Saturday, February 28, 2015

Field School Week 1

With the first, preparatory, week accomplished, Saturday morning found us ready to cross the Nile on a private boat that Hazem had arranged, which will take us back and forth from the east bank – where we are living – to the west, where we are working, each day.  As two of our students – Peter Fady and Al-Shaimaa Mohamed – also live on the east, they join us for the river crossing. We crossed a bit after 7am, and were met at the other side by our private minibus, which will drive us to-and-fro on the west each day.  We collected the rest of our students and made our way to the ARCE offices, as the first few days were set aside for more “classroom style” teaching. John Shearman, Director of the Luxor ARCE office, had very kindly arranged for a lecture room to be prepared for us. We kicked off to a great start with my own talk on the development of the necropolis in the 18th Dynasty.  But after a break for breakfast a lengthy power outage resulted in Will being unable to give his powerpoint lecture.  Instead, we moved to the roof and Will masterfully re-jigged his talk to give a great discussion of the history of epigraphy and also introduced the students to the 5 basic steps of epigraphy.  So already by the end to the first day we were off message. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men!

Explaining epigraphy and the tools used on the ARCE roof
By the end of the day, the power had magically returned, just in time to end for lunch. Will suspects conspiracy …

Sunday we returned to find the power still working, so Will was able to complete his powerpoint lectures by breakfast.  After breakfast we went out to the tomb, and the students were given a site tour by the Egyptian archaeologists, Ali Ahmed and Saad Bakhat, to familiarize them with the work that had been done in previous seasons. While this was happening, I went off to the opening of the sun court on the third terrace of Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahari (and suffered a bit of sunstroke as a result!) Will was left “in charge” and following the site tour he gave the students an introduction to the architecture of the tomb.

Site of Theban Tomb (TT) 110. The tomb is in the center, behind the blue tent draped over the original entrance. The peak at the top of the photo, almost directly above the tomb, is the "Qurn", and the long rock bay in the background at the far left is where Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahari temple is located.
Monday we changed gears completely and brought the students over to the East Bank for a tour of the Chicago House library, given by the librarian, Marie Bryan and then again in Arabic by Sayed. This is especially important as most of the students have never used a non-Egyptian library and the system of classification and ordering of books is completely foreign to them.  I devised a bibliographic “treasure hunt” for each of them, to ensure they understood how to use the library, which was such a success that Marie now wants to model it for regular use! We were also given a tour of the photo archives by Ellie Smith, which are another great resource for the monuments of Luxor. After a break of “chipsies wa cocas”, we took the students to the Luxor Museum where Will took them on a tour of several different types of monuments to discuss the style of painting and carving (sunk or raised) and the types of epigraphy that might be appropriate to record each image. In the evening we joined Betsy Bryan (my mentor and with whom Will has also worked) for a lovely meal at the Amun Gezira hotel on the West Bank.  This is a hotel that I stayed at many, many years ago and it was wonderful to see the family that runs it again. Indeed, it is such a beautiful spot we may use it as our base in future seasons!
Working at Chicago House

Tuesday we played a bit of catch up on lectures and returned to ARCE for the morning so I could present on the officials who worked during the reigns of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, which is when our tomb owner worked. We went to the tomb shortly after breakfast so I could introduce them to Djhuty via his own tomb – his titles, career, etc. I then had the intention of doing a short walk around the necropolis but a sandstorm sprang up so instead we went into TT42 – the tomb adjacent to ours – so we could look at the painted decoration, which in our tomb is badly burned, and also discussed the types of scenes on the walls.

Epigrapher Will Schenck introducing the students to epigraphy issues in TT 110.
Wednesday proved to be a gorgeous morning so we had our “walkabout” first thing, starting at the south end of the Sheikh Abd el-Qurna necropolis and worked our way north, visiting and pointing out many of the tombs I had spoken about on the first day.  This gave the students the chance to really understand how connected the placement of all of these tombs really is.  We also had a visit from Gerry Scott, Director of ARCE, his wife, and his chief administrator, Jane Smythe, and gave them a tour of the epigraphy and research work we plan to do with the students, and told them a bit about the importance of Djhuty himself in the mid-18th Dynasty.  Once the tour was over, Will gave the students a demo on how to properly affix the acetate drawing paper to the wall, which takes a great deal of care, patience and looking to be sure not to damage the wall. Our day concluded with a tour of the conversation carried out in the tomb by the head conservator Khadiga Adam.

Walking the Theban Necropolis. The tomb pictured is TT131 of the vizier Useramun.
ERFS Director JJ Shirley introducing the students, ARCE Director Gerry Scott, and Jane Smythe (ARCE Assistant to the Director) to the history of the tomb and its owner Djhuty. 
Thursday – the last day of the work week – we started at the tomb and spent the better part of an hour rigging up a stair system so everyone could reach the exterior door lintel reliefs which is where we decided to have them start practicing their drawing. That accomplished, we went over to nearby TT107 of Nefersekheru, an official in the reign of Amenhotep III, where we were given a tour of the epigraphy work being done by Brett McClain from Chicago House. We spent the rest of the morning letting students practice putting up sheets and beginning to draw – they were really excited to finally make a start on the walls!  Not only that, but this initial bit of work has already proved valuable as in discussion with the students about what appeared to be traces of inscription in a badly damaged and mostly broken area, we discovered an upper row of inscription.  A great end to the week!
Will explaining what the students will be doing on the facade
 Brett McClain explaining his work at TT107 to our students
With Betsy soon to leave, and us about to take over her flat, she kindly invited us to join her and Ray Johnson, the Director of Chicago House, and his partner Jay Heidel to a fancy dinner at the Japanese restaurant at the Sonesta.  We hit the town all dressed up and dinned in solitary splendor on delicious sushi, except for Will, who had the chicken teriayiki, accompanied by several bottles of Omar Khayyum’s finest red wine. 

Friday Will and I went back to Chicago House for the morning to get ready for the next week and look back over what we’ve accomplished so far. Still trying to stay one step ahead of the students!