Wednesday, February 27, 2019

New Kingdom workshop and ram-headed sphinxes excavated in Gebel el-Silsila

The Swedish-Egyptian mission at Gebel el-Silsila, led by Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward (Lund University), under the supervision of Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Mr. Abdel Moniem, General Director of Aswan and Nubia Inspectorate, has discovered a New Kingdom sandstone workshop and several sculptures during their excavations.
General overview prior to excavation
General overview during excavations
Overview after excavation of sphinx

Included in the finds, a large criosphinx (ram-headed sphinx) was discovered under several meters of quarry spoil and debris. Only its head was visible before. The ram-headed sphinx measures approximately 5 m long, 3.5 m high, and 1.5 m wide, and was carved in a style comparable with the criosphinxes to the south of Khonsu Temple at Karnak. Archaeological context suggests a date from Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty.

making 3D-models during excavation work
PhD scholar Moamen Saad documenting the finds with total station
During the sphinx excavations and placed up-side-down next to the large sculpture’s stomach, the team discovered a smaller practice piece of another sphinx, perhaps carved by an apprentice. Both sculptures are preserved in a rough-cut and prepared for transportation, but were likely abandoned at Gebel el-Silsila as the larger sculpture fractured. Since then, later Roman quarry activity buried the sphinxes in spoil.

Nearby the practice piece, embedded in the walls of a contemporary workshop, was also uncovered a rough-cut uraeus (coiled cobra), made to crown the head of the larger sphinx, and a blank round-top stela.

During the excavations, hundreds of hieroglyphic fragments were discovered, belonging to a destroyed Naos of Amenhotep III (Naos E), together with new sculpture fragments of the associated falcon. In addition, parts of an obelisk, including its pyramidion, were retrieved.

Pharaoh wearing the blue crown

Part of the cartouche of Amenhotep III (Neb-Maat-Re)

Fragment of winged solar disk

Included in the find is also a quarry text written in red ochre during the reign of Amenhotep III (c. 3350 years ago) at the time of the opening of the quarry, preserved with the depiction of a large scale figure. The team’s epigraphers are currently working on the text and image.

Reis Ahmed by the naos

Documenting the new quarry text

Excavations and digital recordings are scheduled to continue during the mission’s upcoming field season.

Sun crowns the second (more exposed) crio-sphinx 

The team excavating around the fallen monument

One of many fragments

showing the new discovery to the Swedish Ambassador, H.E. Jan Thesleff

The discovery was filmed by British production company Windfall Films for National Geographic Channel (The Lost Treasures of Egypt: Warrior Pharaoh Queen) airing now, and UK Channel 4 (Secrets of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings) to be aired in March.

The team would like to thank the Permanent Committee for granting us permission to continue our work at Gebel el-Silsila, to Mr. Abdel Moniem, General Director of Aswan and Nubia, as well as Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities . We would equally like to thank all our sponsors, patrons, family and friends who support us throughout this incredible work. Thank you! 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Swedish Ambassador to Egypt, H.E. Jan Thesleff, visits Gebel el-Silsila

The Swedish Mission at Gebel el-Silsila was honoured by a two-day visit of the Swedish Ambassador to Egypt, H.E. Jan Thesleff, and second Secretary Mr. Ahmed Ismail this last week. They arrived in the midst of this year’s worst sandstorm, but nevertheless shared a great meal with the team and visited some of the monuments of the West Bank.

greeting on the boat during the storm, little Jonathan had the great honor to meet H.E. our ambassador

Bio-archaeologist Poppy shows H.E. Ambassador Thesleff and Secretary Ahmed some of the osteological finds

PhD scholar Moamen Saad introduces the speos

in the midst of the storm!

Chef Abdalla presented a great lunch to share while the storm was raging

Moamen Saad talks about the reliefs of the speos
end of day one, group photo as the storm calms
Returning to a calmer, sunlit site the following day, H.E. Ambassador Thesleff and Mr. Ahmed Ismail were accompanied by Mr. Abdel Moniem, General Director of Aswan and Nubia, Mr. Khaled Shawky, Director of Abu Simbel, Mr. Mostafa Badawi, representative for the Kom Ombo Inspectorate, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim, Inspector of Gebel el-Silsila, and Mdm Zienab, representing the Kom Ombo Museum. 

Mr. Abdel Moniem greets H.E. Ambassador Thesleff

arriving to the cemetery

The team was incredibly honoured to show the most recent discoveries in the 18th Dynasty cemetery, which marked the start of a lovely walk through the marvellous landscape of Gebel el-Silsila. Walking eastwards, there were glimpses of a unique Epipalaeolithic Rock Art panel and some bushy tailed giraffes characteristic for the Predynastic period, below which is a quarry (Q7) belonging to the period of Amenhotep III-IV, crowned by the famous stele of Amenhotep IV presenting offerings to Amun-Re.

Mr. Abdel Moniem explains the site to H.E. Ambassador Thesleff 

look carefully and you will find the predynastic giraffes!

The walk continued into the subterranean galleries of the same period, leading to another site of new discoveries this season: the “Fallen Monuments’ Quarry” (Q15). For those interested, the discoveries will be released soon, and the start of the excavations was filmed by a UK production company earlier this year to be aired during the spring!

outside the galleries of Amenhotep III-IV

Silsila beetles?

photographer Bob photographing photographer Moamen

inside the gallery

The group returned to the cemetery, and H.E. Ambassador Thesleff was shown the waterlogged tomb that reached the news recently. Meanwhile Chef Abdalla John had prepared a fabulous lunch, which everyone shared on site. It was a great honour for the international mission to personally introduce each one of our fabulous Egyptian workers, without whom none of the work on site would be possible. Sharing lunch together, side by side, was a great reminder of how close this great Silsila family is!

Group image, although excluding key figures such as chef Abdalla,
reis Ahmed, photographer Bob, bio-archaeologist Poppy...

Fine dining on site!

John showing the waterlogged shaft-tomb

H.E. Ambassador Thesleff greeting Hamoudi, one of our great workers!

As a final stop before ending this great visit, PhD scholar Moamen Saad shared his latest research of the magnificent Nile stelae and chapels, which after this season’s excavations have revealed more information and architectural elements (once destroyed or buried during an ancient earthquake!).

walking down the new steps made this season

Similar to H.E. Ambassador Charlotta Sparre, who stood on these steps during her visit to Gebel el-Silsila two years ago, H.E. Ambassador Jan Thesleff paid his respect to the site as he climbed the royal staircase of Ramses II!

The team would like to express its deepest gratitude to H.E. Ambassador Thesleff and Mr. Ahmed Ismail, as well as all the representatives from the Egyptian Antiquity Ministry, for honouring us with their visit, making a great contribution towards strengthening the ties between Sweden and Egypt. On behalf of all the people represented in the images, we would also like to express our thankfulness towards our awesome photographers, without whom we would not be able to share these glimpses. Thank you Mr. Robert Mittelstaedt (our chief photographer), Mr. Ahmed Monsour (Reis), PhD scholar Moamen Saad, and archaeologist Trisha Coletto! An extra thank you dear Abdalla Ali/John for presenting two great dinners for us to share!