Friday, February 26, 2016

Field School Week 1

This year’s students, like last year, were chosen by Will and me through an interview process in November, and once again it seems we have a good team. Two of the students come from Inspectorates outside of Luxor: Mohammed Abu el-Yazid (fondly referred to as Abu el-Yazid by one and all) from Sohag, near the ancient site of Abydos, and Sayed el-Rekaby (who we have taken to calling el-Rekaby to distinguish him from our Assistant Sayed Mamdouh), from Kom Ombo near Aswan. The three other new students are all from Luxor: Nadia Abd el-Latef from Luxor Temple, and Mahmoud Hussein and Abu el-Hagag from the West Bank. Also joining us are our assistants: Hazem Helmy (Project Manager and Director’s Assistant), Sayed Mamdouh (Epigraphy Assistant), and new this year Yaser Mahmoud (Drawing Assistant), who is also a former student of Will’s. We are referred to by the students as Mudira JJ, the Arabic word for “boss”, and Mr. Will.
2016 Field School on the roof of ARCE.
Back row, left to right: Nadia, Sayed, Abu el-Yazid, Mr. Will, Mudira JJ, Hazem, Yaser.
Front row, left to right: el-Rekaby, Abu el-Hagag, Mahmoud
The first full week of the field school started on Saturday, with orientation to give the students a lot of background about the tomb and epigraphy before we do any drawing. Through ARCE’s generosity, we again were able to use their facilities for our lectures, but since their offices are full, this year they created a “Wendy House” on the roof for us to use. We ended up with an ideal setting complete with a tea and breakfast anteroom and fully enclosed, via tents, lecture room. Much better really than last year when we “borrowed” Afaf’s office for this purpose and then had to give it back. And, unlike last year, the electricity grid cooperated and allowed us to give all of our PowerPoint presentations without any serious interruption. This meant that Mr. Will and I could go through our entire lecture program: Mudira JJ talking about the landscape of the Theban Necropolis in the 18th Dynasty and on the second day (Sunday) a more detailed analysis of the officials during the reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III and how our tomb owner Djhuty fits into this, and for Mr. Will a lecture on the history of Epigraphy going back to the Description de l’Egypt, followed on Sunday by a discussion of the different methods of epigraphy he has practiced and how it led to the system that we are teaching our students. During Mr. Will’s lecture on Sunday we also learned that our inspector had been changed and we were assigned our own inspector just for the Field School, rather than sharing with the larger ARCE project at the tomb. The new inspector, Ahmed Hagag Hussein, had previously worked in the Luxor Temple on the East Bank, where he was a colleague of our student Nadia. Sunday evening we also met with our two returning students, Peter Fady and Shaimaa Mandor, who along with Hazem will be learning object drawing this season from Yaser Hussein. The meeting allowed all of us to sit down and better describe the plan for how the object drawing and epigraphy program would be integrated into the Field School, and to discuss in more detail the painted areas of the tomb Peter, Shaimaa and Hazem will be drawing.
Mr. Will teaching in the "Wendy House"
Monday we had the opportunity to bring our students to Luxor Temple to see the work of Jay Heidel, an artist at Chicago House. This resulted in the – only to be expected – confusion of arranging for all of us to meet in a coffeeshop (yet again) prior to entering the temple. Sayed, Mahmoud, and Mohamed Abu el-Yazid were late because they had been patiently waiting for Abu el-Hagag, who however had left early, something Sayed swears was unheard of in the past! Once we had all managed to gather inside the temple, we quickly realized that Sayed el-Rekaby was lagging behind taking pictures because, not being native to Luxor, this was his visit to the Luxor Temple, and he was appropriately awestruck. We met up with Jay in the Amehotep III sun court where he gave the students a brief introduction to Chicago House’s work in Luxor generally, and then brought us out to his work area in the block yard. Rather than traditional facsimile, Jay works with a Wacom graphic tablet to create precise digital drawings of the reliefs. He explained the method to our students and then graciously allowed each of them a turn with the tablet. For Nadia this was familiar territory since she had been trained by Jay in this type of work when she was his Inspector in the temple. Once we finished at Luxor Temple, we walked along the Corniche (the road along the Nile River) to Chicago House in order to introduce the students to the library. Like last year, the CH Librarian, Marie Bryan, gave them a tour of the library, which was translated into Arabic by Sayed, and then Ellie Smith introduced them to the photo archive. We then assigned each student several items to find in the library – a kind of book treasure hunt – and an exercise we devised last year that proved to work very well.
Jay Heidel teaching our students how to use a Wacom drawing tablet
Jay working with his former Inspector Nadia
Learning about the Chicago House library

