The Epigraphic Survey
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- PRESS RELEASES
- ANNUAL REPORTS
- Yarko Kobylecky: Egyptian Portfolio
- Tom Van Eynde: Thebes Photographic Project
- Sue Lezon: Photographic Portfolio
- Susan Osgood: Painting and Drawing Portfolio
The Epigraphic Survey based at Chicago House in Luxor, Egypt, is directed by W. Raymond Johnson, PhD, Research Associate (Associate Professor) NELC and Oriental Institute.
The mission of the Survey since its founding in 1924 has been to produce photographs and precise line drawings of the inscriptions and relief scenes on major temples and tombs at Luxor for publication. More recently the Survey has expanded its program to include conservation, restoration, and site management. In addition to the field director, the professional staff of the Survey normally includes three to four epigraphers, four to five artists, two photographers, an architect, a librarian, several conservators, and IT consultants. The epigraphers and artists include both graduate students and post-doctoral scholars who have received training in all aspects of Egyptology. The Epigraphic Survey completed its 87th archaeological field season at the end of April, 2011.
2012-2013 FIELD SEASON
April 1st, 2013
It has been a full and productive month since I wrote last, and the temperatures in Luxor have skyrocketed into the 100s F…! It must be spring. Our documentation, conservation, and restoration work continued at Medinet Habu and Luxor Temple, and documentation resumed at Khonsu Temple Karnak this month, with good progress made at each site. Jay Heidel is collating his drawings of the beautifully carved Arch #2 blocks from the Thecla Church at Luxor Temple. Coached by Krisztián Vertés in the mysteries of the Wacom drawing tablet, he has also started the digital inking of the inscribed Thutmosis III granite pilaster cut in half and reused in the church to support Arch #2, and is enjoying these new tools that make the inking process go faster with even more accuracy. Just today (April 1) we erected the second orientation panel for the Luxor Temple precinct designed by Jay, featuring a ground plan of the entire precinct and labels and descriptions in English and Arabic. Structural engineer Conor Power has been here this week doing his annual structural survey of the sites in our concessions, and he reports that all is stable, thanks in large part to the USAID-funded dewatering programs on both sides of the river. Conservator Hiroko Kariya finished her condition- surveying and blockyard open-air museum maintenance for this season and departed on March 20th. At Medinet Habu artists Margaret De Jong and Keli Alberts resumed work on the Pinudjem inscription that wraps around the outside of the small Amun temple, while Tina Di Cerbo is digitally recording graffiti, much of it from the Christian period, inside the northern Ptolemaic annex. Stone mason Frank Helmholz and his team have been cutting and shaping new lower course sandstone blocks for the re-erection of the gate of Domitian with beautiful results; the entire lowest course is now finished and looks sensational. Conservator Lotfi Hassan, Nahed Samir Andraos, and their team have desalinated, conserved, and prepared a large stone lintel block for topping off the Domitian Gate. They have also been sorting through door jamb and lintel fragments of Ramesses III for material for the open-air museum displays, and treating miscellaneous gate and architectural fragments that require conservation. At Khonsu Temple photographer Yarko Kobylecky took large-format shots of a number of reused blocks in the walls and ceiling areas of the back shrines. These blocks relate to reused block material in the flooring and foundations that we have been recording the last few years, quite a bit of it from an earlier 18th and 19thDynasty Khonsu Temple. Epigrapher Jen Kimpton and artist Keli Alberts are now tracing and collating additional reused material in the walls that will be incorporated into our study of these exciting remnants of the earlier temple to the moon god. Special thanks must go to the American Research Center in Egypt and Luxor director John Shearman for allowing us to use some of their scaffolding for this work.
Sue Lezon was back with us from March 7 through the 21st, working with Ellie and Tina in the Photo Archives primarily on the Helen and Jean Jacquet archives slides. From March 16th to 30th Alain and Emmanuelle Arnaudies joined us to work on our master database, continue to enter data from Medinet Habu and Luxor Temple, and to record missing negatives that may be duplicated back home. There have been many visitors passing though this month, including the Oriental Institute Tour led by former Epigraphic Survey director Lanny Bell and accompanied by OI development director Tracy Tajbl. They enjoyed a reception and library briefing with us on the 14th, and site visits during the next few days. We also had the pleasure of hosting a group of USAID Egypt friends from Cairo for a review of our work the same week, and are preparing to host the new mission director of USAID Egypt Mary Ott tomorrow for a similar review. We are greatly indebted to USAID Egypt for the recent extension of a grant that will help support our preservation work on both sides of the river into 2015. I should also mention that artist Egyptologist Krisztián Vertés finished up his work for the season a bit early this year and headed home to Budapest to await the birth of his and Julia's first child, due this month.
Luxor remains peaceful and is doing a brisk tourist trade, but other parts of Egypt aren’t faring so well, and the lack of attention is resulting in some real damage to a number of out-of-the-way cultural heritage sites. On March 6th I traveled to Cairo where I joined Dr. Rosario Pintaudi of the Italian Mission to Sheikh Abada / Antinoupolis and inspector Fathy Awad Reyad in a gesture of solidarity for a meeting with the Minister of State for Antiquities, Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim. The ancient Roman city of Antinoupolis, located just north of Amarna in Middle Egypt, like many other sites throughout Egypt (Dashur, El Hiba, Al Bordan in the delta, even Amarna) has been subjected to accelerating looting and destruction as the Egyptian police presence continues to remain sparse. Antinoupolis in particular is threatened on all sides by agricultural, settlement, and cemetery expansion. And now, like in Dashur, the locals have brought in heavy equipment. Between October 2012 and February 2013 the northern half of the great hippodrome – the only ancient horse-race track that survives in Egypt, almost as large as the Circus Maximus in Rome – was bulldozed flat to expand the adjacent cemetery. It is a terrible, irrecoverable loss, and a real tragedy for cultural heritage preservation. Thanks to the quick response of the minister, a presidential decree has been issued adding to the protected antiquities land of the site, and proclaiming that any development of the area is in violation of the law. It is an important first step. The next is to get armed guards on the site, also in the works. During this interim time it is crucial to protect Egypt’s archaeological sites, now. Only by all of us working together can we do so, and Chicago House will do what it can to help.
That’s all for now. We are heading into the last two weeks of the season, and will close our doors on October 15th and put the Chicago House facility to sleep for the summer. In the meantime we have much to do to finish our work for the season, finishing up our operations at all of our temple sites, and writing the necessary reports for the Egyptian government, Oriental Institute/University of Chicago, and our granting agencies. But it’s also a time of looking forward to the season to come, as we make our plans and write our application for the rich season ahead. I will be in touch!
Best wishes to you all from Luxor,
Ray Johnson, director
February 28, 2013
As I write this we are heading into the last month and a half of our six-month, 2012-2013 archaeological field season, and this past month has been a full one. Luxor has experienced a steady and dramatic rise in temperature, from frigid at the beginning of the month to over 90 degrees F this week, quite a contrast to the snowbound midwestern and northeastern USA our friends back home are experiencing at the moment. I want you all to know that it’s TOO hot here, but we are coping as best we can!
