MORE MEDINET HABU DOCUMENTS RECOVERED
By Emily Teeter, Ph.D., Assistant Curator, The Oriental Institute Museum,
The University of Chicago
(This article originally appeared in The Oriental Institute News and Notes, No. 142, Summer 1994, and is made available electronically with the permission of the editor.)
The story of the return of the records from Berlin in September 1993 caught the interest of reporters and readers alike, and it was widely covered by the press. It is our very good fortune that a report in the New York Times was read by a doctor in Stockelsdorf, Germany, who then wrote to William Sumner, Director of the Oriental Institute. You can hardly imagine the shock on the faces of the museum staff when Mr. Sumner came into the office with a letter, dated November 5, 1993, signed "Uvo Hölscher." A man of the same name served as the field director of the Architectural Survey of the Oriental Institute, leading the excavation of Medinet Habu from 1926-33. Unbeknownst to any of us, "our" Hölscher had a grandson who shared the same name.
Our excitement grew as we read Dr. Hölscher's letter. He related that in 1972, nine years after the death of his grandfather, eleven volumes of Medinet Habu records had surfaced at the Technical University in Hannover, where the elder Hölscher had taught for years. The books were discovered during restoration work on the facility and returned to the Hölscher family. The family had offered the documents to the Institute at the time, but tragically, we have no record of receiving the letter. Hölscher inquired whether the Institute would be interested in the documents. A very affirmative letter was sent to Germany that same day and on March 15, 1994, the eleven volumes "came home."
Seven of the eleven volumes are object registers (Fundlist) that document the artifacts recovered from the site throughout the entire period of the excavation. These are very welcome, for although the Berlin documents were also object registers, four volumes were missing. The "new" documents fill in these significant gaps in our documentation.
Another four volumes, bound in tan, boldly imprinted "Medinet Habu," are excavation logs. These fascinating notes record events during the dig, as well as notes on architecture at Thebes. These documents are especially welcome because the object registers often refer to more detailed plans in the logs. The logs are also fascinating reading because they supply the human and anecdotal side of the huge excavation, such as a dispute between the excavators and Pierre Lacau, the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, over the excavation of the temple of Aye and Horemheb. There are also references to the discovery and transport of our colossal statue of Tutankhamun. Reports on incidents such as a fight between two workmen (one was hit over the head with a adze and required hospitalization!) make the excavation come to life once again. The new set of documents will be archived as a reference for scholars who work on Theban architecture and artifacts. We are greatly indebted to Dr. Hölscher and his family for their generosity.
Emily Teeter is Assistant Curator of The Oriental Institute Museum.
Revised: February 7, 2007