On Tuesday it was back to the west and the tomb. Hazem had left at the crack of dawn to bring over all of our on-site camp supplies and get everything ready by the time we arrived at 8am. After we settled in and had tea and biscuits – a morning tradition that continues from last year – we quickly learned that Abu el-Yazid is addicted to the biscuits and they cannot be left anywhere near him without them disappearing completely! Clearly, expenditure on biscuits will increase this season. Saad Bakhit then gave the students and our new inspector Ahmed an in-depth site tour of the excavation work outside the tomb, which was followed by a presentation of the tomb excavation by Sayed. This was crucial for both the students and our inspector since he is as new to the site as the students, which is not usually the case. After second breakfast we went on a “walkabout” over the gebel which began with a visit to the Norman and Nina de Garis Davies House because we were kindly invited to have the opportunity to look inside. In some ways visiting the house was touching a piece of epigraphic history since the de Garis Davies’ had lived there for many years while they worked drawing the tombs in the early to mid-1900s and Mr. Will had mentioned them as well as showed some of their drawings to the students in his lectures. It is amazing to think that something so important to the history of Egyptology is still there to be seen and appreciated. All the more so since it was the Davies’ who drew and published our tomb in the 1930s. Starting from Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahari and continuing to the southern end of the Sheikh Abd el-Qurna hill, walking along the necropolis allowed the students to visualize within the actual landscape many of the points relating to the positioning of specific tombs and the general development of the necropolis that Mudira JJ had made during her lectures.
Setting up the on-site work space
Mudira JJ and Hazem-happy now that the site is all set up
Sayed and Mr. Will with Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahari temple in the background

Wednesday we continued on the West, collecting friend and colleague Vincent Oeters, a Dutch Egyptologist who has been working with the Polish mission at Gebelein, and was soon to return to the Netherlands and his day job at Brill Publishers. He joined us initially for the visit to nearby TT107, to see the work of Chicago House with Brett McClain, who kindly gave a detailed explanation of the traditional Chicago House method, providing a nice counterpoint to the use of technology in illustration work that Jay demonstrated earlier in the week. Vincent ended up by staying with us for the entire day, joining the students on their first visit into TT110 to learn about the history and condition of the tomb. As is so often the case with Egypt, it proved a small world in that Sayed and Vincent realized they shared a common supervisor, and, though never having met, had heard a great deal about each other. Although 1pm would normally be the end of the work day, we met the students and Ahmed at 5pm to take advantage of the evening opening of the Luxor Museum to discuss some of the objects in relation to what the students were earning about epigraphy. As Mr. Will, Hazem, Sayed and Mudira JJ waited on the East, we learned that this time Abu el-Hagag was actually late in catching the boat from the West, meaning the other students nearly left without him. Once inside, we spent nearly 2 hours discussing everything from interpreting the carved bevel, to the intricate use of both raised and sunk relief within Egyptian carving to indicate three dimensions on a 2-dimensional plane, to drawing a double line for carving created by a chisel as opposed to a single line for inscription created by scratching or incision. As with the students form last year, this year’s group are already aware of many of the issues necessary for an understanding of epigraphy and we are very impressed with their grasp of what is, truthfully, a complicated discipline.
Tour of Chicago House's work at TT1107 by Brett McClain
The Field School, with Inspector Ahmed and Vincent, in front of TT110
Sayed and Vincent
Talking epigraphy at the Luxor Museum
The last day of the work week, Thursday, meant that Mr. Will could – finally – talk the students and Ahmed through his so-called “5 Steps of Epigraphy”, introducing them to the equipment they will be using to draw and many of the issues they would come up against in trying to do so. While Mr. Will gave a lengthy discussion at our multi-functional tent (both breakfast room and classroom) for the students, Hazem and I set up the lighting in TT 110. This allowed us to transfer the classroom to the tomb so that the students could be given a demonstration of some of the 5 steps by Mr. Will. As seems to be par for the course with this group, this quickly developed into a discussion and less a demonstration. Our initial concern that the students would be hesitant to ask us questions has certainly been put to rest!
Mr. Will teaching the "5 steps" of epigraphy at the on-site tent
Mr. Will demonstrating epigraphy in TT 110