the Kings where I got to enter Tutankhamun's tomb (again for free!) but this time it was extra special because his mummy is now on display. Wow he looks great! Well really the mummification job isn't the best and his remains were poorly treated when he was originally removed by Carter's team - in fact they hacked him into pieces! But he is now nicely displayed in an air controlled box and he is covered by a linen sheet and only his face and feet are visible. It was amazing to see his face in person, a face that I've been looking at in books and magazines since I was a small child. I also got to visit the pyramids at Giza - I hadn't been out to see them since my first year in Egypt. It was neat we went in the late afternoon so we got to watch the sun start to set behind the pyramids. And of course I visited the Cairo Museum.
Well that's Season 4 in Egypt in a nutshell - good times and bad times but I survived and I have a really good feeling that next year is going to be the best! Inshallah! Now follow this link to check out the 150 photos I uploaded. Click on the album Egypt 2008 so you can view the photos in order. I took the time to add a description to each one so I hope you enjoy!
The Pyramid of Menkaure at sunset.
posted by Ashleigh @ 15:14,