Friday, October 19, 2012

Some of Nature's inhabitants in Gebel el Silsila

Before sending a little week report from our week 3, we thought we could share with you some "natural" information about our site...

Any archaeologist who works out in the field soon has to come to terms with the various forms of wildlife that reside within the site. No different, Gebel el Silsila is mostly known from its earliest modern visitors as a home for horned vipers, of course described also by the quarries' previous surveyor R. Caminos:

"Yet working there [=Silsila East] will not be a simple matter. It will take careful planning, much equipment, and great determination and sang-froid to reach Amenophis IV's stela, which overhangs the plain at the top of a high, precipitous cliff, seemingly inaccessible. And clearly the place is the home of even more vipers than West Silsilah."

another viper eater at Silsila

Seemingly being a continuous threat, it is by no surprise to us to find ancient graffiti depicting the sacred Ibis standing upon a viper, a superstitious expression to keep away any dangerous creatures with the help of the ancient deities. We thank the ancients for making sure also our visit is kept safe from any closer encounters with these rather stunning snakes. Interestingly enough, the snake as an ancient carving appears only randomly in the main quarry, although references to the snake-headed local protective deities, Pachimesen and Psais (Shai) are more common.

Another common feature in the stone landscape of Silsila is the falcon, and at times, if lucky enough, we had the great pleasure of gazing upon a couple of great eagles as they were hunting for food either on land or in the Nile. Also this beautiful and magnificent creature is represented among the graffiti, pictorially depicted in full zoomorphic (falcon) form wearing the unification crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, and in text described as Horus Behutet - Horus of Edfu.

high up in the sky is the gorgeous falcon

Several other animals appear as pictorial graffiti on Silsila's various faces, but as a modern visitor to the site, we can count several that have no ancient representation. For Adrienn the camel spider was the biggest threat, which already upon arrival set her off running in any given direction away from the spider's "nest". For John, well his worst enemy must be the ant, which turns up around his feet with some hundreds of friends trying to clean up after lunch. For me, well I guess the most upsetting moment was to find the corner of our tent having been yellow-marked by one of the area's beautiful foxes or wild dogs...

lunch place with or without ants...

And then we have our nocturnal inhabitants of Silsila - the bats, which keep us notified of their presence in the crevices and under fallen blocks. Not bothering us too much usually, a colony of the larger fruit bats consisting of some thousands of individuals has turned out to cause us some problem as their dropping and protective behavior of their home force us to "dress up for the occasion", with us reminding more of figures investigating a quarantine scene from "Outbreak"...

entry to the bats' gallery!

inside the bats' gallery

smaller bat colony

An archaeologist knows no boundaries to reach the clues - right?!

We'll be back soon with some more reports from our work in the main quarry!

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