At the beginning of February Oriental Institute VC member Andrea Dudek finished another month working with Chicago House librarian Marie Bryan and assistant librarian Anait Helmholz on the conversion of our library holdings (20,000 volumes) to the Library of Congress classification system, a project now in its final stages. Completed were all the ‘B’s and 75 ‘A’s with 437 titles and 552 volumes completed. Thank you Andrea for helping us get to the final stretch of this project! We’re almost there…
Jay Heidel and I returned to Luxor on February 4th and to a very warm welcome at Chicago House: the whole team met us with red carpets, local musicians, stick dancing, and lots of flowers. It is very sweet to be back after our two-month hiatus in the USA. I have spent the last weeks reviewing the considerable amount of work done while I was away, and have been briefed on the new digital drawing techniques using Wacom drawing tablets in which the art staff has become amazingly proficient in a very short time. I did the final director’s review of a particularly interesting drawing of Sue Osgood’s at Medinet Habu last week that is historic in several ways. First, it is the facsimile drawing of a façade pillar of the small Amun temple that is three-quarters concealed behind a later Ptolemaic wall, therefore mostly invisible, yet the drawing shows the complete pillar face. Sue penciled and inked the exposed part of the pillar on a normal photographic drawing enlargement a while ago. Subsequent aluminum foil rubbing of the inscribed areas in the small space between the two walls allowed Sue to document the obscured details, after which tracings of her rubbings were digitally photographed, reduced, digitally ‘inked’ by her this season, and finally joined with a high-res scan of the original inked drawing. The finished, digitally printed drawing represents an historic fusion of the two drawing techniques, a seamless joining of India-inked and digitally ‘inked’ drawings. It is absolutely impossible to see the difference between the two. Using Photoshop and the new Wacom drawing tablets, the art team (Sue, Margaret De Jong, Kristián Vertés, and Keli Alberts) showed me how they can now match the excellence of our normal inking conventions while improving on the accuracy and precision of the drawings, building on digital drawing techniques pioneered by Egyptologist Tina Di Cerbo a decade ago. Egyptologist/artist Kristián has led the way in developing the new techniques now so expertly utilized by the whole crew, and my hat is off to them all. Special thanks to the University of Chicago Women’s Board and to dear friend and colleague Margie Fisher for funding this tremendously exciting new chapter in our documentation program!
Conservator Lotfi Hassan was also busy while I was away, conserving and consolidating numerous architectural fragments in the Medinet Habu blockyard. He and his team matched and joined more than a dozen Ramesses III – period sandstone doorway elements, beautifully inscribed jambs and lintels, and tested the joins of whole doorways for the blockyard open-air museum. Most of this material was excavated in the 1920s by Üvo Hölscher for the University of Chicago where he found the blocks reused throughout the medieval city, but the material originally comes from the mud-brick administrative areas and magazines around Ramesses III’s mortuary temple. Conservator Nahed Samir Andraos consolidated a four-ton, two and a half-meter long lintel block originally from the top of the Domitian Gate, found at Medinet Habu after the gate was re-erected by Georges Daressy in the late 19th century. Nahed successfully treated the decayed areas and reinforced the crumbling top of the block with strong but breathable lime mortar. It will eventually be one of the last, crowning blocks to be restored to the gate. Stone mason Frank Helmholz has been shaping new stone blocks freshly quarried from Gebel Silsileh to replace the decayed lowest course of the gate. He and his team started moving them into place onto the new, damp-coursed, reinforced-concrete foundation platform this month. Domitian's gate will rise again!
Artists Sue and Margaret finished the penciling of the exquisitely carved but very fragile Theban Tomb 107 reliefs of Amenhotep III’s Malqata palace steward Nefersekheru on February 12th. They will finish inking the drawings over the summer, with collation by the epigraphic team scheduled to begin next season.
Among the many visitors to Chicago House this month were OI VC member Aimee and Peter Rossi, Bill Petty, former OI Museum Chief Curator Geoff Emberling (fresh from his first season excavating in El Kurru in North Sudan), geophysicist Kris Strutt, conservators Alberto Succato and Emiliano Abrusca of the ARCE Red Monastery conservation project, Peter Lacovara of the Emory University Malqata team, Matt Adams and Michelle Marlar working at Abydos, and Bob and Pat Brier and their Far Horizons group. Kris and Jay will be returning from Antinoupolis next week where they have been working with the Italian team from Florence under the direction of Dr. Rosario Pintaudi doing magnetometry surveying and testing of the threatened parts of the Roman city, with wonderful results.
Tomorrow, March 1st, marks the beginning of my 17th year as Epigraphic Survey director. The last sixteen years certainly have passed quickly! It is a great pleasure and privilege to be working with our Egyptian and foreign colleagues in common bond toward the preservation of Egypt’s precious cultural heritage through our documentation, conservation, and restoration efforts. There is nothing more satisfying, or challenging, and I am very, very grateful to all of you out there whose friendship and support help make it happen. Thank you!
I will write again in a month with another update. In the meantime, please accept our best wishes to you all, from everyone here at Chicago House,
January 31, 2013
Luxor remains peaceful despite the recent unrest to the north, and the work is going well. The Chicago House staff celebrated a quiet New Year's Eve and has been working steadily at Medinet Habu, Theban Tomb 107, and Luxor Temple throughout the month. Although Julia Schmied is now back in Hungary awaiting the birth of her and Krisztián Vertés's first child, she has been working long distance with conservator Lotfi Hassan and Krisztián on the documentation and reassembly of sandstone doorjamb fragments in the MH blockyard. These are from late Ramesside and Third Intermediate Period houses built within the MH precinct, excavated by archaeologist Uvo Hölscher and the University of Chicago in the 1920s. The mud-brick houses of officials who worked in the precinct often had stone doorframes inscribed with their names. These houses were later dismantled and recycled in the medieval city that grew within Ramesses III's enclosure walls, where they were recovered when the temple precinct was excavated and cleared. The reconstruction of the doorways - on paper and physically in the blockyard - is yet another groundbreaking addition to our Medinet Habu documentation and restoration programs. Photographer Yarko Kobylecky assisted by Ellie Smith is photographing the material now, and we are studying ways to integrate the restored doorways into our open-air museum display for public view. Stone mason Frank Helmholz and his team received several shipments of freshly quarried sandstone from the Gebel Silsileh quarries during the month for the ever-growing restoration work in the complex. Frank continued shaping replacement blocks for the decayed lower courses of the Gate of Domitian for restoration later in the season.
The epigraphic team continued to work on Volume X and XI in our small Amun temple series at Medinet Habu. But January also saw the beginning of an exciting new epigraphic documentation program at Luxor temple in the King's Chamber/Imperial Cult Chamber. Egyptologist/artist Krisztián inaugurated the facsimile drawing of the late 3rd century AD Roman frescos in the Imperial Cult Chamber recently cleaned and consolidated in a collaboration between the American Research Center in Egypt and Chicago House. The frescos and Amenhotep III reliefs that they partially cover will be presented in future volumes of the Epigraphic Survey's 'Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple' series. Krisztián, our digital inking pioneer, started the penciling of the first section of frescos, and will be inking both frescos and reliefs digitally utilizing the innovative new methodology he has devised. Mabruk on an excellent start, Krisztián!
Conservator Hiroko Kariya is now back with us, splitting her time between the Luxor Temple blockyard conservation program and Abydos where she helps coordinate the conservation work there for the NYU/Institute of Fine Arts mission directed by Matt Adams. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Emory University Joint Expedition to Malqata team (JEM) arrived in Luxor this month to resume their excavation and restoration work in Amenhotep III's Malqata palace, south of Medinet Habu. The team is now too big to be accommodated at Chicago House, but we are still assisting them with the loan of one of our land rovers. It's great to have them back in Luxor.
And I am pleased to report that on January 28th I officially finished my cardio-rehabilitation program at the University of Chicago hospital, and have been cleared to return to Egypt. Jay and I will start our trip on February 2nd and will be back in Luxor on February 4th. I can't wait.
Best wishes to you all,
January 3, 2013
Many of our readers know that I am presently back in Chicago after experiencing what my doctors report was a ‘small’ heart attack on December 1st in Luxor. I was transferred to Cairo the afternoon of the 2nd where I had a successful angioplasty / stent operation at the As-Salaam International Hospital in Maadi early on the 3rd. Jay Heidel and I flew back to Chicago on December 8th where I have been resting and under observation ever since. This week I started a cardiac rehabilitation and physical therapy program at the University of Chicago hospital. Tests show that the stent corrected the problem area and the rest of my heart is healthy. When my doctors are satisfied that I have made good progress with my rehab, I will be allowed to return to Egypt, we hope by the end of the month.
In the meantime, the work at Chicago House has continued without interruption, coordinated by the ever-intrepid Chicago House team. A new digital epigraphy training program was inaugurated under the tutelage of Egyptologist / epigraphic artist Krisztián Vértes, who for the first three weeks of December inducted the entire epigraphic staff of artists and epigraphers into the mysteries of digital inking and collating utilizing Wacom drawings tablets, Photoshop software, and a whole host of tricks. Sincerest thanks to the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago and Margie Fisher for underwriting this exciting new program.
