Monday, March 30, 2015

Field School Week 5

This is our final entry for the field school season. My family arrived Thursday night, and Will left this morning for England. We hope you've enjoyed our missives!

The first day back at work after a big field trip is also exhausting, but it was made a bit better by a treat of basbousa made by Rasha for breakfast, and a full chicken, rice, salad, and malakhaya “lunch” at 11 provided by Shaimaa in honor of her husband Ahmed receiving his Master’s Degree. It was also Mother’s Day and the students surprised me with a lovely ring! In the work, our students went back to research and drawing, but as we were expecting a visit from the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh el-Damaty, on Sunday, our day was cut a bit short due to preparations for readying the tomb for his visit. Fortunately, a visit by Keli Alberts to see the work of her former Inspectors/students Shaimaa and Peter was still able to happen. Afterwards Will and I had a light lunch with Keli, followed by a lovely Mother’s Day dinner at Hazem’s house.
Rasha's Basbousa
Peter, Will, Keli Alberts (Chicago House), and Shaimaa
On Sunday we had planned to work outside the tomb, so that it could be ready for the expected visit by Minister el-Damaty and the USAID representatives. As a result, Will showed the students how to clean their drawings, and they spent the day cleaning and joining their sheets to be sure everything aligned properly. Will, his assistant Sayed and I spent the morning “on call” ready to give the Minister a tour, and when he and his entourage showed up a little early (!) we were pleasantly surprised. The tomb was packed to the gills by all of his people, plus the media who showed up to document his visit. We didn’t think we would get a chance to show off the epigraphy work, but once again we were surprised by the Minister’s interest in the epigraphy project. Sayed and Will were able to talk him through and demonstrate the steps, and the Minister even took a pen and drew a bit himself! By later that afternoon, we discovered that all of this had been documented on the Ministry website, with pictures of Minister el-Damaty inside the tomb, and a group photo with our students. Despite the headache of preparing for this kind of high-level visit, one side benefit was that the tent and seal was removed from the front of the tomb so that the Minister could enter through the actual door. Since this was the case, we were able to keep the façade and tomb door open so that Will could spend the last few days of the season drawing the historically interesting – and previously unseen – lintel and jamb inscriptions on the tomb’s façade.
Minister el-Damaty trying his hand at epigraphy
TT110 Field School with Minister el-Damaty
So on Monday, after several failed attempts at setting up low scaffolding, we finally procured a short ladder that allowed Will to begin drawing the façade. Meanwhile, the students spent the day finishing up their last bits of drawing and research. This continued on Tuesday, with Will finishing the façade and then moving inside to finish drawing the upper left-hand portion of the Hatshepsut kiosk. These two days were the first real chance that Will had to draw in the tomb, so naturally I asked him to draw the two most important and interesting parts, both of which I will incorporate into my talk at ARCE next month! On Tuesday we were also visited by a Hungarian project working nearby, who were quite interested to see TT110. After the work day we visited Carter House and the recreation of Tutankhamun’s tomb. And then we were treated to an amazing duck dinner at Sayed’s house. An afternoon of pandemonium ensued, with many jokes and much silliness and laughing, not to mention mountains of delicious food. A true high point of the season.
Will drawing the facade lintel
The Egyptian feast at Sayed's house
On Wednesday we visited the Hungarians’ and the epigraphy work of Krisztian Vertes in TT179, a beautifully carved and painted 18th Dynasty tomb. After this, the presentations of the students’ research began, with Hazem giving a tour of his work and discoveries in TT100 of Rekhmire, the vizier under Thutmose III-Amenhotep II. At breakfast we were visited by two former students of mine from Swansea, Ken Griffin and Meg Gundlach, as well as my grad school friend and colleague Nozomu Kawai and his family. It was quite fun to see them all, though Will missed out a bit as he spent all morning madly continuing work in the tomb so that he could finish the entire upper portion of the Hatshepsut kiosk (evil director that I am!). After breakfast we had two more presentations, one given by Rasha in TT69 of Menna, and the other given by Abd el-Ghany in TT52 of Nakht. Their work was especially interesting as these two tombs are very close in time, and similar in decoration. After the presentations were done, we headed to ARCE so that we could give personal evaluations to each student who had presented, along with a gift of a book – The Tomb Chapel of Nebamun – a beautiful tomb now mostly in fragments and housed in the British Museum.
Rasha giving her report on TT69 of Menna
Abd el-Ghany receives his book following his evaluation
Thursday was our last day! We had the final 3 presentations, by Alaa in the early 19th Dynasty tomb of Userhat (TT51) – Will’s favorite tomb, and Shaimaa in TT55 of Ramose, the vizier under Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. We were joined by Shaimaa’s husband, Ahmed, himself an Egyptologist. Following this we had a wonderful breakfast provided by our West Bank driver Abu Hamada of traditional Egyptian fatir, a flaky filo dough eaten with cheese or sugar cane molasses, and misha homemade delicacy of rotten cheese – definitely an “acquired” taste.  Following breakfast we gave out team t-shirts to many of the archaeologists and others who had helped us in our work throughout the season. After this was our final presentation of the season, given by Peter in TT192 of Kheruef, the steward to Queen Tiye in the reign of Amenhotep III. We returned to TT110 to say good bye to the tomb, which elicited a frenzy pf photography of the students in front of the walls they had drawn, and posing together on walls drawn jointly by more than one student.  Will and I both said a few closing words, and the end of the day proved to be quite emotional. The day at the tomb closed with the students presenting a wooden statue of Djhuty (the god Thoth in ibis form) to Will, to which had been an added a special plaque carved just for him; more photographs ensued. Not quite done, we returned to ARCE so that the students could receive photocopies of all their drawings to place in their portfolios, and so that Will and I could give the final 3 evaluations of the students, again with book-giving, plus an evaluation and gift of a book to Sayed, a truly remarkable assistant. Will, Declan and I finished our day with drinks and dinner at Chicago House, and Declan fell asleep in the courtyard listening to Egyptology “gossip”.
Will receiving his Djhuty statue from the students
The final good bye was saved for Saturday evening, when we all gathered together for one last time for an evening of certificate presentation and dinner at the marvelous Sheikh Ali / Marsam Hotel (see attached photo). The hotel is comprised of a lovely set of buildings of historic interest as it was the original site of Chicago House, and has a wonderful outdoor garden restaurant. Since it was on Saturday, my family joined us (they arrived late on Thursday), as did the families of our students. We were also joined by Yaser Mahmoud and his family, which was a treat as Yaser helped us select the students for the field school, and although not able to work with us, helped us give out the certificates. Shaimaa had put together a short photo presentation, which she showed us and was truly heart-warming. The evening proved a perfect closing to a wonderful season and a marvelous opportunity to share for one last time the collegial spirit of an extraordinary group of students.
Inspector Asmaa Abd el-Mahfouz, Shaimaa, Rasha
Dr. JJ, Hazem, Mr. Will, and Sayed
Students with their graduation diplomas