Friday, February 27, 2015

2015 Pre-Field School "Prep Week"

A few weeks have already gone by since we came to Egypt to begin teaching an epigraphy and research field school in Theban Tomb (TT)110, which belonged to the royal butler and royal herald Djhuty who lived in the time of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III.  So, we thought it high time to give you all some updates on what we have been doing.

Way back on Feb 11 Will and I arrived safely in Cairo, and unlike the previous trip, we arrived with all of our luggage and baby accoutrements. We spent our one day – Feb 12 – in Cairo visiting Mme Amira at ARCE, and picking up our antiquities passes.  These allow us to visit all the sites in Egypt for free for the duration of our stay. At the invitation of Ana Tavares, the co-director of the AERA field school, we spent our afternoon at Giza visiting the AERA operation. We had a fortuitous meeting with Mark Lehner, the Head Director, who kindly invited us to lunch with them. So Will had the chance to see several students he had trained in past field schools, and I was able to talk with Mark and Ana, and see how a long standing field school operation runs.

On Feb 13 we left Cairo and arrived in Luxor by midday, and met up with Salima Ikram, and Aidan and Dyan Dodson at Sheikh Ali’s (el Marsam) hotel on the West Bank for a late lunch.  And we ran into Jose Galan, the Director of the Spanish project working at TT11 (the “other” Djhuty), whose tomb is located in the Dra Ahu el-Naga part of the necropolis, just to the north of where we are working.  It was a lovely and relaxing afternoon.

Saturday (Feb 14) we began our attempts to start the work. And in order to do that we had to secure the permissions for our students to be able to leave their jobs as Inspectors and join the field school. Part of the problem was the imminent retirement of the director who had to sign the papers! We had set a dinner with our students for that night, which was wonderful, and allowed us all to get to know each other a little better.  We also gave them more information about how the school would work and we started talking about the history of the tomb and the tomb owner.  Still, a large part was spent reassuring them that they would have their permissions in time.
Dinner with our students, from left to right:
Hazem Helmy, Dr. JJ Shirley (Director), Shaimaa Mandour, Abd el-Ghany, Sayed Mamdouh,
Mr. Will Schenck (Epigrapher), Peter Fady, Alaa Hussein, Rasha el-Ameen
This entire first week was a lot of juggling meetings- at the ARCE office on the West Bank, trying to meet the head of the West Bank, which took several days, and still get the permissions signed.  In between all of that we were able to be in the tomb, which was important as Will was able to give some advance training to myself, and our two assistants, Hazem Helmy and Sayed Mamdouh.  Sayed in particular has proven incredibly useful as not only does he have some illustration experience, but he has a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the necropolis, and had already worked in the archaeology field schools hat ARCE has been running in the tomb. Part of being in the tomb also meant figuring out where to place each of students to draw the walls.  This may seem simple, but as there is now a waist-high handrail it means we have to use only the top part of the tomb.  So each student will have a part of a scene/ wall to draw and – hopefully – complete by the end of the field school.

Will and I have also discovered that the Oasis Palace Restaurant proves a lovely place to have a de-briefing lunch.  The food is good, and since each day brought new information resulting in changes, having a spot to actually talk through what we did and what still needed to be done became a real necessity!

Fortunately, by mid-week the meeting with the retiring official, Mr. Karrar, was achieved, the permissions signed, and the students informed that indeed, they had permission to start the field school the following Saturday. That accomplished, Will and I spent Friday in the library at Chicago house preparing handouts to accompany the lectures on the development of the Theban necropolis, history of epigraphy, and epigraphy methodology that were planned for the first few days of the field school.

Amongst all of this of course Declan’s every need has been attended to by Hazem’s large and wonderful family.  He has settled in remarkably well, with lots of small kids to play with.  And although he’s not sleeping during the day terribly much, he doesn’t seem to mind.  Plus, he loves the food!