The Epigraphic Survey


INTRODUCTION

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, stonemasons, 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 is currently conducting its 90th archaeological field season.


1926-1927 Epigraphic Survey Staff Photograph

Chicago House Professional Staff Photo, January, 2014. Photo by Sue Lezon and Yarko Kobylecky _0.jpg
Chicago House Staff 2013-14

Standing: Samwell Maher, Girgis Samwell, Samir Guindy, Richard Jasnow. Third row: Safaa Saad Mohamed, Sekina Mohamed Orabi, Hilary McNeill, Jen Kimpton, Brett McClain, Anait and Frank Helmholz, Marie Bryan, Tina di Cerbo, Hanni Mahmoud Hassa. Second row: Nehad Badri, Doaa Mohamed Hassan, Johannes Weninger, Essam el Sayed, Ray Johnson, Jay Heidel, Margaret DeJong. Front row: Lotfi Hassan, Nahed Azziz Samir, Keli Alberts, Sue Osgood, Ellie Smith, Sue Lezon, Yarko Kobylecky. Photo by Sue Lezon


RECENT NEWS

2014-2015 FIELD SEASON

November 28, 2014

Dear friends,

Brett copying texts in the House of Butehamon, Medinet Habu, November 2014. Photo by Ray Johnson_0.jpgWe had expected November to be as low-key and quiet as last season, but it has been quite the reverse, starting on the very first day of the month!  On November 1st we had the pleasure of a site visit to Medinet Habu by the deputy Minister of Antiquities and Heritage (MAH) Dr. Yousef Khalifa, who reviewed our documentation and conservation work at the House of Butehamon at the back of the Medinet Habu precinct and reaffirmed our concession there.  The individual whose names and figures grace the slender, plastered-stone shafts of the four-columned hall that Chicago House and Üvo Hölscher excavated in 1930 was a 21st Dynasty official responsible for the rewrapping and reburial of the royal mummies whose tombs in the Valley of the Kings were despoiled in the civil wars prior to Dynasty 21.  Butahamon’s name was even found in an ink inscription on the wrappings of the re-wrapped Ramesses III mummy.  Much speculation has been focused on this structure; was it a residence, or an office, or even a funerary chapel (as our colleague Takao Kikuchi suggested in a thought-provoking article in MDAIK 58, 2002)? The texts on the columns are funerary in form, but the structure of the building is decidedly domestic with a platform at the back of the hall, where the owner traditionally sat and received guests, or supervised the work at hand.  It is possible, indeed probable, that the structure had multiple functions. Butehamon’s coffin can be seen in the Turin Museum, acquired in the 19th century, but his tomb is unknown.  The goal of our program is to do facsimile drawings and translations of the column texts based on stitched-together photographs taken by Yarko Kobylecky, (supplemented by photographs taken by Chicago House around 1930), conserve the fragile plaster, extend the mud-brick casemate walls and add some fill for stability, and re-erect two fallen partial columns from a mostly destroyed entrance hall.  Eventually we will also restore two sets of ancient sandstone-slab walkways from the time of Ramesses III on ether side of the mortuary temple that will allow visitors to see the site.

On November 6th Jay and Frank returned from Antinoupolis in Middle Egypt, where Frank consulted with Rosario Pintaudi on some future stone restoration work at the site. That day we also we had the pleasure of hosting a large Far Horizons tour group to Chicago House for a reception and library briefing, the first in almost two years.  It was good to have our friends Bob and Pat Brier back with us, and the group enjoyed a site briefing by Brett at Medinet Habu the next day.  Emily Teeter and Joe Cain, in town overnight with another tour group, joined us for the reception and dinner on the 6th.  On November 9th Christian LeBlanc and the Ramesseum team inaugurated a new collaboration between Chicago House and the Franco-Egyptian Documentation Center at Medinet Habu. At our invitation the team has erected scaffolding along the inside of the Medinet Habu small Amun temple Ptolemaic Pylon in order to record the numerous reused blocks of Ramesses II that are exposed there, quarried from the side walls of Ramesses II’s mortuary temple (the Ramesseum) in the late Ptolemaic period.  Christian and epigrapher Philippe Martinez will be integrating the new block documentation with their drawings and photographs of the standing wall reliefs still preserved at the Ramesseum that they have been recording for some time.  On November 11th Jay resumed his work at Luxor Temple drawing Bentresh and Ptolemy I blocks on the Wacom Companion portable drawing tablet.  Jay has finished digitally penciling the text blocks and is now penciling a series of Ptolemy I offerings scenes in various scales from the same monument as the texts.  We have fragmentary wall scenes from at least two registers, large-scale scenes possibly from a pylon or entryway, and some smaller-scale doorjamb scenes.  It is hoped that once the blocks and fragments are documented and analyzed we will be able to establish the location of the original monument, somewhere in the vicinity of Karnak.Conservation students at work in the Medinet Habu blockyard. Photo by Ray Johnson_0.jpg

