Friday, March 6, 2015

Field School Week 2

When we left you all last Friday Will and I were busily trying to stay ahead of our students.  And it’s a good thing too, because this week they surpassed our expectations for so early in the field school!

After having planned our program for the week on Friday, we discovered Saturday morning that 2 of our students were missing - Shaimaa was not feeling well, and Rasha’s cousin had died.  So first thing Saturday we had to, yet again, re-think our day.  And this after a delayed start since we moved Will out of his hotel in preparation for the move to Betsy’s flat at the end of the work day, which also required packing up my own things and making a great pile of luggage to be brought along at the end of the day.

On Saturday the entire team returned to TT110 and the students were finally able to begin practicing on the actual walls of the tomb.  Since the interior of the tomb has many difficult areas to draw (more on that later), we chose to have them start on the façade, or exterior front wall, of the tomb, where the inscriptions are in an easy to see sunk relief. After practicing putting up and taking down plastic on the wall at the end of last week, they were able to begin actually drawing the inscriptions. And since we were down 2 students, it meant the remaining 3 could each have a space to draw, albeit one in an area of the wall that was never carved – but there was plenty of damage to draw! At the end of the day we moved into our new home – Betsy’s flat on the East Bank, had a big shopping trip to the local grocery, sorted out how to make sure Declan doesn’t fall off the bed at night, and dined at Hazem’s house so we didn’t have to cook on our first night in our new digs. Declan likes the new place, and it turns out I needn’t have brought any toys, as Declan’s favorite thing is to take all the books off the lowest shelf and place them onto the floor, multiple times a day.  And Will has had an insight into the world of babies as he gamely returns the books back to their shelf, also multiple times a day.  A great amount of fun for both of them!
Abd El-Ghany, Peter, and Alaa working on the facade of TT110
Sunday morning we discovered we needed to work out a routine that allows us to make and drink the coffee made in the 4-cup coffee press left by Betsy. This is of particular benefit to me, since now I don’t need to drink my coffee in the taxi, while Will, when at the Etap, would have already finished an entire pot produced by the Etap staff each morning. The new tatib is to leave enough time to finish our coffee, drop Declan at Hazem’s house and pick up Hazem along with various members of his family who we drop off at school on our way to the boat. In fact, the transfer of Declan is much easier than I expected. He seems thrilled to return to his Egyptian family each morning – where he is the star attraction and has made his own gang of friends from the neighboring houses – adults and kids alike. Shaimaa rejoined us, but Rasha is still obliged to be with her family for another day. We moved two of the boys inside to work on drawing the raised relief, and set Shaimaa up outside with our fourth student to continue on sunk relief. As the conservator, Khadiga, was kind enough to give our students a tour and explanation of her work last week, Will and I reciprocated by giving her students a historical tour of the tomb, and an explanation of the epigraphy. At the end of the work day (1pm) we went to the ARCE office, where Khadiga gave our students a talk on the conservation documentation. So it was a long day for everyone as we didn’t finish until about 2:30. Will and I dined at one of the best restaurants in Luxor – The Lantern – where we were invited by Keli Alberts (of Chicago house), to celebrate Peter Lacovara’s (an Egyptologist working with the Metropolitan Museum  at Malqata) birthday, along with Ellie Smith (also Chicago House). The menu, which is English-cuisine based, is extensive, the food delicious, and the desserts – sticky toffee pudding, lemon meringue, and apple crumble - amazing! It was an enjoyable evening for all. And the owner of the restaurant even came over to ask if Peter was the “famous Peter Lacovara, world-renowned Egyptologist”, as apparently one of the other dinner guests recognized him!
Conservation tour of TT110 by Ms.Khadiga Adam
Monday we returned to the East Bank with a full group of students to work in the library and visit several of the projects Chicago House is working on at Luxor and Karnak Temples.  The morning began in a local coffee shop by Luxor Temple, and once all had arrived we went off to hear a discussion of the drawing and digital work that Krisztian Vertes’ has developed to record the Roman frescoes towards the rear of the temple. The students and we were amazed at the drawings he is producing. He passed us on to Jay Heidel, who talked us through the on-going project to record and identify miscellaneous blocks excavated from around the temple that belong to either the Luxor temple walls, or other monuments, and from a variety of dates. The project has been revolutionized by the introduction of digital epigraphy, using a WACOM drawing tablet on site. Jay kindly gave all the students an opportunity to draw on the tablet. And Rasha, who has had some experience with this, proved herself quite adept at it – even Jay was impressed! Hazem had efficiently organized lunch orders, so we returned to the coffee shop for some local sandwiches of fuul (beans) and tamaiya (like falafel), along with cokes and coffees. Having already assigned the students individual tombs to research based on the work Will and I did on Friday, we went to Chicago House so the students could have an opportunity to find the primary publications for their tombs.  We chose tombs that are open, so they can visit them, published, and epigraphically recorded so that they can analyze the epigraphic style that was used. After 2 hours at the library, we continued on to Karnak Temple for a tour of the work being done by Keli Alberts at the Khonsu Temple there. She is drawing a particularly difficult re-carved block, so it gave our students a real sense of the challenges that can be faced by epigraphers. And since Keli initially taught two of our students, we took a group photo including Keli.
Visits with Chicago House work
Krisztian Vertes, Roman frescoes at Luxor Temple
Jay Heidel, Luxor Temple block yard
Keli Alberts, Karnak, Khonsu Temple
We returned to the tomb on Tuesday to discover, as many of you will have, that a NEW tomb had been found, located just next to TT110. It belongs to a gate-keeper of Amun named Amenhotep, and from the painting likely dates to the reign of Amenhotep II, the son and successor of Thutmose III. Here is a link from the ARCE website with more information:

