Saturday, March 3, 2018

Field School Week 3

As we anticipated, we spent some of our Friday working at Chicago House. We needed to prepare some fieldtrips for the students for the time next week when they won’t be able to receive illustration instruction from Yaser, seeing as he will be away for a few days to start his field school at Abydos. Work accomplished, we rounded out the evening by having a drink at the Winter Palace’s Royal Bar with Steve Harvey, an old friend and colleague who is in town for a few days leading an AIA (Archaeological Institute of America) tour through Egypt. It was lovely to catch up and reminisce! Seeing as he also had to be up early, we made our way home at the unbelievable time of 8:30, though we still didn’t manage to get to bed until after 10.

Saturday was the day of truth for Group 1, who began their practice drawings in TT 110 at the places we had designated for them and where they will ultimately be drawing for real Meanwhile, Group 2 got its first introduction to pottery illustration from Yaser. Yaser gave each student the necessary drawing tools (profile gauges, calipers, etc.), explaining all their individual uses, and began reviewing the “5 steps” of archaeological illustration. They managed to get through to step 2! We also got to see quite a bit of Ezz today, as we met him on the way to work, at breakfast with Ramadan, and then again on the way home from work.

On Sunday we continued in much the same fashion, with Yaser finishing up his explanation of the 5 step drawing process with Group 2, while Group 1 continued working in the tomb. Several of the Group 1 students were able to finish their first practice pieces, and two began looking at the photocopies from Davies publication for the area they will draw in order to check his work against the wall. After breakfast both groups re-formed in Yaser’s illustration tent in order for Will to discuss and demonstrate the drawing of particular hieroglyphic signs, paying close attention to specific diagnostic traits and features. The purpose of this exercise is to help the students be able to recognize individual signs on the wall, even when they are damaged or badly preserved. This took us, yet again, right up until 1pm, by which time everyone was very glad to escape the heat of the day, which is now pushing above 30C / 88F. Through the desert grapevine, as we were packing up, we learned that our friend and colleague Liam McNamara was in town briefly from Hierakonpolis on his way to the airport o travel to Cairo, and that he was lunching at the Oasis before leaving town. Seeing as his transport was provided by our driver Ayman, he knew to delay his departure slightly so as to rendezvous with us at the end of our work day. Thus, we were able to see him as he was finishing his lunch and we were ordering ours for an information-packed half hour.

Sayed and Mario at the false door
Rasha, Walid and Will at the north stela

Rasha making her hand copy

On Monday our two groups swapped places, with Group 1 going off to the tent to begin pottery drawing instruction with Yaser, and Group 2 (finally) coming back into the tomb and resuming their hand copies from last week. After some review to remind them, and us, as to how far they had each gotten, they seemed to have quickly returned to the zone just in time for a visit from our Chicago House neighbors in TT 107, artist Sue Osgood and epigrapher/Egyptologist Ariel Singer. This was particularly satisfying seeing as we had visited their work and Sue had graciously explained her drawing techniques and methods, and now our students were able to return the compliment. It was one of those kinds of days where not just one bus, but several arrive, and we had what we thought were random tourists visiting the tomb only to realize they were young Egyptological colleagues from Australia whom we had briefly met at the Oasis. JJ was able to give them a brief introduction to the tomb while the students continued to work, and seeing as it was nearly time for breakfast we invited them to join us. As we were leaving the tomb we saw Vincent Oeters on the horizon with his parents and girlfriend Myrthe, whom we had been expecting. Vincent, in good Egyptological fashion, knew when to arrive for 2nd breakfast, as if by instinct! So inviting them along, the more the merrier, we had a particularly festive, extended breakfast, so much so that we had to send Abu Hamada and Mohammed to collect all the chairs from Yaser’s tent. Again Vincent, knowing archaeological etiquette, brought gifts – a package of the traditional Dutch stroopwafel (waffle-like wafers filled with caramel). But being so many, Vincent’s mum, in good motherly fashion, divided them into quarters – enough for 1 apiece, except for Will and JJ, and the staff, who each got 2. YAY! For JJ, the first time she had tried this, and for Will a much appreciated delicacy. Treats consumed, we headed back to our respective work places and Vincent’s party was able to get an impression of not only the tomb, but also our students’ work. Those of you from reading our previous blogs will remember that Vincent visited us 2 years ago, so it was an enjoyable reunion for many of us. Bidding farewell to Vincent and his family, and directing them to Sheikh Ali for a well-deserved repast, Will took charge in the tomb while JJ was able to visit our former student Mahmoud’s nearby tomb, TT 172 of Montuiywy, in order to have a look and discuss the style of wall painting and interesting historical aspects of the tomb and its owner.

