Saturday, March 21, 2015

Field School Week 4

When we last left you we had been shut into our tomb, survived a week of foul weather, and become truly impressed by our students. This week we remained shut in our tomb, but the weather was much nicer, and our students continued to impress.

On Saturday we were the only team working at the site (the conservators and archaeologists usually take Saturday off), and since the weather was lovely and the breeze minimal I decided to open our tomb door to let the fresh air in. What a difference! Group 2 made the most of it and had an excellent drawing day, while Group 1 returned to their research tombs to begin the next portion of the project - checking the walls against the line drawings in the tomb publications. At the end of the day we went to ARCE for an afternoon session on cartouche re-carving. This is because we discovered that both cartouches on each stela lunette – the top portion of the stela – had been partially or fully re-carved, so the students would need to look very carefully to see if there were “trace lines” of the original name of Hatshepsut that could still be seen. I walked them through what we might expect to find, and how the Hatshepsut cartouches are usually re-carved.  And afterwards Will did a drawing session of examples of various hieroglyphs which are often tricky to draw, showing the students the key elements to look for.
Epigraphy in action in TT110
Sunday and Monday were relatively uneventful days, with the two groups switching places on Monday, so Group 1 went into TT110 to draw, and Group 2 returned to their research tombs to begin checking the published epigraphy against the walls. One of our Group 1 students, Shaimaa had accompanied her husband to Cairo where he successfully defended his Master’s thesis, so we decided to make Tuesday a Chicago House research day for Group 1, since she was returning that morning. Group 2 mean while went back to TT110 to draw and they switched places on Wednesday. Both Tuesday and Wednesday were long work days for everyone in order to maximize our remaining time – staying until 3 in both the tomb and the library. Wednesday we also had a surprise visit at the tomb from USAID, a main funding agency for ARCE.  Will handled it marvelously, and impressed them so much that they specifically asked for a student demonstration when they return next week with various Egyptian officials!

Thursday was a special day: we handed out the team shirts to our students, and they were thrilled to see the logos they had designed stitched onto them. We had photos taken of us by the ARCE photographer, Eyman, standing in front of the “Davies’ House.” This is the house that Norman and Nina de Garis Davies built to live in while they worked on recording the tombs in the necropolis – including ours! We also were able to visit the nearby tomb of the 18th Dynasty vizier Useramun, which offers some interesting parallels to our own tomb, and see the conservation being done by an Egyptian team.
Dr. JJ, Hazem, Sayed, and Mr. Will with the new team t-shirts.
Friday was our big field trip to the site of Gebel el Silsila, an important ancient sandstone quarry about 2.5 hours south of Luxor. Along with our group, we were joined by our Inspector, Esmaa, Shaimaa’s husband Ahmed, and two of Sayed’s colleagues, Hussein and Ahmed (see attached photo of the boys in the back of the bus). We had arranged for the trip through one of Will’s former students, Moamen Saad, who is now doing an epigraphy project copying the Ramesside shrines for his PhD. He kindly put us in touch with the Gebel el Silsila Epigraphic Project, run by Maria Nilsson and assisted by John Ward, who welcomed us to their site and gave us a tour of the epigraphic work they are doing. They are recopying much of the earlier Caminos epigraphy but expanding the documentation of the site to include the graffiti and nearly 3000 carved ‘quarry tags’ dating mostly to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Maria explained how these large scale symbols provide links between particular areas of the quarry with both protective deities and specific temples. They are also studying the quarries themselves to understand the chronology of their use, and the different techniques employed to remove the rock. Here is a link to their remarkable work:
The shrines at Gebel el-Silsila
Part of the reason for taking a trip to Silsila was to show our students the 18th Dynasty shrines built by a number of officials who served under Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, like Djhuty of TT110. In addition, one of the shrines (of Sennefri) has excellent examples of how Hatshepsut's name was re-carved by Thutmose III, providing useful comporanda for TT110. So it was both fun and a little work, with epigraphic “pop quizzes.” We had a great time climbing around these mostly eroded shrines, which were carved quite close to the river’s edge along the west bank of Silsila. In order to see the particularly famous chapel of Senenmut, Hatshpesut’s “right-hand man,” the students and I had to jump into one shrine (of the vizier Useramun), the roof of which had collapsed, in order to pass over a deep crevasse in the rock above the river to reach the next shrine (of the high priest of Amun Hapuseneb), which then allowed access along a shallow ledge to the shrine of Senenmut. We packed ourselves in like sardines, completely disappearing from view from above. We now know that you can fit over a dozen epigraphers into one Silsila shrine! 
Silsila Shrine 13 of Sennefri, showing Hatshepsut's pre-nomen, Maat-ka-rere-inscribed with Thutmose III's pre-nomen, Men-kheper-re
Quizzing the students at Silsila
Field School Team in Senenmut's shrine
After we had finished our shrine-climbing excursions, Maria and John treated us to coffee along the water’s edge in the area where Moamen is working, and he gave our students a tour of his own work. Seeing Moamen at work copying an enormous lintel nearly 30 feet above the ground, perched on precarious scaffolding accessed via a single shaky metal ladder was quite a sight! And Will was quite proud to see Moamen employing all the skills he had taught him, and which we are teaching our current group of students. Since we had walked quite a ways along the river’s edge, Maria and John kindly gave us a lift back towards the entry to the site in their motorboat, and we had a chance to see the amazing 19th century Egyptian-style houseboat, known as a dahabiya, which they live on while working. Will and I were both a bit envious! We ended our day with a picnic under the dom-palm trees before piling back into the bus for the ride back to Luxor. A fun and exhausting day had by all.
Gebel el Silsila Epigraphic Project and TT110 Epigraphy and Research Field School
Moamen Saad working on his scaffolding
Stay tuned for the final week of the season.