Photo by Ray Johnson

December 27, 2017

Photo by Ray Johnson

Jan 30, 2018

Photo by Ray Johnson

Dec 13, 2017

Photo by Yarko Kobylecky

Jan 24, 2018

Photo by Ray Johnson

Feb 27, 2018

Photo by Jay Heidel

Dec 8, 2017

Current Season

Epigraphic Survey Current Season Update March 26, 2018

W. Raymond Johnson

Chicago House reopened its doors for the 2017-2018 archaeological field season on October 15th, and the Chicago House Library opened on October 20th. This, our 94th archaeological field season, has simply sped by. We received our state security clearance several weeks late this year, like many of our colleagues, but by November 15th were back at work on site. Chicago House's documentation, conservation, restoration, and training activities took place at three major sites this winter: Luxor Temple, Medinet Habu, and Theban Tomb 107. Work finished for the season on April 15th, and the team is now back home processing data, translating texts, inking penciled drawings, organising digital files, and putting the final touches on Medinet Habu Volume X: The Eighteenth Dynasty Temple, Part II. The Façade, Pillars, and Architrave Inscriptions of the Thutmoside Peripteros.

Chicago House architect/artist Jay Heidel supervised the data management program, numbering, documentation, and database entering of the inscribed architectural blocks and fragments stored and displayed in the Luxor Temple blockyard while also finishing the digital penciling (for digital inking) of 180 blocks and block fragments from the time of Ptolemy I.  Digital collation of Jay's 39 Bentresh inscription block drawings, part of this group, was begun this season by senior epigrapher J. Brett McClain.  Photographer Hilary McDonald assisted by Gina Salama continued the digital photogrammetric photography of entire rows of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV-period blocks and block fragments in a new program designed to provide a comprehensive digital record of all 50,000 inscribed blocks, fragments, and architectural elements in the blockyard.  Egyptologist/artist Krisztián Vertés continued his facsimile digital documentation of the Tetrarchic Roman frescos in the Imperial Cult Chamber on the southern, western, and northern walls assisted by photographer Owen Murray.  The digital penciling of those frescoes is now finished.  Under the supervision of Krisztián and Jay, the first fully digital collation of a digital drawing based on a digital photogrammetric rectified image of an Amenhotep III wall scene in the Imperial Cult chamber was undertaken by epigraphers Ray Johnson and Jonathan Winnerman.  This scene was chosen to be a trial run for the new collation procedures, developed by Krisztián, and will be featured as a case study in the third edition of the digital drawing manual Digital Epigraphy. (The second edition of Digital Epigraphy is at the Oriental Institute Publications Office now).  The digital collation procedure proved to be so successful, this season we began the transition to digital collation all of our digital drawings starting with Brett's digital collation of the Ptolemy I Bentresh inscription blocks.  Luxor Temple conservator Hiroko Kariya conducted her annual condition survey, maintenance, and treatment of the blockyard material and assisted with the photography of fragile blocks housed in protective ‘hospital’ mastabas, all tagged with aluminium tags by Gina for entry by Jay and Gina into the blockyard database.   That material was all reassessed, moved, or added to where necessary, and the mastabas secured.  On March 17th structural engineer Conor Power arrived for his annual condition study of Luxor Temple.  After checking the crack monitors, plumb bobs, and doing a thorough condition survey of the Luxor Temple structure, his report was that there is no sign of movement or instability, and that the temple structure remains stable.  This is thanks to the USAID dewatering initiative inaugurated in 2006 that lowered the groundwater passing under the temple by over ten feet, thereby stabilising the foundations.


The epigraphic team in the small Amun temple of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III under the supervision of J. Brett McClain and senior artists Margaret De Jong and Susan Osgood continued work on the drawings for Medinet Habu XI and XII, while Tina Di Cerbo and Richard Jasnow continued their digital documentation of Coptic graffiti in the northern Ptolemaic annex.  New epigrapher Ariel Singer began her training in the small Amun temple with the team, while artist Dominique Navarro worked on a gate from the time of Taharqa immediately to the north of the small Amun Temple Kushite pylon.  Brett and photographers Sue Lezon, and Yarko Kobylecky produced the final photographs for Medinet Habu X, now in production Chicago. Epigrapher Jen Kimpton assisted by Anait Helmholz continued the cataloguing and analysis of blocks and fragments from the destroyed Medinet Habu western High Gate, while artist Keli Alberts continued the facsimile drawing of selected fragments and groups.  Ariel helped collate some of these drawings this season.  Jen and Keli continue to make wonderful joins with the material, furthering our knowledge not only of the exterior and interior scenes of the destroyed gate, but also the architecture of the gate itself.  Photographer Yarko Kobylecky continued to generate large-format film documentation of the blocks and fragments, while Owen Murray continued his digital documentation of the western area for photogrammetric mapping.  Archaeologists Nadine Moeller and Gregory Marouard coordinated the clearance and documentation of the foundation trenches of the northern tower; Greg rejoined the team for two weeks in March in order to finish the northern foundation work.  Yarko assisted by Ellie Smith also generated large-format film negatives in the God's Wives Chapels from the 25th and 26th Dynasties in preparation for their publication; we will study these funerary chapels while we document the 25th Dynasty additions to the small Amun temple, since they were part of the same program.  Senior conservator Lotfi Hassan continued to supervise the Medinet Habu conservation work, capping of Ramesses III mud-brick walls along the stone pavement with new bricks, as well as our ongoing Egyptian conservation-student training program, while Master Mason Frank Helmholtz continued to supervise the restoration of Ramesses III-period paved walkways on the southern, western, and northern sides of the mortuary temple with thick sandstone slabs.  These restored walkways will facilitate public access to the western precinct, the House of Butehamun, and an open-air museum in the area of the western High Gate.  The paved walkway  now extends along the entire length of the southern side of the mortuary temple and has turned the southwest corner where restoration is now proceeding along the western side.  Lotfi and his team stabilised two of the columns of the Butehamun house in February and March and made them vertical, and has been experimenting with compressed mud-brick paving slabs and protective rope fencing around the house that will allow visitors to view the house from the outside.  We gratefully acknowledge here a grant from USAID Egypt for the development and restoration of the southern and western sectors of the Medinet Habu precinct that currently supports this work.

TT 107.
Cleaning of the inscribed portico of TT 107, the Theban tomb of the Steward of Amenhotep III's Malqata Palace, the noble Nefersekheru, was supervised by Boyo Ockinga and Susanne Binder for the Epigraphic Survey in late January.  Their work this season included the removal of blocking and debris in the entryway of the unexcavated broad hall for the insertion of a steel security door in a brick frame.  During the clearance a larger-than-lifesize raised-relief figure of the tomb owner, Nefersekheru, was found in the western door thickness, preserved from the waist down, facing out of the tomb.  Additional inscribed fragments of the destroyed limestone doorjambs and portico wall were also found and were consolidated and joined where possible by conservator Hiroko Kariya in preparation for photography and drawing.  Senior epigrapher J. Brett McClain continued the first collation of the facsimile drawings of the portico façade reliefs done by senior epigraphic artists Margaret De Jong and Sue Osgood, while Ray Johnson, Jonathan Winnerman, and Ariel Singer continued the second collation of the drawings.  Sue Osgood did digital drawings of the new fragments found last season for integration with the wall-relief drawings; Ray director checked some of her earlier digital fragment drawings for integration with the wall drawings, and in late March debris from the archaeological cleaning work was removed by the Chicago House workmen supervised by Reis Badaway.