Saturday, May 04, 2013

A week report from the “linguistic department”

Although the summer arrived this week to Silsila, bringing almost extreme heat and making our work harder also because of the strong direct sunlight on the quarry faces, the first morning provided us with a good omen: we saw a scorpion in the camp! The little green creature was hiding in our folded camping chair left overnight in site, but following the ancient Egyptian tradition, we thanked Ma’at for bringing us this sign of fortune!    

As John had urgent work on the boat (will be reported on in more detail in the weekly report from the “topographical department’s” point of view) the first two days us girls spent some quality time in the quarry. I continued the documentation of textual inscriptions while Maria measured and photographed the southern section of the quarry with all its quarry marks and technical remains from extraction.
This was our last week in this particular quarry so I had to double check that I had documented every inscription properly. Since the changing of the sunlight (with its shades or direct sunlight on the surface) often makes texts invisible I was not surprised when I found new (mostly painted) inscriptions especially in the corridor. These are (unfortunately) fragmentary and blurry; however, one demotic inscription contains the word Caesar combined with numbers written after the noun “stone”. In my opinion it is another dedication to Isis, who was the protector-goddess of this quarry and with various similar texts in the immediate surroundings, and with the author’s personal comment telling us how many blocks he extracted that specific day.

As known before and now confirmed in more detail than previously, the extraction for the Esna barrage in 1906 destroyed a few ancient inscriptions and quarry marks, but to our relief the number can be limited to only six now missing inscriptions based on the documentation of Legrain, Spigelberg and Preisigke. Comparing the current layout of the quarry with the accounts of Legrain, two ancient quarry faces were removed between 1906 and 1909. We are still searching for Legrain’s reference of a few-lined text curved next to an Isis figure in the quay; a search made more difficult due to the incorrectness of Legrain’s map. I hope we will find it soon.

This week we welcomed our new inspector to our site; Mr. Mohamed Mohsen! He is a nice man and enthusiastic about the work in Sislila and he is the youngest inspector at Kom Ombo. I think he finds the topographical work more interesting than the epigraphical since he assisted John in the open sunlight during the last days in spite of the heat.   

The best event of the week, when we were all “on top of the world” (Imagine Dragon’s song that Maria plays for us each morning to keep the spirit up) was when John and Ahmed Sayed found two Roman oil lamps tucked in between two stone blocks in the ruins of a collapsed building. They are intact and beautiful having even the wick inside (more reports on these later).

Living on a dahabeya is an elegant adventure taking us back to the beginning of the 20th century, but it includes an interesting wildlife experience as well. The boat has been anchored next a reed-bed populated by animals. Birds are flying over us, picking up crumbs from the floor and unknown quadruped eats from our garbage during the night.           

Thank you

Dr. Adrienn Almasy

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