This was Rasha’s first chance to draw, and she quickly caught up with our other students, working first on the outside, and later on the inside of the tomb. Since each student had found their research tomb publications, I began taking each student individually to their tomb so that we could discuss the project in more detail while looking at the tomb walls. We also had a long, animated discussion about the necessary conventions for the type of plaster use and damage the students were discovering on the walls in areas that Will and I had though were relatively simple to draw. We have since learned that there are NO simple inscriptions to draw anywhere in the tomb! And our students have proven very adept at discovering, inconsistencies, irregularities, and exceptions to the usual epigraphy rules. All of this is especially satisfying for Will and I as we realized that we have 5 REAL epigraphers on our course who take great pleasure in trying to understand the tomb’s decorations and inscriptions. Anyone overhearing this lengthy hour+ long conversation would have found it hard to believe that it involved 5 students who had only been drawing for less than a week! We are amazed and impressed by the passion our students are bringing to the field school. To celebrate Declan’s 1st birthday, we went to the local pizza joint, Pizza Roma, recommended by Betsy and many others, where Declan ingratiated himself with the entire kitchen staff. This is apparently a regular thing for him, as he did the same at Maison Thomas in Cairo! We all ate heartily of the delicious salad, garlic bread, and pizza.
At Pizza Roma
Wednesday found us again having to re-jig things due to the discovery of the new tomb. Since it shares a courtyard with TT110, we learned that our built-up staircase and protective tent covering must come down so that the archaeologists can understand the architectural relationship between the two tombs. This also means closing the TT110 door, so we must enter through the breach in another adjacent tomb – TT42 – and walking through the conservation area to enter the front of TT110. Hopefully this will only take about a week, and fortunately we had a day to prepare before the work to remove the stairwell, etc. started. But for the work of the day we had our own exciting things. One student – Alaa – found a portion of an inscription not recorded correctly by Davies in the 1930s which seems to be an unusual epithet of the god Anubis, and a spelling of Re-Horakhty’s name not used elsewhere in the tomb. Rasha discovered that in addition to carving and painting details within signs, the ancient artists also used modeling to suggest interior details. And Peter drew attention to the difficulty in recognizing the edge of a carved sign when the paint had been applied beyond the carved edge. Each of the students was able to present on their discovery to their colleagues – a procedure we will now follow each time a question or discovery comes up so that all can share and learn from it. We are really working together as an epigraphy team! And two more students had a chance to visit their research tomb with me. Hazem’s mother had made us a lovely ground beef béchamel pasta dish that we enjoyed back at our flat for dinner.
Epigraphy discussions in TT110
Thursday was a bit discombobulated as we had to work around the removal of the staircase and sealing of our entrance. Since this wasn’t to begin before breakfast at 10:30, we maximized the morning by having everyone draw. After breakfast, once the banging and clanging of staircase removal had begun, we grouped together under our tent and informed the students which group (1 or 2) they would be a member of, and which section of the tomb they would each be drawing. They were all very excited to get their epigraphy assignments. I took the final two students to visit their research tombs – one first thing in the morning, and the other after the epigraphy assignments had been handed out. And we ended the day at TT55 of Ramose which served as a useful teaching tomb to further discuss the stages of carving – from smoothing the walls, to outlining the figures, to carving the figures –, the process of using plaster to infill areas of poor stone, and the use of modeling for interior details; all features we have in our own tomb. In the evening we finished off the béchamel dish and had our first laundry disaster as our efforts to do our first load in the new flat backfired due to the drainage tube not being properly connected and the bathroom floor flooding with wash water! Fortunately, Will caught it before it poured out of the bathroom and into the hallway and quickly opened the floor drain and started pushing the water towards it. I was fetching Declan when this occurred, so rapidly returned, borrowed mop in hand! Tube re-inserted, we were able to finish the load and hang it to dry on our balcony.

Today (Friday), we had a leisurely morning while Delcan napped and we sorted out the printer situation. Or, at least, tried to. A comedy of errors ensued, as first I blew the fuse for half the apartment, and then half of my brand new computer cable – purchased in Heathrow because I forgot mine – decided to stop working! Fortunately, Will quickly discovered the fuse box, and managed to find the correct kind of cable to replace the one that died. So we got everything up and running again only to find that for some reason the printer drivers won’t install correctly. Several coffees later, Declan finally woke up so we gave up on the printer, dropped Declan off at Hazem’s, and headed to Chicago House to do some research on the Anubis epithet and spelling of Re-Horakhty’s name, and take advantage of their delicious lunch. We finished off the day at Hazem’s so we could finish preparing for the upcoming work week and celebrate Declan’s birthday with Hazem’s family by having a fullEgyptian dinner there. The dinner was delicious and the cake wonderful. Declan enjoyed it, and his fabulous presents – 2 tiny camels, a green race car, and an orange and pink bear as big as he is!
Celebrating Declan's 1st birthday

Until next week …