Thursday, November 16, 2017

Field School Week 3

Somehow Saturday morning we managed to arise, mostly ready for the work day. When we were picked up we discovered we weren’t the only ones still recovering – Saad had overslept and managed to arrive at Karnak only later in the morning. But somehow the rest of our students made it, on time, to the Karnak Lab to begin their final week of training with Hassan. Leaving them in his capable hands, JJ, Will, and Marco headed back to TT 110, picking up Hilary from Chicago House, and Owen from the west bank, along the way. It is a photography day at TT110, with Hilary and Marco working in the tomb while Owen worked under the tent. Hilary was experimenting with her newly developed RTI technique, catching details of cartouches, while Marco was taking photos for creating his 3D model of the tomb. Meanwhile Owen was creating screen-shot instructions as a teaching aid for the students so that they could work up and revise the models that they had begun to create on Thursday. The work was somewhat delayed by the arrival of Dr. Tamás Bács and one of his graduate students, whom we had initially seen walking up the gebel in such a deliberate manner we realized that they could not be tourists. Tamás had accepted JJ’s invitation to come and visit before beginning his own work at the tomb of Hatshepsut’s high priest of Amun Hapuseneb (TT67) and the adjacent TT65 of Hatshepsut’s overseer of the granary Nebamun, but usurped in the Late Ramesside Period. These tombs are just up the cliffside from TT110, and it was delightful to see Tamás again, and talk a bit about his work, and the work we are doing in TT110. Because of the late start, we stayed on site until 2:30, tired but having accomplished a great deal in terms of the photography.

 A view from TT110 up the cliffs towards TT65 and TT67

Marco at work inside and outside TT110

In many ways Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, but with just Hilary and Marco, as Owen had completed the instruction sheets. Hilary spent the morning finishing the detailed shots she was taking, while Marco carried on photographing for the 3D model of TT110, including the external courtyard and façade to put the tomb in its proper topographic context within the landscape of the gebel. Will walked him through the court, explaining what was modern, and what original so that Marco could better visualize what the facade looked like in antiquity based on the surviving architectural clues. Seeing as TT110 is a relatively small tomb, JJ and Will introduced Marco to TT41, where the students had spent time the initial week preparing their epigraphy plans, so that Marco could get a better sense of what was possible in a subterranean Egyptian tomb. Marco was yet again amazed as to what often lies hidden behind the rock-cut tomb facades that he had been observing around and above TT 110. Yet another example of the potential ancient Egyptian architecture offers for 3D modeling. By the end of the workday, Hilary had finished her work, and Marco realized he had just the rear room of TT110 remaining, but preferred to come back the following day to give him time to check what he had already done in case more photos needed to be taken. Also, our student Alaa had asked if Marco could look and see if it might be possible to create a 3D model of his tomb. TT108, which Alaa had begun to record at the end of our last field season, and completed between then and now. The tomb is small and unfinished, and literally under the tent where we have been having second breakfast, so it couldn’t be more convenient!

We had incorporated Owen, Hilary, and Marco into our working lunches at Oasis, which has been splendid as they have been able to brief us on their work in the tomb. They had not needed our help, expect occasionally to hold mirrors or block out the sunlight, clearly putting us into our place as props and accessories to the real photographic tomb action! The working day done and dusted, we had a particular treat in store for Sunday evening, knowing the Will’s good friend Liam McNamara, currently the Keeper of the Egyptian Department at the Ashmolean and Director of the Griffith Institute in Oxford, had completed a brief season at Hierakonpolis with Renee Friedman (see 2016 fieldtrip) and was passing through Luxor for one night only in order to catch the direct Luxor-London Egypt Air flight Monday morning (the same flight we will be taking in just a week!). The timing was so tight that he arrived at his hotel at 6pm, just long enough to get cleaned up before we whisked him away thanks to Ayman and his taxi, to our favorite Italian watering hole, Pizza Roma, where we could offer him dinner and a cold beer. It was marvelous catching up as well as comparing notes about our respective field seasons. Before we knew it, 2 hours had elapsed and it was time to deposit Liam back at his hotel, only to find that he was planning to meet another Hierakonpolis colleague for a drink – Xavier Droux, who was in Luxor leading a tour from the UK. Xavier left his glass of beer being guarded at the King’s Head Pub, an old Egyptological watering hole, to rush across the street and meet us in front of the Sonesta/St. George hotel for a brief reunion. JJ and Will called it a night, leaving the boys to it.

On Monday we went back to TT110, this time just with Marco to finish off all of the photography in the tomb and so that he could also take pictures for Alaa in TT108 to create for him a 3D model. Marco had finished in TT110 by breakfast, leaving plenty of time for Alaa’s tomb, or so we thought! Our breakfasts have become so famous, that we were joined by Ramadan and Ezz, as well as Afaf and her Inspector, our 2015 Inspector Esmaa. It was a lovely reunion, but led to so much chatting that we forgot that we actually had to leave early in order to join the team at Karnak for lunch since Owen and Hilary had agreed to come back to finish their teaching in the afternoon. Lunch proved to be something of a special occasion in that Shaimaa and Nadia had prepared a feast for everyone: tahina, gibna abyad, salat, minced meat béchamel, and homemade kunifa (squares of shredded coconut and honey) for dessert. It was truly delicious! The day was long but productive, and the students came away with a good knowledge of the digital photography process. That evening JJ had arranged for a dinner at Hazem’s so that the parents of a close friend, who are in Egypt on a Nile River cruise, could experience a home cooked, traditional Egyptian meal hosted by Hazem. Over dinner we fielded many questions about archaeological life and work in Egypt, and shared some of our favorite places to visit. Everyone enjoyed the evening tremendously.

