A week has passed since we left London after a fruitful and
interesting time at CRE XV – thank you again to the organizers for doing such a
great job, to EES, Petrie Museum and its Friends, and to all the wonderful
friends and colleagues that made the event so great!
|The CRE XV group at King's Collage, London. Photo from:|
We returned to Silsila the day after our arrival back in
Egypt and welcomed back to the site one of Silsila’s major devotees – Dr. Philip
Martinez. We also welcomed to the team our two new inspectors, Mustafa and
Sayed! The last week of work has included some daredevil moments as we had
erected a monumental scaffolding system to reach the famous stela of Amenhotep
IV on the East Bank. Without a proper ladder, safety measures were … well, let
us say that we are all grateful for having survived the climbs up and down.
|Scaffolding comes up...|
Certainly the sight and documentation of the stela was worth the trouble! With a clear due-north orientation and situated some 14 m above the current ground level, this piece has captured the interest of Amarna researchers and Akhenaten fans for generations, and thankfully it is one of few monuments that has been protected by any modern interference mainly due to its inaccessible location. However, as is the case with many pre-Amarna scenes of the Atenist ruler, the depictions of Amun, the king himself, and selected parts of the text have suffered from the doom of damnatio memoriae. Thankfully for us, some of the outlines of the previously deep carvings have survived the harsh treatment of atenists, and a full reconstruction will be possible due to our photographic documentation, acetate copies, and Dr. Martinez’ digital epigraphic skills.
Also, while being in this beautiful northern part of the
site, it was natural to record in detail the gorgeous Predynastic rock art
panels that are located nearby. Giraffes, hunter scenes, boats and other motifs
that have captured the essence of our Predynastic ancestors’ everyday life, all
came to life through the work of a good camera combined with acetate drawings!
|John had his first view at the stela|
|and the team with the scaffolding workers|
|Our inspector Mustafa copying the lower hieroglyphic text|
|Maria climbing the scaffolding|
|and on top...|
Another daredevil moment was experienced when John and I (Maria)
finally suited up for the occasion of entering the not so famous bat-filled
subterranean gallery on the East Bank. Several underground galleries (quarries)
are preserved, some better than others, but this particular one has restrained
most scholars from entering due to its enormous population of fruit-bats and
smaller (regular) bats – and the smell that comes with such a populous, not to
mention the possible risk of catching rabies. Well, indeed we dressed up for
the occasion, not only to get the job done, but also in the colour of Easter as
our suits were shiny chicken yellow.
|Dressed for Easter - or prepared for bats?!|
Fully suited and booted, and with
respiratory aid and construction workers’ hats, we entered the cave of bats
with great enthusiasm. In the extreme heat wave that we have experiences
recently, you can all imagine what it was like to be trapped inside a rubber
suit, needless to say a shower was welcome afterwards…Indeed it was worth our
effort as a hieratic text emerged from the quarry walls, and which after some digital
reconstruction (due to its poor state of preservation) may reveal the identity
of responsible Pharaoh or vizier. Other than the text, well we learnt more in
regards to the extraction methodology and got some more clues as to
chronological issues that keep us busy in this respect.
|Although difficult to photograph, notice the colony...|
|One flying friend|
The last week has brought extreme temperatures to all Upper
Egypt – naturally included Silsila – and with its strong wind and sense of
being stuck inside a hot air dryer it has been somewhat difficult to
concentrate (or to use the long-lens camera…). However, work must go on, and
while the scaffolding came down on the East John and I moved into the Main
Quarry of the West Bank in order to continue the study of quarry marks,
extraction techniques, topographical features, and so on. While baking in the
natural sauna (I know, I should be used to such as Scandinavian), some nice
surprises revealed themselves to us, and it is with great excitement that we
look forward to continue in this part in the following days.
|Documenting the quarrying technique|
|Southern side of the Main Quarry of the West Bank|
Our last week of survey work at Silsila for this spring
season are intended to be spent in the footsteps of the Prehistorics combined
with a general topographic overview of the northern sections of the site, and
with continuous recording, translations and understanding of dynastic textual
graffiti. But for now – well today – the team takes a break from work in the
field as Egypt and the Egyptian people celebrates Sham el Nassim.
The Gebel el Silsila Survey Project team is honoured and delighted
to express our deepest gratefulness to Jan
& Bep Koek at the Mehen Study centre for ancient Egypt for their generous
donation and support to the project! Thank you!
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