Thursday, March 8, 2018

Field School Week 4

Saturday found Mudira JJ back on site, much to everyone’s relief and delight! However, Yaser had left us for Abydos to begin his field school there, much to everyone in Luxor’s dismay. Since our students couldn’t do any pottery or object drawing with Yaser away, we decided that while Group 1 returned to work with Mr. Will and Sayed in the tomb, Group 2 would head up the mountain with JJ and Hazem to get a better sense of the tombs dating to Hatshepsut, especially those of Senenmut and Senimen, that are found on the southern end of Qurna, just above TT110. JJ and her group returned back in time for second breakfast and a visit from Egyptology graduate students Taylor Dean (Memphis) and Vicky Jensen (Berkeley). As we were finishing up, Dr. Hesham Elleithy, General Director of the Antiquities Documentation Center, whom JJ had met at her EES lecture, arrived for a visit. He met all the students and we chatted at length about the various projects the Documentation Center is undertaking, particularly the re-organization of the antiquities storage magazines. After the visits, Group 1 returned to the tomb while JJ headed back across the hills with Group 2, this time leading them to Deir el-Bahari, Hatshepsut’s “Temple of Millions of Years”, to examine the obelisk transport and Punt scenes depicted on the southern terraces, both of which include the names and figures of some of Hatshepsut’s officials, as well as the adjacent Hathor Chapel. Upon Group 2’s return to the site, JJ discovered that Ahmed el-Hajaj, our inspector and student form the 2016 field school, had come to surprise us with a visit! He had traveled all the way from Hurghada, on the Red Sea coast, where he is now based, just to see us. It was a wonderful reunion, with much rejoicing, for everyone, and it was particularly pleasurable to show him the work that the new students are completing in the tomb. In the course of this visit we realized that the field school’s 2018 logo is actually based on the winged solar disk that Ahmed had been responsible for drawing in the tomb.

Group shot with Ahmed el-Hajaj

Group shot with Taylor Deane

Groups 1 (below) and 2 (above) at the Davies House

On Sunday, we switched the groups, so that Group 2 could spend the day drawing in the tomb and Group 1 could benefit from the walking tour of tombs and Deir el-Bahari. As with Saturday, we were joined at second breakfast by visitors. This time it was our friends and colleagues Luigi Prada from Oxford and Copenhagen (who some of you will recall visited us back in 2015), and Suzanne Woodhouse, the librarian at the Griffith Institute, Oxford. They had just finished their season working at Elkab and were in Luxor for a few days before heading back to England. In addition, Afifi Rohim arrived with some colleagues who are working with him in the Western Valley in order to visit our work. It was again particularly gratifying to be able to show Afifi the field school in action seeing as he and Will had worked together at the initial AERA field school many years ago at Giza. Visits concluded, JJ once again led her group off to Deir el-Bahari whilst Will and his group continued in the tomb. We re-joined Luigi later that night for dinner and drinks, and, as with Marco, seeing as Luigi is (half) Italian, we felt it to be obligatory that we take him to Pizza Roma (any excuse for a cold beer!).

Afifi Rohim's visit

JJ, Luigi, and Will

Group 1 as Osiride statues

Seeing as Yaser was still away for one more day, and each group had now had both walkabouts and tomb-time, we took Monday “off” in order to see and visit various of our colleagues work on the west bank. After morning teas and coffees at the Medinet Habu café, we headed into the Medinet Habu temple, where the Chicago House team of Egyptologist/epigrapher Jen Kimpton and artist Keli Alberts are continuing to work at the western high gate, where we had visited them 2 years ago. They have made remarkable progress since then in understanding the architecture and decoration of this badly destroyed area. Our merry band of students, after a variety of group photo opportunities, packed into a single minibus in order to head to TT 125, the tomb of Duawyneheh, who was an important official during Hatshepsut’s reign. The students were given a tour of the work by Dr. Sanaa Ahmed Ali, who had kindly invited our field school to stop by after JJ’s visit earlier in the season. By then it was time for second breakfast, but seeing as we had given Abu Hamada and Mohammed the day off, we had a somewhat surreal breakfast in a derelict shanty on the edge of Dra Abu el-Naga, where an amazing breakfast of eggs, fuul, tamaya, potates, salat, and aish was whipped up from what looked to be no more than a single ring burner. With sodas being brought in on request, appearing as if by magic from somewhere beyond the table area. Our poor driver Mohammed was shuttling everyone about, as two of our students left before breakfast to head to the teftish at Luxor Temple to sort out paperwork, and just as he returned to the breakfast spot JJ and Sayed left (missing out on the sodas!) to meet up with the Director of the EES, Dr. Cédric Gobeil, seeing as Sayed was just granted a Centenary Award by the EES, and Cedric was interested in seeing the tomb (Qurnet Murai TT 382 of Usermontu) that Sayed would be working on with his grant. Whilst this was happening, Mohammed went back to retrieve the rest of the group, and Mr. Will, from breakfast and take them over to our former student Mahmoud’s tomb, TT 172 of Montuiywy, which is conveniently located near TT110. Having deposited them, Mohammed turned around to head back to Qurnet Murai so that JJ and Sayed could be collected and brought over to TT172. By the time the day was done and everyone dropped at the ferry, poor Mohammed had made half-a-dozen trips round the west bank!

Bobsey Twins!