Tuesday, being one of Marco’s last days in Egypt, we thought we had better let him actually visit Karnak Temple, instead of just looking at it from the back gate! Also, Will, JJ, and Hassan had agreed to give a lecture for the Scientific Department Center of Karnak, led by Moamen Saad, another of Will’s former students who is currently working on recording the Ramesside inscriptions at Gebel Silsila and whose work we visited as part of our field trip in 2015. The talk was meant for inspectors based in Luxor, and many from Karnak and Luxor Temples, as well as the Sphinx Avenue project attended. At the end of the talk, while we were receiving congratulations, we noted that Hassan was actually being interviewed for local Luxor television. Being innately shy, very much against his will, a media star in the making. Duty done, we had a late breakfast of what Hazem managed to save for us from our scavenging, locust-like students, and returned to the temple, providing Marco with a potted history of Egypt as it related to the development of Karnak. This was particularly pleasurable as we were seated in the shade of the hypostyle hall, making it even more apropos. The timing proved perfect as we rounded out the day with the Festival Hall of Thutmose III. Thanks to the morning lecture and word spreading throughout the temple, we were giving special permission to visit parts of the structure normally closed to the public. Celebrity does have its perks! But our work day was not actually finished as we had an extended staff meeting over lunch to discuss with Hazem, Sayed, Hassan and Yasser plans for the February-March season and to finalize the decision selecting which students would attend the new field school. Marco participated and made useful contributions regarding the photographic and photogrammetry aspect, which he had helped Owen and Hilary teach, and it seemed an opportune moment not only to thank him, but also to ask if he were willing to join us again next year as an official member of the team to continue in that role. He accepted readily, and we were all well pleased to welcome him to the team. Our “Visiting Scholar” had become a full-fledged team member with the new title of “Photogrammetry and 3D Creator” (see field crew page). Marco was spared the remaining 2 hours of the meeting so that he could go back to the hotel for a much needed nap. Karnak has that effect upon people! Finally finishing up the meeting at 6, thanks to Ayman closing the dining room, even by our standards this was a bit ridiculous to sit down for lunch and not leave until dinner! However, by the end we were all pleased with the decisions we made in terms of our selections and expanding the field school from 5 to 10 students, as well as incorporating the photographic and digital element more firmly in the teaching structure.

Hassan Ramadan giving his lecture on digital epigraphy  

By day’s end Tuesday Hassan had essentially finished his teaching, so on Wednesday Yaser came to the Karnak Lab to give the students some instruction in digitally inking pottery and object drawings. Leaving him to it, JJ, Will, and Marco headed west so that JJ could finish up business with the teftish, accompanied by Sayed and Hassan, while Will and Marco visited the Ramesseum. We re-grouped in time to visit Sayed’s tomb in Qurnet Murai, TT 362, an early Ramesside tomb that belonged to a high priest of Mont named Usermontu. It had been hidden under the local homes, and only exposed after the houses were removed and the debris cleared. As was often the case, the tomb had been robbed from the rear via passages from other tombs, but still contained mounds of intrusive bones and pottery from later occupation. Remarkably, the plaster painted walls, especially in the second chamber, are still extraordinarily well-preserved, and, by Ramesside standards, extremely beautiful. By now it was nearly noon, and being hot, dusty, and hungry we agreed to adjourn to Sheikh Ali for colds drinks and lunch. This was a treat for Marco, who had yet to experience the lovely garden environment of which the west bank archaeological community is so fond, and would not be at the graduation ceremony, which traditionally is held in the Sheikh Ali garden. Bidding a fond farewell we headed back to the east bank to have a rest before re-grouping for dinner. Since it was Marco’s last night, we thought it would be an opportunity to introduce him to Pizza Roma, which seemed an appropriate venue for saying goodbye to our Italian compatriot. Hazem, Sayed, Hassan, and Owen joined us, but Yaser and Hilary were unable to as they had previous engagements, so they said their goodbyes via telephone. We ended the evening by strolling through Luxor Temple, admiring the beautifully lit reliefs and statues, and giving Marco one last glimpse of ancient Egyptian architecture. Saying our goodbyes as we exited the temple, Marco was dragooned by Hazem and Sayed for one final stop for coffee and shisha at a local café. We will draw a veil over this and hope Marco made his flight in the morning …

Luxor By Night

Thursday marks the last day of the field school, and as is our custom the students were evaluated for their progress over the course of the school. This time, since Hassan did the digital epigraphy teaching, he also evaluated the students, taking the entire morning until just after breakfast. Once the evaluations were finished, we all returned to the lab so that Hassan could give the students some final points about digital drawing and inking. With final words of thanks and appreciation, a last group photo was taken in front of Khonsu Temple in memory of our time at the lab and the completion of the digital epigraphy course, and we walked out of the temple happy to have completed another field school, and sad to see our students go.

The graduation ceremony is tonight (Thursday evening) at the same site as in previous years – the garden of Sheikh Ali at dusk. Students, their families, and staff have all been invited for one last evening together, and inevitably more photos. Tune in next week for our last hurrah.