Additionally, and at the request of our Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) friends, staff photographer Yarko Kobylecky took digital reference photographs for the MSA of the newly cleaned reliefs and paintings of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II in the small temple of Qasr El Agouz immediately to the south and east of Medinet Habu. Recent epigraphic and archaeological work there by the University of Strasburg and Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) indicates that the focus of the three chapels was Amun of Djeme (resident at the Medinet Habu small Amun temple) and the god Thoth. The cleaning of the well-preserved paintings was recently finished by MSA conservators with excellent results.
Stone mason Frank Helmholz, conservator Lotfi Hassan, and the epigraphic team also did a condition study and preliminary cleaning of a partially preserved, small sandstone gate of the Roman Emperor Claudius located outside of the Medinet Habu precinct, east side, south end. This gate, in precarious condition for years, has recently had its foundations further weakened by ground water sat decay. Chicago House asked for and received permission to add it to its conservation and restoration program this season, as a logical complement to our work with the gate of Domitian inside the Medinet Habu temple complex. I will have more to report on the Claudius gate and our other projects the next time you hear from me.
In the meantime, on behalf of the entire Chicago House team, please accept our very best wishes for a happy, healthy, and wonderful New Year 2013.
November 29, 2012
I can honestly say that this past month - and the last two weeks in particular - have been among the busiest in all my years with the Epigraphic Survey. Our archaeological work has gone very well, with the entire epigraphic team working on the last drawings for Medinet Habu X, the second volume in the small Amun temple series dedicated to the 18th Dynasty Temple square-pillared ambulatory. Artist/Egyptologist Krisztian Vertes has been putting the finishing touches on his study of the multiple painting phases in the ambulatory, which will be included in the volume as a separate chapter. I have been reviewing final drawings at the wall with the artists, checking them off our list one by one. Lotfi Hassan and the conservation team have continued work in the blockyard with Julia Schmied, assembling and conserving architectural fragments from private houses excavated by Hölscher long ago. Yarko photographed another 24 architectural fragments for Julia's study, mainly broken doorframes, and has been kept busy in the darkroom preparing photographic drawing enlargements for the artist team. Lotfi, stone mason Frank Helmholz, and engineer Nashet paid a visit to the Gebel el-Silsileh sandstone quarries a few days ago to arrange for new stone to be quarried for the Domitian Gate restoration work. Frank has already started shaping new stones for the lower courses of the gate that were destroyed by groundwater salt. Architect Jay Heidel has been drawing and collating Thecla Church blocks in the Luxor Temple blockyard, focusing now on blocks of Arch Number 2.
This month has been a social whirlwind as well. At the beginning of the month we hosted Emily Teeter and her tour group to site visits and a reception at Chicago House. An Egypt Exploration Society tour led by EES director Chris Naunton was in town for a week and stopped by Medinet Habu; it was a pleasure to host Chris and colleague Kristin Thompson, working on Amarna sculpture fragments, to dinner one night. I took a few days during the second week of November to lecture in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen about the work of the Epigraphic Survey and some of our work that sheds new light on the reign of Tutankhamun. On November 14th we hosted a dinner for the Chicago House workmen, who with Tina during the opening of the house in September were faced with daunting, unexpected maintenance challenges and yet still got the house open on schedule. They all deserved a good dinner, and much, much more. And on November 17th we celebrated Chicago House's 88th birthday!
Then things really picked up. On the 18th and 19th we had a USAID review of our USAID-sponsored work at Luxor Temple and Medinet Habu. On November 22nd the GOE sponsored a PR event in the Kings' Valley to commemorate the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb, and to open the tomb of Merenptah, whose granite sarcophagi had recently been reassembled and restored by our colleagues Ted and Lyla Brock. The Minister of State for Antiquities (MSA) Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim and his entourage attended the event, plus US Ambassador Anne Patterson and her husband David, as well as the Minister of Tourism, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his wife Fiona (who a few years ago joined us for dinner at Chicago House), the Governor of Luxor Dr. Ezzat Saad, the Russian Ambassador, and a host of MSA and other dignitaries. The KV opening was followed by speeches and a banquet on the grounds of Carter House, Howard Carter’s recently restored residence at the mouth of the Valley of the Kings (now ‘Carter’s Café’). The following morning the Minister and Ambassador Patterson joined us at Medinet Habu for a review of our work and a walk through the temple complex, followed by a very pleasant luncheon at Chicago House attended by our library patrons and foreign and Egyptian colleagues, with whom the ambassador was able to chat informally. The next day we hosted another Medinet Habu review and luncheon for ‘Friend of Chicago House’ Aly Tahry, who had visited Chicago House during FOCH Thanksgiving weekends in the early 1990s. It was good to have him back.
As you are aware, the Valley of the Kings PR event to bring tourists back to Egypt was somewhat undone by the actions of Egypt’s president the next day. Egypt is still sorting this out. Long ago I had agreed to speak about the work of Chicago House at the MSA lecture series in Zamalek on November 26th, this past Monday. Demonstrators were gathering in Tahrir Square to protest the president's actions, but I was able to keep to the schedule and presented the lecture to a light but enthusiastic audience. Despite the crowds, the streets all around Tahrir were fine, and open, and I had no trouble getting to the airport on Tuesday for my return to Luxor, which is even more blissfully quiet and peaceful than ever.
So all is well with us. The Valley of the Kings event and activities coincided with our Thanksgiving holiday, so we postponed our Thanksgiving feast for a week, and are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving this evening with our friends and colleagues, including faculty member Nadine Moeller, who has just finished her archaeological field season at Edfu. I will write again at the close of this tumultuous but productive year. In the meantime, everyone at Chicago House joins me in wishing you all a joyous holiday in the month ahead. Happy holidays!
Best from Luxor,
November 2, 2012
Greetings from Egypt! Chicago House reopened its doors on October 15th, and I am pleased to report that the Epigraphic Survey’s 2011-2012 field season is off to an excellent start. It’s great to be back.
The paperwork in Cairo went smoothly and well; I signed the season contract at the Ministry of State for Antiquities headquarters in Zamalek and had good visits with the Minister of Antiquities and our USAID and ARCE friends. Tina faced some major challenges in the opening and cleaning of the Chicago House facility this September before our arrival, with failed plumbing in the library wing and other nasty maintenance surprises that required FAR more work than anyone anticipated. But she and our workmen prevailed, magnificently, and the place looks terrific and is running smoothly. God bless you, Tina!
We resumed our documentation, conservation, and restoration work at Medinet Habu last week, just before the Eid Al Adha began, the great Islamic festival of sacrifice. Luxor is actually quite busy with tourists, which is good to see; we’ve noticed an increase in numbers just since we arrived. During the Eid we enjoyed a few days of quiet office work, and were back on site this past Tuesday. At the moment we are focusing mainly on Medinet Habu for the first part of the season in order to finish the drawings and photography for Medinet Habu Volume 10, followed closely by Medinet Habu Volume 11. Progress! The Luxor Temple work resumed this week, and will focus primarily on the blockyard, particularly the Thecla Church and Ptolemy I blocks. Our plan is to be back at TT 107 Nefersekheru’s tomb, in December, and at Khonsu Temple in February.
Life is full here, as usual. Accountant Essam and his wife Nidaa are still on the Hajj; we spoke by phone a few days ago and they are very well. We have seen a lot of the Tell Edfu crew this season; directors Nadine Moeller and Greg Marouard stayed with us over the Eid weekend, and the whole team joined us for our annual Halloween party last night. The Chicago House epigraphic team joined them at Edfu last week to consult on blockyard documentation strategies. That day I had a very pleasant meeting with Luxor governor Dr. Ezzat Saad, former Egyptian Ambassador to Russia, who has been reappointed for another term and has become a good friend. Emily Teeter and her tour, including some University of Chicago friends, were in town this week, and have just today departed for Cairo. We hosted site visits for the group at Luxor Temple and Medinet Habu where we showed them our work, and a reception and library briefing at Chicago House on Wednesday evening. Our Halloween Party last night was a great success, with about 80 foreign and Egyptian guests, always a great way to start the season!