At Medinet Habu with Jen Kimpton (above) and Keli Alberts (below)

Safaa and Sayed

At the Eastern Gate of Medinet Habu

Outside TT 125 with Dr. Sanaa

On Tuesday Yaser returned to work at the tomb so we were able to divide the groups again so that Group 1 began a 3-day stint drawing in the tomb, and Group 2 began 3 days of object illustration with Yaser. JJ meanwhile, spent the morning preparing for her lecture at Karnak, as she had been invited to give a talk for the Scientific Center for Research at Karnak. Rather than speak about the field school, which you may recall we had done in November, she gave an edited version of the talk she had given in Cairo at the EES. This topic was of interest not only for our Egyptian colleagues, but also for several from foreign missions, so it was a well-attended lecture. Unbeknownst to JJ, Moamen had arranged that it be streamed live (with varying degrees of success) by Luxor Times, so colleagues who were unable to attend could follow along, at least to some degree. Both groups drawing on site were able to benefit from a long and uninterrupted day to really make headway with their work. Several of the students in Group 1 have completed their first A3 size sheets, and the others made excellent progress. The students in the tent with Yaser likewise began to draw a variety of objects chosen by Yaser so as to understand the need for top plans, elevations, and sections, making object drawing somewhat different from pottery drawing. At the end of the work day, Will, JJ, and the staff met for lunch at 3pm with our friend and colleague Affifi Rohim, so as to have a chance to properly catch up. Afifi is so busy with his own work in the Western Valley, as we are with the field school, that we knew without a proper plan we would miss each other before leaving at the end of the field season. We spent a lovely afternoon at a favorite establishment in the souk (market), Om Hasham, which proved to be a 2-story, air-conditioned, emporium of Egyptian delicacies, some of the best traditional food we had tasted in Luxor. The lunch was topped off with coffees and teas at Om Khalthum, a famous local watering hole in the souk which has been there for generations and is a local landmark. Will and JJ left the boys and Afifi to return home so that JJ could get cleaned up and ready to go out for an “Epigraphy Girls” night initiated by our former student Shaimaa, at 7pm. JJ and the girls all met up at a local restaurant along the Nile, Eltagdif Club, for fresh juices and ice cream, spending a wonderful 2 hours chatting and laughing, and generally leaving work behind. It was the first time JJ had spent an evening out with just her female students, and we had such fun that we all agreed to do it at least once more before the end of the school.
JJ's lecture at Karnak

Working hard in the Mudira's absence!

Wednesday marked the first of the “late” days, when we would work until 3pm instead of 1pm so that each group could get an extra few hours of drawing in before the school ends next week, with each group continuing in their respective places. Unfortunately, we picked one of the hottest days to do this – with the temperatures reaching beyond 100F/40C! However, it was also a day marked with celebrations. First of all, Will and JJ had brought some wonderful chocolate-chip cookies that Ayman’s wife had made and which we shared at the morning tea and coffee. Then,
second breakfast was highlighted by Abu Hamada bringing in his wife’s homemade fatir (a flaky, filo-like bread), which as many of will know he introduced us to in previous field schools and has become a favorite with JJ, Will, and all the students. He also brought along the traditional dipping sauces: sugarcane molasses with and without tahini and gibna abyad. It was particularly delightful since it was a surprise to all of us, although JJ had been hinting about having it since the beginning of the season. Since we were staying late, it meant having another short break around 1pm, and as it was Yaser’s birthday, we had planned to surprise him with one of our legendary cakes as well as cold drinks. This time we actually managed to remember to do it on the day! Yaser was completely and utterly surprised by the cake, and also by the picture that topped it – one of Hazem, Will, Yaser, JJ, and Sayed taken back in 2016.


Amongst all of these celebrations and tasty victuals we actually managed to get quite a lot of work done! And, we also had a visit from Dr. Basem Gehad, Assistant to the Minister for Capacity Development, Training, and Human Resources, and Mostafa Badawy, a member of the Aswan Inspectorate. It was lovely to meet Basem in person, and be able to show him our work, which he has helped to facilitate. After a long day, just when we thought the celebrations had come to an end, we learned that Yaser’s wife Manal was planning a further surprise party for him in the evening for friends and family, and also wanted to include all the students from the field school. So from 7pm onwards we all gathered at a lovely garden coffee shop located along the banks of the Nile, which catered to large groups and families with children. So yet again, more cake and sodas, along with traditional Egyptian sweet pastries was enjoyed by one and all.

 Yaser's second birthday party

It was only Wednesday evening at Yaser’s party that it dawned on us that we had arranged with Afifi to visit his work in the Western Valley at the crack of dawn Thursday morning. So, informing the students at the last minute that we would have to meet earlier than usual in order to facilitate this visit, the party broke up a bit early. But with the recent heatwave we were glad that the trek up the wadi was in the relative cool of the early morning beneath the deep shadows cast by the cliffs rather than in the heat of the day. Afifi is in charge of a long-term project to try and clear the rock and debris from the end of the valley near the royal tomb of Ay, in the hopes of finding additional royal tombs. He kindly showed us and our students some of his work and the organizational methodology he is applying to this work in order to settle the question once and for all as to whether there are more tombs. Since we had an earlier start, we managed to get back to TT110 by 8:30, meaning we had a nearly on-time start to the day. This was one of the last days for Group 1 to be in the tomb, and Group 2 with Yaser, and the students worked hard and well to complete their drawings. In fact, some have even been drawing objects found around the house!
Alaa Talaat's "homework"

Rehab drawing her first object
Ahmed ElNasseh taking the shape of his object

Sayed and Rasha consulting at the wall

Over the past week we had been having the 2018 field school t-shirts made, and so it was with much excitement that we finally handed them out to the students. Everyone agreed that the logo was excellent and the color chosen for the stitching, thanks to Shaimaa's scarf, perfect. Look for them on our field trip to ElKab tomorrow!