Thursday, March 17, 2016

Field School Week 4

We are getting close to the end and panic set in amongst the Field School executives, so on Saturday we decided to extend the working day until 3pm for Saturday through Tuesday to provide more drawing and research time for the students. The 4 long work days gave each group 2 days drawing in TT110 and two days either doing research or pottery and object drawing. The students took this surprisingly well, and we discovered how keen they are to accomplish as much as they can before the end of the school. 
Even despite having to draw in some pretty cramped and uncomfortable positions...

The others, in the comfort of their tent, had ample opportunity to practice using different types of tools to assist in the object drawing ...

Ahmed using a profile gauge
Shaimaa cleverly using both a set square and calipers

On Sunday we had a visit from Hourig Sourouzian and her team, who are working at the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III (Kom el-Hetan) located behind the Memnon Colossi. They were given an archaeological tour of the site by Saad Bakhit, which included beautiful photos of the 2 new tombs discovered last year, and then Mudira JJ and Mr. Will showed them TT110 and talked about both the Field School and the history of the tomb and its owner. It was amusing to pack all of her team in such a small tomb when they are more used to working on a colossal scale at Kom el-Hetan scattered over the large area of the temple with hundreds of workmen in the more traditional 19th century style. Unbelievably as the day ended and we came out of the tomb we were met by the first few rain drops which by the time we had reached the ferry had turned into a downpour. When it rains in Egypt it is a major event, so we stopped the minibus alongside the road in order to take – guess what? – another group photo of the field school! This time in the rain. Those of our friends and colleagues living in the UK can only shake their heads in disbelief at such an event. Egyptians (and non-Egyptians) do not like to get wet, therefore we all huddled together in the center of the boat to avoid getting wet as we crossed the Nile, looking more like we were taking a subway ride in NYC than traveling by boat in Luxor.
Hourig Sourouzian and her team with Saad Bakhit
Hourig inside TT 110
The rain splattered windshield - no wipers, it NEVER rains in Egypt!
Rainy day group shot
Strap-hangers on the boat

Over the last several weeks we had been in secret negotiations with the Ministry in order for Mudira JJ to give a lecture on the 2 Field School seasons to our Egyptian and foreign colleagues working in Luxor. This was carrying on a great tradition of different missions working in Luxor speaking at the end of their seasons, which has not occurred in over 3 years. It involved a convoluted series of phone calls and emails to secure the date, space, and permission from the Director of Museums in Cairo. It was all finally settled in the last few days, with the lecture to take place on Saturday March 19 at 6:30 pm in the Mummification Museum. This meant that we needed to deliver invitations to all of the Ministry Offices and Foreign Missions. As a result, Mr. Will, Mudira JJ, and Hazem spent the better part of Monday playing “Postman Pat” (a British TV series). When we finally made it to the tomb we found that Chuck Van Siclen and Francois Larche were visiting the site, and getting both the archaeological tour and an explanation of TT110 by our ARCE colleagues. Chuck is an old friend of both Will and JJ, even a distant Dutch cousin of Will’s, so it was a wonderful reunion and we subsequently were able to kidnap him for a post-excavation meal on Tuesday at his hotel, the Etap.

Tuesday morning we were met by a low-flying hot air balloon as we waited on the steps of the building for our morning lift from Ayman. Declan was intrigued, and has come to expect balloons every morning, point at the sky and saying "balloon?" Once on the west, we started the day by visiting the work of Gabor Schrieber and his Hungarian team in TT 32 and TT 400, two tombs located just a short ways to the east from ours, and which are part of a mini-necropolis on the Khokha hillside. Despite the wind, and cold, dark, and dreary weather that the rain had brought in, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Especially as most of it was underground in a serpentine-like series of passages and chambers that had been constructed over the long history of the Ramesside Period tombs.
Balloon at 7:15 am directly over our top-floor flat
Gabor Schrieber explaining their work at TT32 and TT400
Group shot seeking shelter from the wind

Wednesday the weather finally changed, and overnight it had miraculously turned into the lovely weather that is more characteristic of Egypt. After our 4 long days, we decided to end the work a bit early, to give the students a break, and to allow time for a visit to the work of Hourig Sourouzian before they stop for the day at 2pm. Mudira JJ, Mr. Will, Yaser, Sayed, Hazem, and ARCE archaeologist Saad Bakhit were treated to a wonderful tour of the entire site, which is a good 2 football fields in length. We finished the tour by having a look at the amazing collection of grano-diorite Sakhmet statues that their project has recently excavated out of a pit under the temple floor. Although most were intentionally broken in order to stave off any anger from the goddess, some of the paint has remained, including her iconic red eyes. Absolutely stunning.

We finished the day with a wonderful boat excursion and picnic dinner provided by Yaser and his wife Manal. An amazing buffet of food was cleverly packed in a series of large-scale plastic containers and within a matter of minutes Yaser and Manal had covered a series of tables that Mahmoud had set up on the boat with a delectable feast. We had no sooner set sail than everyone crowded around piling their plates full of homemade salad, rice, mashi (spiced rice stuffed peppers and courgettes), kofta, potatoes in tomato sauce, meat, and rounded off with two roasted ducks. And then there was the dessert – homemade basbousa! Everyone laughed, ate, and took endless pictures throughout the event. The boat made its way past the grand Luxor hotels as far as the Jolie Ville and almost to the southern bridge that crosses the Nile before turning to take its return journey to Luxor proper at duck. This proved the perfect opportunity of distributing the new team t-shirts to all of the students, which included 2 t-shirts for Yaser’s children. The weather was perfect, the company excellent, the food amazing, and a fabulous time full of general rejoicing was had by all.

Yaser and Mohamed
Yaser and Tokaa

Peter at the tiller

Shaimaa's husband Ahmed with Lena / Maryam
Abu Gomaa looking bemused at the general rejoicing

We ended the week with our 2 groups in separate places. Mudira JJ at Chicago House for the last day of the students doing research in the library, while Mr. Will worked at TT110 with everyone else and hosted a return visit by Egyptologist, and Hourig’s husband, Rainer Stadelmann and others of their team who missed the initial visit to the tomb at the beginning of the week. Thursday evening Mr. Will and Mudira JJ spent a working meal at Pizza Roma to prepare both for the lecture on Saturday and the field trip to Hierakonpolis scheduled for the following day – Friday – which was for the entire Field School. We were gearing up for a 2-day marathon in which we would have very little down time.

Please see the following entry to learn if we survived the weekend!