It is still warm in Upper Egypt, but the temperatures are slowly falling, especially at night, and it's noticeably cooler now (still in the 80s and 90s F during the day, though!). The month of November will see the continuation of our Medinet Habu and Luxor Temple documentation and preservation work. I will report on our activities at the end of the month, but in the meantime I would like to take this opportunity to extend our very best wishes to our friends back home for a happy November, and a joyous Thanksgiving holiday!
Best from Luxor,
Ray Johnson, Director
October 1, 2012
It’s that time again, with the autumn equinox passed, summer officially over, and only a few weeks left before the Chicago House staff heads back to Luxor. I am pleased to report that the Epigraphic Survey has received its work permissions for the 2012-2013 season from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, and we are all set for our 89th archaeological field season and work at Medinet Habu, Luxor Temple, Khonsu Temple, and the tomb of Nefersekheru TT 107 from October 15th until April 15th. Tina is in the final weeks of cleaning and opening the facility, and reports that all is well in Luxor and Chicago House, despite the heat - it's still 104 F...!!!
Administrator Samir Guindy and the Chicago House workmen are all well, working hard with Tina to get the place ready, and looking forward to our return. Congratulations to senior accountant Essam and his wife Nidaa who will be going on the Hajj pilgrimage from October 13th until around November 10th. The kids will be staying with Nidaa’s family in Mansura while they are away. We will miss them all, but are very happy that they have this wonderful opportunity. Mabruk!
We will officially be in residence in Luxor from October 15th, and I will post monthly updates thereafter, so look for another posting in a few weeks. In the meantime, best wishes from all of us for a happy and prosperous autumn and winter!
2011-2012 FIELD SEASON
April 2, 2012
All is well here as we head into the last two weeks of our archaeological field season - where has the time gone? The temperatures are slowly rising, and with our Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) friends on both sides of the river we are tying up loose ends at Medinet Habu, Khonsu Temple, Luxor Temple, and Theban Tomb 107. We will close the Chicago House Library on April 10. March was full - of work, visitors, events, and more work. Conservator Lotfi Hassan, Nahed Samir Andraus, Mohamed Abu Makarem and their team continued to organize, treat, and mount sculpture and relief fragments in the small open-air museum of the Medinet Habu blockyard. Egyptologist Julia Schmied continued to sort and document material inside the blockyard, which photographer Yarko Kobylecky assisted by Ellie Smith extensively photographed in February and March. Stonemason Frank Helmholz finished his work with the Domitian Gate a few days ago, submitted his report, and is preparing for his and librarian Anait’s departure home in a few days. This past month Frank started cutting and shaping the new sandstone blocks that will replace some of the lower course blocks of the gateway, so decayed by groundwater salts they require complete replacement. Artist Keli Alberts continued her documentation of Ramesses III reliefs hidden by later Ptolemaic additions to the small Amun temple using aluminum foil rubbings and tracings, while senior artist Margaret De Jong continued to work with senior epigrapher Brett McClain on material for Medinet Habu volumes 10 and 11.
This week I finished director's reviews of the last of the reused-block drawings for this season at Khonsu Temple with epigrapher Jen Kimpton and artists Krisztian Vertes and Keli; our work there with the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) has now ended for this year. Margaret De Jong and I went over the last of her drawings for this season at TT 107, the tomb of Nefersekheru, with MSA Inspector Zeinab last week. Architect/artist Jay Heidel is working on the last of his AUTOCAD drawing collations of blocks from the two arches of the Thecla Church. In March he very successfully reassembled most of Arch #1 on one of our large mastaba platforms in the Luxor Temple blockyard with Sayid, Mohamed, Saoud, and MSA Inspector Marwa - a real milestone, and very sweet to see. We have most of the blocks from this arch, a great gift, but less of the blocks from Arch #2, that Jay is still analyzing. This summer he will prepare AUTOCAD elevations of the church sanctuary surviving lower walls, and will assemble scale drawings of the scattered architectural elements within it. This will give us the original height of the church sanctuary and will allow us to determine if - and how - we might physically restore parts of the sanctuary for public view in a future season. Throughout the winter I have been moving blocks that were reused in the foundations of the church (dismantled by the GOE in 1960) that were quarried from a monument of Ptolemy I at Karnak. After conservator Hiroko Kariya very kindly painted numbers on them, photographer Yarko and assistant Gharib photographed all of them this month (over 130 of them) so that we can analyze them over the summer.
OI VC member Andrea Dudek was back with us in March helping librarian Marie Bryan continue the conversion of the Chicago House Library holdings to the Library of Congress system, now in its final stages. Andrea has given us a real boost; if all goes according to plan, we will be finished with the conversion next season. (Thank you, Andrea!). While she was with us, the Oriental Institute tour led by Lanny Bell and Amy Weber arrived in town. We gave them a very pleasant reception and library briefing at Chicago House on March 15th, and site visits a few days later (with Jen at Medinet Habu and Brett at Luxor Temple). Brett accompanied the group to Aswan and Cairo where he took Lanny’s place as ‘talking head’ when Lanny left for the US.
So it’s been the usual busy time for this part of the season. During the last two weeks Chicago House IT wizard Alain Arnaudies and Egyptologist wife Emmanuelle were back with us tweaking our master Chicago House Photo Archives database, entering more Medinet Habu and Luxor Temple documentation, refining the Helen and Jean Jacquet database, and assisting in working the bugs out of the Chicago House internal wireless network system. Tina Di Cerbo helped fill gaps in the data noted by Emmanuelle, and corrected incorrectly labeled photo numbers where necessary. Architect Louis Elia Louis finished the redrawing of the Nelson key plans in AUTOCAD of all the temple sites in Luxor, that can now be utilized at any scale. It is always a joy to have the Arnaudies with us, and their time passed all too quickly. At the moment, structural engineer Conor Power is with us for a few days for his annual structural condition study of Luxor Temple and the other monuments in our concessions.
When next you hear from me, it will be from Chicago. We’re all departing Luxor by April 15th, all except Tina of course, who very kindly closes up the house and facility for us after we all leave, and who with our workmen puts Chicago House to sleep for the summer months. It has been a remarkable season in every way, productive and full. When I return to Luxor in July for our annual audit with senior accountant Essam El Sayed, administrator Samir Guindy, and assistant administrator Samwell Maher, Egypt will have a new president, and a lot of waiting will be over. We have all our fingers crossed for the future of this remarkable country.
Best wishes to you all from the Two Lands,
March 2, 2012
February has proven to be the busiest month of our Luxor archaeological field season so far, with streams of visitors (including my sister Carolyn on her first visit to Egypt), numerous tour groups (tourism is definitely on the rise), site and library briefings, colleagues passing through, lots of work milestones, and even a week-long African film festival. It’s been wild.
The work continues to go well. A few days ago Frank Helmholz and his team poured the new reinforced-concrete foundations of the dismantled Domitian gate, which will now ‘cure’ over the summer. In the meantime Frank and the guys will start carving sandstone blocks for the restoration of the gate that will begin next season. We loaned Frank to the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) for a few days’ emergency work in the Luxor Temple Ramesses II court week before last, where Frank successfully coordinated the repair of a broken abacus block high atop one the papyrus-bud columns on the eastern side of the court. Today (March 2) Frank, conservator Lotfi Hassan, conservator Hiroko Kariya and I hosted Gaetano Palumbo (World Monuments Fund [WMF] Program Director for North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia) on site briefings at Medinet Habu and Luxor Temple. At Luxor Temple Frank briefed Gaetano on the methodology we used for restoring 111 inscribed wall fragments back onto the original northeastern wall of the Amenhotep III court wall, finished in the spring of 2010. At Medinet Habu we discussed our ongoing conservation and restoration programs (the Ramesses III southern well; the Domitian Gate; the blockyard and open-air museum; small Amun temple conservation) the continuation of which has been greatly facilitated by the USAID-funded dewatering program activated a little more than a year ago.