On the afternoon of the 11th about 20 members of the Mehen foundation (for the study of ancient Egypt) from the Netherlands, visited Chicago House, and we had a very pleasant time discussing archaeological preservation issues in the library.  They had visited the Oriental Institute Museum in September and were very pleased to visit the OI in Luxor.  Speaking of the Chicago House library, there are so many expeditions in town at the moment we have already had record numbers of library users in addition to our regular Egyptian Masters and PhD students.  The last few Fridays – including today - have been standing-room-only in the library, something that usually only happens in the spring!

On November 15th we began the second year of our most recent Egyptian conservation-student training program, generously funded by a grant from USAID Egypt that covers most of our Medinet Habu work.  Six students from last year are continuing their on-site conservation training, and eight new students are starting this season.  The program is directed by Medinet Habu senior conservator Lotfi assisted by Nahed, and is designed to give students fresh out of school valuable, hands-on field experience that will make them better qualified for future employment.  They are a bright, motivated group, and it is a great pleasure helping them achieve the conservation skills that Egypt needs so badly, and that also will help them get good jobs.

On November 17th we marked a very important birthday.  That day, ninety years before, the Epigraphic Survey began its work in Luxor.  We celebrated the occasion by taking a house trip to Edfu to see the work of the OI’s Nadine Moeller, Gregory Marouard and their team at the Edfu settlement site. We have watched their work with great interest over the years, and it just gets more amazing.  We also saw the not-yet activated dewatering project sponsored by USAID Egypt and implemented by our friend, engineer Thomas Nichols, whose work is sensitively and beautifully done.  We look forward to its activation soon, as the area is quite damp, and the groundwater salts are a real threat to the ancient temple as well as the settlement remains.  While there we were allowed by the local Antiquities Ministry officials to visit the roof area of Edfu temple, a very special, breathtaking treat and something none of us had ever experienced before.  Because I was obliged to be in Cairo that night, we postponed the Chicago House 90th birthday dinner until a few days later, and on November 20th we had Chicago House 90th Birthday Party 2. Photo by Yarko Kobylecky_0.jpga warm, in-house celebration that included members of the some of the earliest staff of Chicago House.  Yes; as a surprise, Jen passed out masks of previous Chicago House staff members that she had beautifully crafted out of the 1927 staff photograph, digitally enlarging the faces.  I was given first director Harold Nelson’s face; Brett was given John Wilson’s face; librarian Marie was given original librarian Phoebe Biles’ face; Jen had first female epigrapher Caroline Ransom William’s mask; Jay got architect Üvo Hölscher’s face; Yarko received former photographer Hans Lichter’s face, etc.  Our predecessors felt very close to us that night, and I think that wherever they are now, they were pleased to be included.