Hala drawing pottery
Hussein drawing pottery

Will and Ahmed el-Nasseh at the north stela
Mahmoud examining the lintel

Vincent displaying the stroopwafel

Vincent and his family visiting TT 110

Tuesday, even before we caught breath and had our first tea and nescafe, the ARCE minibus arrived, carrying ARCE’s Egypt Director Dr. Louise Bertini, Deputy Director for Research and Government Affiliations Director Mary Sadek, and camerawoman Dana Smillie. They joined us for tea and coffee and then hit the ground running, filming the landscape of the tomb, and various aspects of the field school, including the students working on epigraphy inside the tomb and drawing pottery with Yaser at the tent. The morning was rounded off by JJ giving an interview answering questions regarding the nature and history of the project. It all ran quite smoothly and by 9:30 they had finished and headed off to visit and film other ARCE projects working in the Luxor area. We carried on working, with the two groups in the same area that they had been on the day before. When we broke for 2nd breakfast we were surprised and delighted to see that our former student Shaimaa Mandor had come to visit! Many of our new students also know her very well, and a few had even had some instruction in epigraphy from her, so there was much rejoicing all around the table. Which had nothing, of course, to do with the homemade pastries and delectable pound cake that Shaimaa had brought with her! Thanks to Shaimaa’s visit, the students were also, finally, able to decide on a logo color for their team shirts. They could all agree, at last, to choose the color of Shaimaa’s headscarf – nibeety, a deep burgundy red.

 Shaimaa advising Rehab at the false door

After breakfast the two groups continued, with several in the tomb finishing their initial practice sheets. Shaimaa also joined us in TT 110, which was particularly helpful for Rehab as she is drawing in the same area as Shaimaa did in 2015 and thus could give her some good advice. Once again, the students drawing pottery worked up until the last possible moment, with Yaser releasing them a good 10 minutes past closing time. With the students realizing that Mudira JJ was going to be away until Saturday, there were many fond farewells and wishes of good luck for her talks in Cairo on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as insistence that she return bearing presents.

Amira's hand copy
Rehab's hand copy

Rehab proudly displaying her first drawing

After a meal at Hazem’s with his family, JJ caught the shuttle from Luxor to Cairo, arriving and heading straight to Salima Ikram’s for an evening visit with her and her husband Nicholas, as well as our now old friend Piet Collett, who keeps turning up everywhere. Meanwhile, Mr. Will was left in charge of the project in Luxor, enjoying a quiet evening at the flat in readiness for a hectic day on site the next morning.

On Wednesday, whilst JJ was preparing for her talk at ARCE that evening, Will and the team were visited by ARCE Luxor Associate Director John Shearman and Conservator Khadiga Adam, who were showing a group from the US Embassy the work ARCE had done in the tomb. Once the visit ended, it was time to work, and now it was Group 1’s turn in the tomb to work on their epigraphy and Group 2 heading off to continue pottery drawing with Yaser. On Thursday the two groups switched places yet again, so that by week’s end each group had had the same amount of time in the tomb as at the drawing tent. In addition, in order to make sure that the students understood the various types of surfaces present in the tomb before they began their drawing, Mr. Will devised a game by which each student was asked to identify the different types of surface found in TT110, at Mr. Will’s discretion: good surface, damage, ancient plaster, and modern restoration. To Will’s relief (ha ha!), all 11 students passed with flying colors! 

Students queueing to begin Mr. Will's "game"
Mario's turn at the "game"

Sayed seemed to be on his phone an inordinate amount of time during the morning, and announced to Mr. Will by second breakfast that he had had word from the London-based Egypt Exploration Society (EES) that his proposal for fieldwork had been accepted and he had been awarded a Centenary Grant to begin his excavation and study of TT382 of Usermontu. As some of you may remember, JJ and Will visited Sayed’s tomb at the end of the last field school and subsequently wrote references on his behalf for the application. Therefore, there was much jubilation in the tomb and over the airwaves as Sayed let JJ know the good news. At the end of the work day, the guys retired to Sheikh Ali, sans JJ, for the customary Thursday afternoon staff meeting and debriefing about the week and the progress made by the students, as well as a plan for the upcoming week while Yaser is away at Abydos. The meeting was rounded off with a conference call to JJ, who spent the day preparing for her second lecture, this time at the EES Cairo offices at the British Council. Both of JJ’s lectures went well, and she was able to celebrate this by rounding off Thursday night dining with a group of friends.

Hazem catching up on project work while Mudira's away

 Crossing a street in Cairo

Friday was spent with Will preparing for the upcoming fieldtrip by doing some research at Chicago House about the site of Elkab and the particular monuments that we hope to visit, including New Kingdom (18th Dynasty) rock-cut tombs, barque shrine of Amenhotep III, and assorted rock graffiti located along the wadi in between. Upon the completion of Will’s work at Chicago House, Hazem and Ayman collected him from the pavement and transported him to the airport to greet the arrival of the Mudira’s plane. While waiting outside the terminal, our friend Ellie Smith appeared put of nowhere, having just left Will at Chicago House! It turned out that she was there to greet the Chicago House photographer Sue Lezon, another old friend and colleague. So JJ and Sue had been on the same flight from Cairo, but failed to properly recognize each other until greeted by Ellie and Will. They admitted to thinking each looked familiar, but they weren’t sure enough to say anything, seeing as it had been some 20 years since they had least seen one another!