Last week we resumed our work at Khonsu Temple, Karnak, recording reused blocks in the flooring of chamber 2 and a lower wall of chamber 7 in coordination with the ARCE conservators and workmen in the final stages of floor and wall restoration there. Identifiable blocks whose recording we have started include an upper-wall cartouche frieze of Thutmosis IV and another of Ramesses II. The number of blocks left to record this season is small, and we expect our documentation work to be finished by the end of the month.
The Malkata team from the Metropolitan Museum of Art finished their work at the palace of Amenhotep III on Wednesday and departed Luxor this week; Peter Lacovara from Emory University is leaving in a few days. I accompanied the group on a review of the five-kilometer long palace complex concession on Wednesday and was overjoyed to see that the 11-kilometer protective wall around the site is intact, and working. There have been no illegal incursions into the site since the wall was finished by the Ministry of State for Antiquities just before the Egyptian revolution a year ago; it’s a miracle. Peter and I are among the invited speakers at the International Research Conference ‘In Search of New Concepts and Technologies for Conservation and Preservation of the Colossi of Memnon and the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III’ being held at the Luxor Museum and on site in western Thebes this weekend, from March 3rd – 5th. The conference will be celebrating Hourig Sourouzian’s re-erection of the first of two fallen quartzite colossi of Amenhotep III behind the famous Colossi of Memnon and her many other astonishing achievements in Amenhotep III’s shattered mortuary temple. I will present our Amenhotep III wall reconstruction work at Luxor Temple.
The recording of the reliefs in the tomb of Nefersekheru, the steward of Malkata palace (TT 107) by senior artists Sue Osgood and Margaret De Jong is in the final stretch. Sue finished her TT 107 and Medinet Habu small Amun temple (MH Volume 10) work in February and departed for home a few days ago. Margaret will be finished later this month. Milestones! Architect Jay Heidel returned from Sheikh Abada / Antinoupolis in Middle Egypt last week and resumed his documentation work with the Thecla Church blocks, as well as Luxor Temple signage design. Hiroko finished condition-monitoring and studying a group of buried blocks along the eastern exterior of the Colonnade Hall, too fragile to move at this time but protected from further decay by their burial.
On February 21st I gave a workshop for Karnak inspectors on Chicago House's numerous epigraphic recording techniques at the ARCE conservation lab classroom next to Khonsu Temple. On February 23rd Malkata surveyor Joel Paulson very kindly showed a group of us what his Leica 3-D scanner (that he has been using to record Malkata palace mud-brick walls) could do with inscribed stone walls. The results reinforced our desire to add 3-D digital imaging to our Luxor documentation program in the future.
Since I still have to prepare for my conference talk on Sunday, I must close for
now and get back to it. But as you can see from the above it has been a busy
and very normal February for us. Tourism is on a slow rise, there are lots of
visitors and colleagues in town (our library was packed with patrons today), and
our work is going well. I should also mention that we are receiving excellent
reports on the Oriental Institute Museum's latest exhibition about the history of
the Oriental Institute's archaeological recording, 'Picturing the Past: Imaging and
Imagining the Ancient Middle East' with a section on the work of the Epigraphic
Survey. You can download the beautiful exhibition catalogue here:
Best wishes to you all, from all of us here at Chicago House,
February 2, 2012
All is well with us in Luxor, although it is hard to believe that January is already past. It has been unusually cold - Alexandria actually got some snow two weeks ago, a decidedly rare event! But we have been lucky here; the sun has been warm, and cloudy days few. The forecast is for temperatures to start a slow climb starting this holiday weekend, the Prophet’s Birthday / Mulid el-Nabi (on Saturday).
During the first month of 2012 Chicago House made progress on all work fronts. The last three courses of the Domitian Gate at Medinet Habu, threatened with collapse due to groundwater salt decay, were successfully dismantled by our skilled stone team. The rubble foundations of the gate, restored by George Daressy in the late 19th century, were photographed and cleared, including many inscribed fragments and architectural elements that have been transferred to the new blockyard for recording. Stone mason Frank is now preparing to lay a new, damp-coursed reinforced-concrete footing half a meter thick on which we will re-erect the gate next season after the footing has cured over the summer. He will also be cutting and preparing new sandstone blocks to replace some of the lower course blocks that were destroyed by salt. The epigraphic team supervised by senior epigrapher Brett McClain has been working hard in the small Amun temple ambulatory documenting reliefs that will be published in the next volume in that series. In addition to the normal drawing, artist Keli Alberts has been doing aluminum foil rubbings of inscribed wall surfaces now covered by later walls - a technique we perfected at Khonsu Temple - that she then traces, and which will be later scanned and reduced for inking. Artist/Egyptologist Krisztian Vertes has been dong a groundbreaking study of the different paint phases in the long history of the monument. He is painstakingly documenting the original painted phase of Thutmosis, III, a post- Amarna restoration phase, a 21st Dynasty renewal phase, and a final Ptolemaic phase. In each of these phases the color scheme of the scenes changes, sometimes quite dramatically. At the Medinet Habu blockyard conservator Lotfi Hassan has tested the joins of five sections of a five and a half meter tall, inscribed palm column from the original Ramesses III palace on the southern side of the mortuary temple. This column and its mates were taken down and replaced with bigger ones when Ramesses III increased the height of the hall later in his reign. The original column sections were reused elsewhere in the precinct where they were excavated and recovered by the Oriental Institute back in the 1920s. Lotfi has temporarily re-erected the entire column (minus its base) outside the blockyard, quite a sight, and we will discuss with the Ministry of Antiquities the possibility of erecting it and a second, partial column within the palace area for public view sometime in the future. Staff photographer Yarko Kobylecky and Ellie Smith have been steadily doing large-format and digital photography of dozens of blocks in the blockyard, many from 3rd Intermediate Period houses in the Medinet Habu complex, that Egyptologist Julia Schmied is identifying and analyzing as part of her PhD research and the first monograph in our Medinet Habu blockyard series.
There are many comings and goings this month. Conservator Hiroko Kariya is splitting her time between the Luxor Temple blockyard; the Abydos mission of the NYU Institute of Fine Arts; and the UNESCO/Waseda University Amenhotep III tomb project where she is reassembling the granite lid of Amenhotep III's royal sarcophagus. Architect Jay Heidel is in Middle Egypt at Shiekh Abada / Antinoupolis assisting the Istituto Papirologico of the University of Florence, Italy with their survey of the Hadrianic Roman city; next week he will be helping them plan a multi-year geophysical survey of the site, increasingly threatened by encroaching agriculture and cemeteries. We are very pleased to welcome back the Malkata Palace expedition: Diana Craig Patch and Catharine Roehrig of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Peter Lacovara of Emory University, who with surveyor Joel Paulson and his wife Pam will be staying with us during the next month as they resume their archaeological work at Amenhotep III's sprawling palace site. You will recall that we are presently recording the reliefs and inscriptions on the façade of the tomb of Amenhotep III's Steward of Malkata palace, Nefersekheru (TT 107), in tandem with the renewed archaeological activity at the palace itself. Senior artists Margaret De Jong and Sue Osgood made great progress on the penciled drawings of the fragile limestone reliefs during the past month, and both will be finished with those drawings this season, with inking beginning this summer.
So it's business as usual here in Luxor as Egypt continues down the sometimes- rocky path to democracy. We continue to assist our Egyptian friends in any way we can, with our library, our site work, and all the resources at our disposal. We are very pleased and proud to be representing the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago, and the USA here at this historic time.
Best wishes to you all from Luxor,
December 29, 2011
Holiday greetings to you all! Things are quiet and peaceful here in Luxor after a lovely Christmas. A number of the Chicago House staff returned home for the holidays as well as many of our colleagues, but the rest of us have enjoyed a warm and pleasant holiday time in Luxor. Our Christmas dinner was quite festive with many friends (Egyptian, Japanese, Italian, Canadian, and even some Americans) and LOTS of kids. The residence courtyard after dinner was like a hippodrome, with eight very small children racing round and around led by a very energetic two-year old! It was very sweet.