In mid-November I finished the final director's review of four extraordinary drawings done by Margaret of the Ptolemy VIII lintel over the facade entryway of the Eighteenth Dynasty Amun temple at Medinet Habu.  As part of the restoration and renewal of the bark sanctuary and pRay reviewing the last drawing by Margaret De Jong for Medinet Habu X, small Amun temple facade, November, 2014. Photo by Margaret De Jong_0.jpgeripteros, Ptolemy VIII's workmen erased the original Thutmosis III winged sun disk over the façade doorway and replaced it with four, small scale, sunk-relief offering scenes with incised hieroglyphic texts that are very difficult to see and little-known, but are very important for understanding the later theology of the temple.  During the penciling stage of the drawings, before inking, Margaret worked closely with Brett - who specializes in Ptolemaic texts - on the difficult spots, facilitating the whole collation process.  The four drawings are a technical tour de force, and some of the most beautifully drawn Ptolemaic reliefs in the history of Egyptian epigraphy.  They are also the last of the drawings earmarked for Medinet Habu Volume X. The Eighteenth Dynasty Temple, Part II. The Façade, Pillars, and Architrave Inscriptions of the Thutmoside Peripteros, and represent a major milestone in our Medinet Habu documentation program.  Production of this volume will begin in Chicago this summer."

This past week a Spanish-Egyptian security team started trenching the Medinet Habu precinct for electrical cables that will power a new lighting and security-camera system being set up all over Luxor: Karnak and Luxor Temples, Deir el-Bahri, the Ramesseum, Gurna hill and the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings, and Medinet Habu.  We have shared copies of Hölscher’s extremely detailed plans of the entire Medinet Habu precinct with the team to help them avoid buried walls and features that are not visible from the ground, and will be assisting wherever we can in the installation process.

Finally, on November 27th Chicago House hosted a festive Thanksgiving dinner with our friends and colleagues, including Nadine, Greg, and the Edfu team; Peter Brand and his University of Memphis team; many antiquities ministry directors and friends; numerous heads of foreign missions and colleagues; and even some US Embassy friends, Acting Deputy Chargé d’Affaires David Ranz and his family.  We were 80 total, and while the turkey was the size of a small car, there wasn’t anything left of it by the evening’s end.  A fine time was had by all, and the holiday season was well launched.

And so it goes in the Two Lands.  Best wishes to you all for a joyous December holiday season!  I will be back in touch in the New Year with a full report of our December activities.

Ray Johnson, Director, Epigraphic Survey

October 31, 2014   Dear friends of Chicago House,   I am writing to you from balmy Luxor, where Chicago House officially reopened its doors on October 15th,  and everything is going smoothly as we begin our 2014-2015 archaeological field season.  I signed the contract for the season at the Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage (MAH) in Cairo week before last with the new Foreign Missions director, Mr. Hany Abu el-Azm, who was very helpful.  Brett, Jen, Margaret, Keli, Jay, Frank, Anait, Lotfi, Marie, Krisztian, Yarko, Johannes, and I all arrived back in Luxor safelButehamon House scaffolding going up, Oct. 30, 2014. Photo by Lotfi Hassan_0.jpgy during the last couple of weeks; Tin has been in residence since September for the opening and cleaning.  Jay went immediately to Antinoupolis in Middle Egypt for a short autumn season with the Italian mission from the University of Florence directed by Rosario Pintaudi.  On October 20th Brett and I met with MAH Luxor director Abdel Hakim Karrar at the main inspectorate offices in Luxor and passed on the signed contract for the season, after which we met with Gurna MAH director Talat Abdel Hakim and met our two inspectors, Miss Fatma Ahmed Salem and Miss Sanaa Youssef Ahmed Ali in western Thebes.  We resumed our work at Medinet Habu on October 22nd, unblocked and unlocked the doors to the small Amun temple sanctuaries (and found it dry as a bone inside – the dewatering program funded by USAID Egypt continues to work well).  That day we also transferred four trucks of equipment and supplies, including scaffolding, ladders, lights, etc for our documentation, conservation, and restoration work.  This season Chicago House is sponsoring another Egyptian student conservator program, supervised by MH senior conservator Lotfi Hassan assisted by Nahed Samir, Butehamon House work, Oct 30, 2014. Photo by Frank Helmhoz_0.jpgwhich will include the six students from last year plus another new group this year; there is more than enough to do, and this will give them all valuable field experience at the same time. They and the stone team will be working on the Domitian Gate restoration project; the Claudius Gate (prep work); the MH blockyard conservation project; restoration of the Ramesses III southern well blocks; desalination of the back sanctuaries of the small Amun temple; and condition studying, cleaning, and conservation of the House of Butehamon at the western end of the complex (which we started this week).  Our documentation programs will include the House of Butehamon plus the small Amun temple reliefs and graffiti.  We are also continuing the condition study, documentation, and analysis of the blocks and fragments of the western High Gate, destroyed in antiquity and excavated by the Epigraphic Survey in 1932.  All of the work at Medinet Habu is generously funded by a grant from USAID Egypt, now in its final six months.     We reopened the Marjorie M. Fisher Chicago House Library on Friday the 24th and immediately had three patrons who joined us for lunch, including our old friend Andrzej Niwinski.  Tina and the Chicago House workmen did their usual amazing job in preparation for our return.  In addition to opening and cleaning the house and a zillion other maintenance tasks, they replaced all of the screens in the public rooms of the main house and did some pretty extensive plumbing work in the courtyard - onerous, but very successful.  Most of the work is done in-house now by our talented crew under Tina's capable and ruthless direction.  (Our workmen love her).   Luxor was surprisingly full of tourists when we arrived; there had been a couple of conventions in town, and it remained lively for days, with dozens on felluccas on the Nile, buses everywhere, and hotels busy - just like old times.  Week before last a huge tour boat chugged by Chicago House with people dancing on the deck to an extremely amplified rendition of 'Besame mucho' (!), quite surreal.  Everyone hopes it's a harbinger of better days to come.  It’s good to be back, warm during the day, cooler at night, and getting cooler as the days go by.  To mark the beginning of the new season, we resumed our annual  Halloween party on Thursday (October 30th); Nadine, Greg, and the Edfu team joined us, as well as a host of other missions.  We have a number of groups and visitors scheduled to come through town in November, including some US Embassy and USAID friends and perhaps even the new minister of Antiquities and Heritage, Dr. Mamdouh el-Damaty.  It's going to be another busy winter.   So that's what is happening with us.  It’s been an excellent season beginning; the work is going smoothly, and it's been good renewing contacts with colleagues and friends.  Stay tuned for more monthly updates as the season progresses.   Warm best wishes from Luxor, Ray Johnson, Director, Epigraphic Survey

 

CHICAGO HOUSE STAFF

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, Egyptologist/artist; Keli Alberts, artist; 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; Samwell Maher, assistant administrator; Marie Bryan, librarian; Anait Helmholz, librarian assistant; Frank Helmholz, master mason; Johannes Weninger, assistant mason; Lotfi K. Hassan, Medinet Habu conservation supervisor; Nahed Samir Andraus, conservator at Medinet Habu; Hiroko Kariya, Luxor Temple conservation supervisor; Alain and Emmanuelle Arnaudiès, Chicago House Digital Archives database consultants; Louis Elia Louis Hanna, database architect; Conor Power, structural engineer; Jean Jacquet, consultant from afar; and Girgis Samwell, contractor.

CHICAGO HOUSE PROJECTS

The Epigraphic Survey began its long collaboration with the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Ministry of State for Antiquities) in 1924, initially with documentation work in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, and we maintain an ongoing commitment to the recording and conservation of all of the monuments that form part of the Medinet Habu complex. Over the years, however, the Survey has also devoted considerable effort to the recording and preservation of inscribed material from other sites, including Karnak, Luxor Temple, the Theban Necropolis, the Sakkara Necropolis (during the 1930s), and the Nubian salvage campaign (during the 1960s). At present, we have ongoing projects, in collaboration with the MSA, at the following four sites:

Medinet Habu

In 1970 the Epigraphic Survey completed its record of the reliefs and inscriptions in the principal buildings of Ramesses III’s mortuary temple, comprising Medinet Habu Vols. I-VIII. The temple enclosure nevertheless contains a number of lesser monuments, dating both before and after the 20th Dynasty, which still await documentation, and for this reason in the early 1990’s the Chicago House team resumed activity on the site, focusing on documentation of the small 18th Dynasty Temple of Amun with its later extensions. In 1995, a conservation component, funded by ARCE and USAID Egypt, was incorporated into our work on the Amun Temple, focused on cleaning of the painted reliefs within the temple’s inner chambers. Starting in 2006, with a grant from USAID Egypt, this program was expanded to include restoration of the subterranean wells, gateways, and other minor structures within the precinct, as well as cataloguing and conservation of over 4000 loose inscribed stone fragments found throughout the enclosure. Current projects thus include the epigraphic documentation of the small Amun Temple, for which the first volume, Medinet Habu IX, appeared in print in 2009, along with analysis and publication of fragment groups assembled in the on-site blockyard, with several articles on this material now in press. Conservation and restoration initiatives, aside from continued monitoring and restoration of the 18th Dynasty temple, include the dismantling, consolidation, and reconstruction of the sandstone gates of the Roman emperors Domitian and Claudius, physical reconstruction of numerous fragment groups, particularly those originating from the Palace of Ramesses III, and the creation of a small open-air museum for display of these reconstructed monuments. Our conservation plan also includes an ongoing training program for young Egyptian conservators employed by the MSA. We will continue both the epigraphic documentation and conservation efforts at Medinet Habu on a long-term basis as our primary mission in the years to come.

Luxor Temple

In the late 1970’s, the Epigraphic Survey applied for and received permission to document the 18th Dynasty reliefs in Luxor Temple, which date mainly to the time of Amenhotep III and his successors. The great Colonnade Hall, with its festival scenes carved during and after the reign of Tutankhamun, was the primary focus of the Chicago House team throughout much of the 1980’s and 1990’s, resulting in the publication of Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Vols. I-II. Throughout the same period, we have undertaken the systematic cataloguing, conservation, and analysis of the more than 40,000 inscribed stone fragments, collected from all over the Theban region, which are now stored within the Luxor Temple precinct. From 1995, a project funded first by USAID Egypt and ARCE, and then by the World Monuments Fund, permitted proper storage platforms to be created for all of the fragmentary material, emergency conservation measures to be undertaken for the most threatened pieces, and made possible the creation of an on-site open-air museum. It has also been possible to reassemble selected fragment groups in their original locations on the standing walls of the temple. Study and conservation of the Luxor Temple fragment corpus is ongoing, in particular a project to analyze and reconstruct fragments of the Church of St. Thecla, which once stood north of the Pylon of Ramesses II, an undertaking kindly funded by Nassef Sawiris and initiated in 2010. Within the temple proper, Chicago House partnered with the American Research Center in Egypt from 2005-2008 to facilitate the cleaning, preservation, and documentation of the unique Late Roman fresco paintings, dating to the First Tetrarchy, that are partially preserved in the central section of the monument. In 2013 we began the process of making detailed facsimile drawings of these paintings for definitive publication thereof, as well as of the underlying 18th Dynasty reliefs. Our continuing work on both the fragmentary material and the standing monument is part of the Epigraphic Survey’s long-term commitment to the preservation and publication of Luxor Temple.

Khonsu Temple, Karnak

Since the 1920’s, the Epigraphic Survey has undertaken a number of documentation projects within the great temple complex of Karnak, including the temples of Ramesses III in the first court and in the Mut enclosure, the Bubastite gate, the battle reliefs of Seti I, and the temple of Khonsu, located in the southwest corner of the main temenos. Our work in Khonsu Temple has resulted in the publication of two volumes on the wall reliefs, The Temple of Khonsu Vols. I-II, along with a third volume on the rooftop graffiti by the late Helen Jacquet-Gordon. In 2008 the Chicago House team resumed work on the site in cooperation with the American Research Center in Egypt and the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The focus of the present documentation program is the large corpus of inscribed blocks, originating from earlier monuments, which were used as building material when the present temple was built during the reign of Ramesses III. The foundations, floors, walls, columns, and pylons of Khonsu Temple consist almost entirely of reused fragments, many of which still bear their original decoration; and some of this decoration is still visible, exposed in the partially damaged 20th Dynasty walls, or reachable through cracks in the walls and flooring. Our current task is to document as many of these pieces as possible while they remain accessible. So far we have identified groups of material from other known monuments, such as Amenhotep III’s mortuary complex and that of Ay and Horemheb on the west of the Nile, but we have also discovered fragments of previously unknown structures, the most important of which appears to be an older Khonsu Temple, constructed during the 18th Dynasty, expanded during the 19th Dynasty, and then completely dismantled under Ramesses III, its blocks re-used to construct the present monument. The methodologies used to record this material are described below. As of 2013, we have completed the documentation of over 200 in situ blocks in the foundations, floors, and walls, and we have registered nearly 300 loose fragments found in and around the temple. The goal in upcoming seasons is to complete the documentation of all accessible reused fragments in the upper walls, roof areas, and pylons, material that will continue to enrich our knowledge of the history of Karnak and of the monuments of Thebes.