But our holiday joy has been considerably muted by the loss of a very dear colleague. Conservator Luigi de Cesaris, who coordinated the ARCE/Chicago House Roman fresco cleaning project at Luxor Temple, was felled suddenly by a heart attack on December 19th as he was finishing up work at the Red Monastery with his team. Luigi was well known for the high quality of his conservation work, his extraordinary energy, and his richness of spirit, and he was a dear friend to us all at Chicago House. His funeral - that Jay and I attended as representatives of Chicago House - took place on Thursday the 22nd at the church of San Luigi de Francese in Rome. He was interred in a little village cemetery hanging off the mountainside two hours south of Rome, with a small bouquet of roses from the Chicago House garden that he loved so much. Luigi was a presence in Egypt since the 1980s when he worked with the Getty Conservation Institute team cleaning and consolidating Nefertary’s famous tomb in the Valley of the Queens, followed by work sponsored by USAID and ARCE at the monasteries of St. Anthony and St. Paul on the Red Sea coast, and most recently at the Red Monastery in Sohag. He was only 50, leaves a young widow and three-year-old son, and big hole in all our hearts.
Our archaeological fieldwork continues to go very well. As I write this we are expanding the protective roofing along the inside walls of the Medinet Habu blockyard under Lotfi’s careful supervision, and hope to have that finished during the first week of January. The Domitian gate is now down to its last course, and we reviewed stonemason Frank’s plans for the new, reinforced foundation with our Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities friends two weeks ago. The foundation will be of reinforced concrete, and the decayed stone block courses will be replaced by new sandstone blocks quarried from the same quarries as the original blocks, shaped by Frank and his team in the months ahead. Sue Osgood is on her last drawing enlargement of the beautifully carved, Amenhotep III period reliefs in TT 107, the Theban tomb of Malkata palace steward Nefersekheru. Artist Margaret will be returning at the beginning of January to finish her drawings there as well. Documentation and collation of the Thecla church blocks continues in the Luxor Temple blockyard by Jay, while Hiroko, our workmen, and I have moved over 120 Ptolemaic and miscellaneous blocks and block fragments to separate mastaba platforms for photography and analysis. It’s been a good few months.
And we look forward to the new year. Best wishes to you all for a happy and prosperous New Year 2012 from all of us in Luxor…!
December 2, 2011
I am pleased to report that Luxor has been peaceful throughout the last few weeks, and the Chicago House team is busy and well. Our work at Medinet Habu, TT 107, and Luxor Temple has proceeded normally, and continued through the disturbances in Cairo with no interruption. The elections so far - here, in Cairo, Alexandria, and elsewhere - have been noteworthy for their orderliness, peaceful nature, enthusiasm, and unprecedented turnout. It's an encouraging beginning! And history in the making.
Yesterday artist Sue Osgood returned to Luxor to continue working in TT 107, the tomb of Nefersekheru, steward of Amenhotep III's Malkata palace, where Margaret has been drawing for the last month. Tomorrow conservator Hiroko Kariya arrives to resume conservation work in the Luxor Temple blockyards. On Sunday we are all heading south to see the current excavation work of faculty member Nadine Moeller, husband Gregory, and her team (including Hratch Papazian) at Tell Edfu. Nadine and the crew joined us and a number of our American (ARCE Luxor), foreign, and Egyptian colleagues for a very pleasant Thanksgiving dinner on November 24th. The cranberry sauce was home-made by artist Margaret De Jong, with fresh berries kindly hand-carried by library assistant (and OI VC member) Andrea Dudek who will be heading homeward in a few days after a very productive few weeks with us.
Thus far, outside of the election excitement, it's been a totally normal season. Two weeks ago I participated in a workshop in Cairo sponsored by AUC and the Netherlands/Flemish Institute on archaeological recording techniques, with a special emphasis on new digital recording technologies that we are using in our on site documentation work now. During the next couple of days a group of students from the Netherlands/Flemish Institute will be visiting TT 107 and Medinet Habu to see our recording methodologies in person, guided by Senior epigrapher Brett McClain and Margaret.
Despite the political uncertainties and bumps in the road, the last month and a half have been joyous in many ways. The Egyptian people are tremendously excited and proud of their new freedom to choose their leaders, and this has been a joy to witness. We gave our Egyptian staff the day off on Monday to vote, and each one proudly showed me his ink-stained finger (proof of voting) the day after. There have been other reasons to celebrate as well; I have attended two engagement parties for offspring of our workers (who were babies the last time I looked, and are now getting married?). And ten days ago Medinet Habu conservator Nahed gave birth to a baby boy, Jovan. Life is too full!
And all is well. I will write again soon. Best wishes to you all for an excellent December!
Best from Luxor,
October 31, 2011
Chicago House opened for the 2011- 2012 archaeological field season on October 15th, we reopened the library this week, and I am pleased to report that all is well here in Luxor. I had a good few days in Cairo beforehand signing the season contract with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, meeting the new US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, as well as the new folk at USAID Egypt. Luxor is peaceful and pleasantly busy. The Chicago House epigraphic and conservation teams are now back working at Medinet Habu and at Luxor Temple, and we resumed our documentation work at Theban Tomb 107 (from the time of Amenhotep III) today. The weather has been glorious - hot during the day, but deliciously cool at night, and the temps are slowly going down. The number of tourists has been steadily and noticeably growing since we returned. The temples are busy again, which is very good to see, and makes everyone happy. Construction of the new Corniche in front of Chicago House has accelerated, trees are being planted, and new pedestrian walkways are being put in now along the lower terrace (allaying our fears that it might go back to being a highway). It is good to be back, and we are looking forward to a full and productive season with our Egyptian and foreign colleagues in Luxor.
I'll be in touch again soon.
Best to you all from Luxor,
October 1, 2011
The Epigraphic Survey is returning to Egypt to resume its documentation, conservation, and restoration work in Luxor. We plan to open Chicago House (being made ready for us now) on October 15, and the library the following week. I will post occasional updates on this web page throughout the winter.
The current Epigraphic Survey professional staff are: W. Raymond Johnson, director; J. Brett McClain, senior epigrapher; Jen Kimpton, Christina Di Cerbo, and Christian Greco, epigraphers; Richard Jasnow, epigraphic consultant; Boyo Ockinga and Susanne Binder, archaeologist / epigrapher consultants; Margaret De Jong and Susan Osgood, senior artists; Krisztián Vértes, and Keli Alberts, artists; Julia Schmied, blockyard and archives assistant; Jay Heidel, architect; Yarko Kobylecky, staff photographer; Susan Lezon, photo archivist and photographer; Elinor Smith, photo archives registrar and photography assistant; Carlotta Maher, assistant to the director; Essam el Sayed, senior accountant; Samir Guindy, administrator; Marie Bryan, librarian; Anait Helmholz, librarian assistant; Frank Helmholz, master mason; Lotfi K. Hassan, conservation supervisor; Nahed Samir Andraus and Mohamed Abou El Makarem, conservators at Medinet Habu; Hiroko Kariya, conservation supervisor at Luxor Temple; Alain and Emmanuelle Arnaudiès, Chicago House Digital Archives database consultants; Louis Elia Louis Hanna, database architect; Conor Power, structural engineer; Helen Jacquet-Gordon and Jean Jacquet, consultants from afar; and Girgis Samwell, contractor.
Founder James Henry Breasted committed the Epigraphic Survey to the preservation of Egypt's cultural heritage by non-destructive means: through documentation so precise it could stand alone as a replacement in the absence of the original monument. Large-format photography (8x10, 5x7, and 4x5 inch negatives) is an essential tool in this process, and one of the first goals of Chicago House was to create a photographic archive of as many of Egypt's accessible standing monuments as possible, photographed inside and out.
But Breasted understood that photographs alone cannot always capture all the details of the often damaged or modified wall scenes of individual monuments; the light source that illuminates also casts shadows which obscure details. To supplement and clarify the photographic record, precise line drawings are produced at Chicago House that combine the talents of the photographer, artist, and Egyptologist. First the wall surface is carefully photographed with a large-format camera whose lens is positioned exactly parallel to the wall to eliminate distortion. From these negatives photographic enlargements up to 20x24 inches are produced, printed on a special matt-surface paper with an emulsion coating that can take pencil and ink lines.