Tomb Of Nefersekheru (TT 107)

In the years 1959-1970, the Epigraphic Survey added to its program the documentation of the tomb of Kheruef (TT 192), a senior courtier of the reign of Amenhotep III, whose beautiful reliefs, carved in limestone, exemplify the high standard of artistic achievement that characterized the late 18th Dynasty. Interest in stylistic and historical parallels from the same period, along with our objective of preserving the information contained in monuments that are particularly threatened with damage or destruction, has led the Chicago House team to undertake a program in the nearby tomb of Nefersekheru (TT 107), a contemporary of Kheruef and steward of Amenhotep III’s jubilee palace at Malqata. The construction of Nefersekheru’s tomb, though planned to be as large as that of Kheruef, was never completed, and only a small section of the reliefs on the tomb’s façade were carved before the monument was abandoned. The few completed scenes, however, exhibit some of the finest relief carving ever executed in ancient Egypt, comparable to that of Kheruef’s tomb and of the well-known tomb of Ramose. These reliefs are unfortunately in very poor condition, the limestone cracked and fractured by a combination of seismic movement and salt decay. The tomb thus merits special attention, so we began a program of photography and facsimile drawing in the tomb in 2010, the goal of which is the complete documentation of the surviving decoration and of the tomb’s architecture, prior to systematic structural consolidation of the monument and conservation of its decorated surfaces. Epigraphic work and architectural survey of the tomb will continue through the 2013-14 field season and beyond.

THE ‘CHICAGO HOUSE METHOD’

 




 

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. Breasted understood, however, that photographs alone cannot always capture all the details of the often damaged or modified wall scenes of individual monuments, since the light source that illuminates also casts shadows that obscure details. To supplement and clarify the photographic record, precise line drawings are produced at Chicago House that combine the skills 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, which are digitally scanned and duplicated, 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. Then, in the studio, 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. This can now also be accomplished digitally (see below). In the case of hard-copy drawings, 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. Consultations between artist, epigraphers, and field director, the consensus of all skill sets 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, scans, 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 for sale in hard copy and now also for free distribution in electronic format, part of an exciting new program recently inaugurated by the Oriental Institute, and generously funded by OI Visiting Committee Members Lewis and Misty Gruber.

 


 

In some instances, as with the reused fragments in the floors and walls of Khonsu Temple, it is not possible to photograph the surface that is being recorded, or to observe it directly, since the stone in question is masked by an adjoining architectural feature. For such cases we have developed a special method of recording by indirect observation. Sheets of aluminum foil are inserted into the interstice and used to make rubbings of the carved surface, a labor-intensive process that results in the extraction of enormous amounts of completely hidden carved information. The impressions thus produced on the foil are then slipped beneath sheets of clear diacetate and traced as if they were the original surface of the block. Once a field drawing on diacetate is completed, the artist copies the original tracing onto another piece of diacetate in the studio in order to refine the ink lines of the original. At this stage the drawing, still at one-to-one scale and thus potentially rather unwieldy in size, is submitted to the photographer, who makes digital photographs of the drawings at a high enough resolution to ensure clear reduced printouts. These printouts are used by the epigraphers as collation sheets. In addition to collations of the drawings, the epigraphers also make notes on the content and condition of the reliefs, as well as measured isometric drawings of the blocks on which they occur. After the collation is completed, the epigraphers and the artist examine the block together to consider the suggested corrections and to reach an agreement regarding the changes to be effected on the drawing. In the last step of the field process, the field director makes a final on-site check of the corrected drawing. The diacetate is then scanned, reduced to scale, and overlaid with vellum, on which the lines of the inscription and other features are inked using the normal Chicago House drawing conventions. This method produces the most accurate possible copies of inscribed surfaces that cannot be seen by eye or camera, and would otherwise escape documentation.