An artist takes this enlarged photographic print mounted on a drawing board to the wall itself, and pencils directly onto the photograph all of the carved detail that is visible on the wall surface, adding those details that are not visible or clear on the photograph. Back at the house the penciled lines are carefully inked with a series of weighted line conventions to show the three dimensions of the relief, and damage that interrupts the carved line is rendered with thin, broken lines that imitate the nature of the break.
When the inking is complete, the entire photograph is immersed in an iodine bath that dissolves away the photographic image, leaving just the ink drawing. The drawing is then blueprinted, the blueprint is cut into sections and each section is mounted on a sheet of stiff white paper. These "collation sheets" are taken back to the wall where the inked details on the blueprint are thoroughly examined by two Egyptologist epigraphers, one after the other. These epigraphers pencil corrections and refinements on the blueprint itself with explanations and instructions to the artist written in the margins. The collation sheets are then returned to the artist, who in turn takes them back to the wall and carefully checks the epigraphers' corrections, one by one. When everyone is in agreement, the corrections are added to the inked drawing back in the studio, the transferred corrections are checked for accuracy by the epigraphers, and the drawing receives a final review by the field director back at the original wall. In the case of digital drawings, collation is done utilizing printouts of the drawings. Digital drawing of graffiti throughout the Medinet Habu complex is currently being conducted by Tina Di Cerbo and Richard Jasnow.
Consultations between artist, epigraphers, and field director, the consensus of all talents combined, ensures a finished "facsimile" drawing that is faithful to what is preserved on the wall in every detail; this is the essence of what is generally referred to as the "Chicago House Method." The corrected ink drawings, photographs, text translations, commentary, glossaries, and duplicate negatives are then taken back to Chicago for processing and publication in large folio volumes for distribution worldwide. These publications are available in hard copy and now also in electronic format.
The publications of the Epigraphic Survey are universally recognized as setting the standard for epigraphic recording. With the present volume, OIP 136, "Medinet Habu IX. The Eighteenth Dynasty Temple, Part I: The Inner Sanctuaries" (Chicago, 2009), the Epigraphic Survey returns to its series of publications dedicated to the reliefs and inscriptions of the Medinet Habu complex, a series inaugurated in 1930 with the publication of the war scenes and earlier historical records from the mortuary temple of Ramesses III (Medinet Habu I. Earlier Historical Records of Ramses III, The Epigraphic Survey, Oriental Institute Publications 8, 1930). The Ramesside temple and the High Gate were to occupy the efforts of the Survey for the next four decades, ending in 1970 with the appearance of Medinet Habu VIII. In resuming the Medinet Habu series, the Survey initiates what is envisioned to be a sequence of six volumes documenting the Eighteenth Dynasty temple of Amun and subsequent additions thereto, beginning with this publication of the reliefs in the six innermost rooms of the temple. These chambers were begun during the coregency of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III and completed by the latter king during his sole reign.
Other recent publications include OIP 123, "The Temple of Khonsu, Volume 3. The Graffiti on the Khonsu Temple Roof at Karnak: A Manifestation of Personal Piety" (Chicago, 2003), by Helen Jacquet-Gordon. Graffiti incised on the roof blocks of the temple of Khonsu at Karnak, written in the hieroglyphic, hieratic, and Demotic scripts and accompanied by the outlines of pairs of feet, caught the eye of Champollion and other early voyagers who succeeded in clambering up onto that part of the roof still remaining over the colonnade of the first court. Such graffiti have usually been interpreted as mementos left by ancient visitors passing through Thebes. A complete survey of all the graffiti on the roof and a detailed study of the inscriptions, carried out over a considerable period of time, has revealed the unexpected fact that far from being casual tourists, it was mostly the priestly personnel of the temple itself whose graffiti have been preserved there. The inscriptions record the name and titles of the person whose footprints are depicted, as well as the name of his father and sometimes that of his grandfather, but only in three cases does the name of his mother appear. Prayers addressed mainly to Khonsu himself demonstrate the firm belief of these priestly servitors in the lasting protection afforded them by the god in whose sacred precinct their graffiti have been carved.
One of the most original groups of graffiti is that connected with the family of one Djedioh, whose inscriptions dating to the time of the Twenty-second Dynasty reveal the existence of a hitherto unknown king of that era named Iny. Other objects depicted among the graffiti are "portrait" heads, sacred barks, animals, birds, and architectural elements, almost all having some connection with the temple itself or with the cult of the god Khonsu. Several small crosses give witness to the reuse of the temple in Christian times as a church.
The 334 graffiti recorded in the volume are richly illustrated by photographs and facsimile drawings. Transliterations, translations, line notes, and commentaries are provided. The text concludes with general, name, epithet, and title indices.
"Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 2: The Facade, Portals, Upper Register Scenes, Columns, Marginalia, and Statuary in the Colonnade Hall" (Oriental Institute Publications 116; Chicago, 1998) contains 99 plates of drawings and photographs as well as a booklet of text translations and commentary. The diversity of material in this volume makes it one of the most exciting publications in the history of the Survey. This volume (RILT 2) completes the documentation and publication of all the standing wall remains in the great Colonnade Hall of Luxor Temple, one of the largest, most beautiful, and most threatened monuments in Luxor. Its companion volume, "Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 1: The Festival Procession of Opet in the Colonnade Hall" (Oriental Institute Publications 112; Chicago: 1994), contains 128 plates and a text booklet. This volume, the Epigraphic Survey's largest ever, documents in detailed drawings and photographs the first register of decoration in the hall, built by Amenhotep III but largely decorated during the reign of Tutankhamun and his successors. It is one of the very few monuments of Tutankhamun to survive to the present day.
The first register reliefs, executed in the lively style of the late Amarna period, commemorate one of the most important annual festivals in the Egyptian religious calendar, the great Festival of Opet, the occasion when the god Amun-Re traveled from his "palace" at Karnak to his birthplace at Luxor Temple to experience rebirth and rejuvenation. The Opet reliefs document in particular detail the lavish water procession associated with this festival, when Amun-Re, his wife, the mother-goddess Mut, and their son the moon-god Khonsu traveled from Karnak to Luxor Temple and, at the conclusion of the festival, back to Karnak in great, gilded divine barges towed by the elaborate royal barges of the king and queen. The royal barges in turn were towed by numerous smaller boats manned by dozens of oarsmen, while the entire water procession was escorted by a cheering populace on the riverbanks. It is hard to see on the wall now unless the light is just right, but you can see it all in our publication!
When the Epigraphic Survey received the concession for Medinet Habu in 1924, our primary interest was the mortuary temple of Ramesses III which the Survey finished documenting in the 1950s. But the Medinet Habu precinct is filled with additional satellite shrines, decorated wells, gates, and other monuments from many periods for which we have the responsibility to document, conserve, and publish. The staff of Chicago House photographers, artists, and Egyptologist epigraphers is currently recording the small temple of Amun at Medinet Habu of pharaohs Hatshepsut and Thutmose III called Djeser Set, or "Holy of Place," where a pre-creation form of the god Amun was believed to reside, and which Ramesses III enclosed within his funerary complex to lend his own temple greater sanctity. Excavations by the University of Chicago in the early 1930s indicated that the 18th Dynasty temple replaced an earlier temple from perhaps as early as the Middle Kingdom, and its growing theological importance is attested by its expansion in the Kushite, Ptolemaic, and Roman periods, when ever grander and more elaborate entryways were added to the complex.
Under Lanny Bell's directorship more than twenty years ago the Epigraphic Survey added conservation to its program and a conservator to the staff. Now, because of rapidly changing conditions in Egypt that are causing the monuments to decay at an ever faster rate, we have expanded our conservation programs even further. From 1996 to 2006 the Epigraphic Survey received a grant from the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), administered through the American Research Center (ARCE) and generously approved by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), for documentation and conservation of the Thutmoside temple at Medinet Habu and its later additions. Thanks to this grant Chicago House was able to seal the rooftop of the small Amun temple against rainwater (a more frequent occurrence recently) and clean the salt, dirt, and soot-stained painted reliefs below. As this cleaning was finished, newly exposed painted details were added to the drawings that have recently appeared in Medinet Habu IX. (OIP 136) A current grant from USAID now supports the documentation and conservation in the small Amun temple plus the new blockyard storage area.