 

DIGITAL EPIGRAPHIC RECORDING

 

Recent advances in computerized drawing equipment and graphics software now make it possible to perform many of the stages of the Chicago House Method using digital technology. In the updated version of the Method, photographic enlargements are still used by the artist to pencil in the essential outlines and details of each scene or text by direct observation of the original. The penciled enlargement, however, rather than being inked in pen, is instead scanned at high resolution, and this image is used as the background for “inking” the sun-and-shadow lines digitally, using a large format drawing tablet. The artistic conventions used for raised and sunk relief, traces, damage, plaster, and other features of the decorated surface remain the same, and the care and skill required of the artist are as great as those required for inking on paper, but the digital drawing gives a greater flexibility in how the “inked” drawing can be manipulated, allows the transfer of the information in multiple scales and formats, and makes any necessary corrections go much more quickly. Collation sheets can be printed directly, avoiding the necessity of using (now hard to find) blueprint paper, and prints of the facsimile drawing in whole or in part can be used for a variety of other field research purposes as well. All digital files are carefully backed up in multiple locations, ensuring the security of the data, which adds an important archival loss-prevention component to the methodology. Then, when the drawing is complete, having undergone the same series of wall checks outlined above, it is already in digital format, and thus ready to be sent directly to the publishers for layout, avoiding the need for costly and technically difficult scanning of inked enlargements. This digital modification of the traditional Chicago House Method is now fully in place, thanks to generous grants from the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago and Dr. Marjorie M. Fisher, which have permitted the purchase of the necessary high-end tablets and computer systems. Digital epigraphic recording promises both to open new possibilities in terms of the accuracy of our recording and the breadth of information that can be captured, and to streamline our documentation process at a time when the need for rapid salvage of the threatened monumental material is increasingly urgent.

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

The publications of the Epigraphic Survey are universally recognized as setting the standard for epigraphic recording. With our most recent volume, Medinet Habu IX. The Eighteenth Dynasty Temple, Part I: The Inner Sanctuaries (OIP 136, Chicago 2009), the Survey has resumed 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, OIP 8, Chicago 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 volumes documenting the Eighteenth Dynasty temple of Amun and subsequent additions thereto, culminating with the inscriptions in the forecourt of Antoninus Pius, carved in the mid-2nd Century A.D. The drawings and photographs slated to appear in the second and third volumes of this series, Medinet Habu X and Medinet Habu XI, are currently near completion.

Other recent publications include The Temple of Khonsu, Volume 3. The Graffiti on the Khonsu Temple Roof at Karnak: A Manifestation of Personal Piety (OIP 123, 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, 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. The 334 graffiti recorded in the volume are richly illustrated by photographs and facsimile drawings. Transliterations, translations, line notes, and commentaries are provided, and the text concludes with general, name, epithet, and title indices.

The latest volume in our Luxor Temple series, Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 2: The Facade, Portals, Upper Register Scenes, Columns, Marginalia, and Statuary in the Colonnade Hall (OIP 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 (OIP 112, Chicago 1994), GIVE HYPERLINK contains 128 plates and a text booklet. The Opet 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!

CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

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. A current grant from USAID now supports the documentation and conservation in the small Amun temple plus the new blockyard storage area, the southern well of Ramesses III, and two Roman-period gates. Our program at the Medinet Habu small Aumn temple also included the restoration of the sandstone flooring in the two central chapels, which were largely missing since antiquity. 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. 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. INCLUDE PHOTOS OF DYAD REASSEMBLY FROM EXISTING WEBSITE 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.