Our program at the Medinet Habu small Aumn temple also includes the restoration of the sandstone flooring in the two central chapels, which were largely missing. This necessitated the careful cleaning of the floor debris, made up of the backfill from the excavations of our predecessors in the 1930s. Among the more interesting finds in the floor debris were six large and two-hundred medium to small fragments of a colossal granodiorite seated dyad of Thutmose III and the god Amun. The two largest fragments were published by Uvo Holscher in "The Excavation of Medinet Habu 2, The Temples of the Eighteenth Dynasty" in 1939 (Oriental Institute Publication 9). During the 2000-2001 season conservator Lotfi Hassan and stone cutter Dany Roy joined the largest base fragments and secured them with stainless steel dowels 2 centimeters in diameter and almost a meter in length, which were epoxied into place. The joined statue base was raised and moved into the exact center of the central sanctuary, where the dyad had originally been set up, over a damp-coursed, reinforced concrete foundation. On March 24, 2001, the top section of the statue was winched into position and epoxied, completing the joining of the six largest pieces of the group. The reassembled dyad, broken at the top, stands almost 3 meters in height, even without the heads. Analysis of the smaller fragments, including sections of the king's legs and kilt, will be completed in future seasons, after which they will be joined to the core statue. It is a rare opportunity to restore a piece of Egyptian sculpture to its original architectural setting. Because this particular dyad was an integral part of the architecture of the central sanctuary, it is a dramatic addition to the room.
Although the Epigraphic Survey has in the past dealt exclusively with standing wall remains, an exciting opportunity presented itself at Luxor Temple to incorporate fragmentary material in our publication program. The upper walls of the Colonnade Hall and other parts of Luxor Temple are mostly missing, quarried away in the medieval period when stone was needed for house, church, or mosque construction. Excavations in the 1950s and 1960s, which exposed the southern end of the sphinx road linking Luxor and Karnak temples, also exposed hundreds of buried stone foundations made up of reused block fragments that had been torn off the upper walls of the temple. When the excavations were finished, the fragments were piled in dozens of rows around the temple for future analysis. From this pool of material, the Epigraphic Survey has identified over 1,500 sandstone fragments from the Colonnade Hall alone, and is including them in the publication of the hall.
Each block fragment is drawn by the Chicago House team the same way a wall section would be drawn using photographic enlargements, and when the drawings are collated and finished, each fragment drawing is photographed (or scanned) so that scale prints of the drawings can be reassembled for the publication. Many of the fragments join like huge, stone jigsaw puzzles to form long strips or sections from numerous identifiable scenes, and augment considerably our understanding of the decorative scheme of the missing upper registers. Volume 1 in our Colonnade Hall series features joined fragment groups from the first register of the hall, the Opet reliefs. Volume 2 features joined fragments from the Colonnade Hall facade which preserve important information about its original decorative program, while Volume 3 in the series will be devoted primarily to the upper register fragment groups, one of which is over 75 feet long, and an architectural study of the hall.
In 1995 the Epigraphic Survey received another five-year grant from the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP), USAID, ARCE, and the SCA for conservation and consolidation of the deteriorating decorated sandstone fragments in our Luxor Temple blockyard. Conservators John Stewart assisted by Hiroko Kariya supervised this project at its inception; John had actually worked on the material a decade before under former Chicago House Director Lanny Bell. Hiroko Kariya now supervises the project. In 1998 we erected an onsite conservation lab, which now allows greater control of the fragment treatment. We received permission from the SCA to expand our fragment documentation and conservation efforts at Luxor Temple. We began by constructing new damp-coursed brick platforms east of the temple for the proper storage and treatment of the thousands of fragments that are still lying on the ground, to protect them against the rising damp. During the 1999-2000 season we constructed twenty more damp-coursed "mastaba" platforms and started to categorize, number, catalog, photograph, and move the blocks, starting in the south area, to their new home. During the 2001-2002 season, and thanks to a Robert Wilson matching grant and the World Monuments Fund, 310 meters of new storage and treatment brick mastaba/platforms were constructed for the decorated sandstone wall fragments presently stacked on the wet ground, and 5,000 wall fragments were raised from the ground and placed on the new mastabas by category. Our eventual aim is to raise all the fragmentary material around Luxor Temple up off the ground onto protected storage platforms, by category, for documentation, treatment, and eventual reconstruction, and we are almost there. The most recent, WMF-supported milestone is the Luxor Temple blockyard open-air museum, three years in preparation and opened to the public on March 29, 2010 (see above).
Our second volume in the Luxor Temple series also includes a publication of the colossal statuary found in the Colonnade Hall, two great seated dyads in indurated limestone of Amun-Re and Mut, quarried by Tutankhamun but finished and erected by his successor Ay at the end of the 18th Dynasty, and a seated sculpture of a king from the same period. All these sculptures were usurped by Ramesses II who erased the original names and replaced them with his own, greatly hindering our identification of the original king. Both dyads are missing the heads of the Mut-goddess figures, but we have had the good fortune recently to actually find the missing heads in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, basement storage area where they had been waiting for over a century. Through the kindness of the Egyptian Museum and the Supreme Council for Antiquities the face of the large-dyad Mut goddess was transferred to Luxor where the Epigraphic Survey restored it to its body in January of 1997 (the restoration was supervised by conservator Ellen Pearlstein of the Brooklyn Museum, assisted by Hiroko and stone cutter Dany Roy).
Chicago House, the Oriental Institute headquarters in Egypt, functions as a major center of Egyptological studies and is open from October 15 through April 15 every winter season. The research library, among the finest in Egypt, has more than 20,000 volumes. The Chicago House photographic archive is a major research collection containing over 20,000 negatives and 21,000 prints ranging in date from the late-nineteenth century to the present. A project to conserve, register, and provide proper archival storage for the collection was funded by the Getty Grant Program and a catalog of the archival holdings, "The Registry of the Photographic Archives of the Epigraphic Survey," was published in 1995. In 1999 the Chicago House Imaging Center was formed to coordinate the scanning of the entire archive onto CD-ROM for inclusion in our Photo Archives database, and to coordinate experimentation with digital photography as an exciting new adjunct to our photographic documentation process.
The Epigraphic Survey is the flagship field project of the Oriental Institute and demonstrates a commitment to long-term projects of the highest quality that benefit the entire field of ancient Near Eastern scholarship.
Partly funded by the University of Chicago, the Epigraphic Survey relies heavily on tax-deductible private and corporate support for its continued efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of ancient Egypt.
For further information on contributions to the work of the Survey, contact the Development Office at (773) 702-9513 or email@example.com
For online donations, go to https://oi.uchicago.edu/getinvolved/donate/
Click 'Pledge online,' and check the "Epigraphic Survey/Chicago House" box. Thank you!
Visitors to Chicago House are always welcome, but please contact us in advance for the most convenient times for a visit. Feel free to contact the director, Dr. Ray Johnson, directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call him (in Egypt) at: 012-322-5019. Our field season is from October 15 to April 15. Weekday hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, then 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm; Saturdays 8:00 to 12:00 noon; closed Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Direct dial from the U.S.: 011-20-95-237-2525; fax 011-20-95-238-1620.
From April 15 to October 15 the Survey is based at the University of Chicago in the USA; during that time please send inquiries to Dr. Ray Johnson at The Oriental Institute, 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637. Telephone: (773) 834-4355; fax: (773) 702-9853; e-mail: email@example.com
- 2000 Article: THE EPIGRAPHIC SURVEY IN LUXOR: THE FIRST SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS
- 1996 Article: THE REVOLUTIONARY ROLE OF THE SUN IN THE RELIEFS AND STATUARY OF AMENHOTEP III
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Revised: April 23, 2013