 

In 2010 we noted that the 1st century AD sandstone gate of the Roman Emperor Domitian, reassembled in the late 19th century by Georges Daressy from scattered blocks behind the Small Temple, was in danger of collapse due to groundwater seepage and salt-induced decay of its foundations. After consultation with the MSA/SCA, conservator Lotfi Hassan, master mason Frank Helmholz, and our structural engineer Conor Power, it was decided that the gate had to be completely dismantled in order to replace the foundations with new sandstone, protected from groundwater infiltration by subterranean damp-coursing. Permission was granted by the MSA/SCA to begin that work in 2011. During the winter of 2012-13 Frank Helmholz and the Chicago House workmen cut and shaped seven new replacement blocks for the lowest courses of the gate, and put into place the bottommost course on a new reinforced concrete footing, installed in 2011-2012. One old stone was salvaged and joined to a new block, and all new stones were bolted to the new damp-coursed foundation with steel pins. The remaining blocks from the gate, stored nearby, will be consolidated by the conservation team, and then will be reassembled along with additional newly cut stones during the coming field seasons. Another Roman-period gate from the time of the Roman emperor Claudius outside the Medinet Habu eastern enclosure is in bad condition due to ground water salt decay and will also be dismantled and restored.

 

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 or the digital drawing tablet, 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. RILT I, our publication of the Opet Festival reliefs, features joined fragment groups from the first register of the hall, and RILT 2 illustrates joined fragments from the Colonnade Hall facade that preserve important information about its original decorative program. The third volume in the Luxor Temple Colonnade Hall series will be devoted primarily to the upper register fragment groups, one of which is over 75 feet long, and to an architectural study of the hall.

In 1995 the Epigraphic Survey received a 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. Originally under the supervision of conservator John Stewart, the project is now overseen by head conservator Hiroko Kariya. In 1998 we erected an onsite conservation lab, which now allows greater control of the fragment treatment, and we also received permission from the SCA to expand our fragment documentation and conservation efforts at Luxor Temple. Between 1999 and 2009, thanks to Robert Wilson matching grants and the World Monuments Fund, we largely achieved our goal of raising all the fragmentary material around Luxor Temple up off the ground onto protected storage platforms, by category, for documentation, treatment, and eventual reconstruction. Another recent milestone, also supported by the World Monuments Fund, is the Luxor Temple blockyard open-air museum, three years in preparation and opened to the public on March 29, 2010.

Among the fragment groups found in the Luxor Temple blockyard is a series of architectural components originating from 6th Century A.D. Coptic church dedicated to St. Thecla, which stood originally in front of Luxor Temple. Its surviving sanctuary foundations, which are themselves made of reused Pharaonic blocks, can be seen just beyond the present entryway to the Luxor Temple precinct. The sanctuary foundations were the focus of a previous Chicago House conservation condition study, and many decorated blocks in the blockyard appear to come from that area of the church. Conservator Hiroko Kariya has cleaned and conserved several of the blocks from the Thecla Church, and, thanks to a grant from Nassef Sawaris, architect Jay Heidel is currently undertaking a complete analysis of the fragments, including detailed drawings of the decorated surfaces of each block, as well as AutoCAD reconstructions of the joined architectural fragment groups. It will eventually be possible to reconstruct on paper a number of major architectural components from the church, and we envision being able to reassemble at least one of the large arches of the apse in its original location before the pylon of Luxor Temple.

CHICAGO HOUSE

Chicago House, the Oriental Institute headquarters in Egypt, functions as a major center of Egyptological studies for Egyptian and foreign scholars alike, 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 21,000 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. Beginning in 1999, we undertook the process of scanning all of the negatives in the archive for inclusion in our Photo Archives database, a work of many years that has now been extended to incorporate other photographic collections housed in our facility, such as the Labib Habachi archives and the photographs of Helen and Jean Jacquet.

The Epigraphic Survey is the flagship field project of the Oriental Institute and demonstrates a commitment to long-term documentation and conservation 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 oi-membership@uchicago.edu.

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: wr-johnson@uchicago.edu, or call him (in Egypt, direct dial from the U.S.) at: 011-20-122-322-5019. 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.