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Home > Research > Publications > Annual Reports > 1994-95 Annual Report

The Epigraphic Survey


Peter F. Dorman

The 1994/95 season of the Epigraphic Survey opened on October 3, 1994, and ended on April 1, 1995, marking our seventy-first year. During these six months of fieldwork, our efforts were devoted primarily to the Eighteenth Dynasty temple of Amun at Medinet Habu (fig. 1), where the painted chapels of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III have become the Survey's new priority.

Figure 1. The monumental Ptolemaic pylon of the temple of Amun at medinet Habu as viewed from the unfinished Roman forecourt.

Located in the innermost portions of the temple of Amun, the chapels are in remarkably well-preserved condition, due partly to the temple's religious importance in antiquity and partly to the careful maintenance of its structure for secondary uses more recently. This happy circumstance poses problems for recording: inside the pitch-black chambers one needs a reliable source of electricity, and outages are a matter of frustrating routine on the western bank of Luxor. Staff members were forced to shift their ladders and equipment outside into the bright sunlight whenever the power gave out, to work on alternate drawings around the roofless bark sanctuary. Epigraphers Richard Jasnow and John and Debbie Darnell, as well as the author, collectively completed forty-three collations, while the six artists-Ray Johnson, Tina Di Cerbo, Sue Osgood, Margaret De Jong, Drew Baumann (a student epigrapher during the previous season), and Linda Cohn-Kobylecky-set up their drawing boards in each of the interior chapels and in front of many walls and pillars in the bark sanctuary and its surrounding peripteros. Altogether the epigraphic team worked on no less than one hundred and two drawing enlargements this season, in all stages of penciling, inking, and collation, and of these eighteen received final director's approval for publication.

Like all monuments built by Hatshepsut, the temple exhibits the extensive recarving, renovation, and repainting undertaken there in the course of fifteen hundred years of changing religious purposes. Hatshepsut suffered a posthumous historical revision at the hands of Thutmosis III, and her names throughout the inner portions of the temple were altered to those of her father, Thutmosis I, or her husband, Thutmosis II; in other places her figure was entirely effaced and replaced by a fully laden table of offerings. Through the layers of later paint and plaster, however, traces of the original figures of Hatshepsut may be seen to varying degrees, often accompanied by the inscriptions that once commemorated the queen's devotion to Amun (fig. 2). Just one century later, the figures of Amun and his names and epithets were defaced in an attack initiated by the Aton worshipper Akhenaton, and this damage had to be repaired by his successors. In numerous places on the walls ink notations can be seen, left by Ramesside scribes to guide the draftsmen in restoring the proper texts to the desecrated scenes (fig. 3). This double persecution has ensured that very little of the chapel walls may be seen today in their early Eighteenth Dynasty condition. At a much later time, large smears of rough plaster were added to plug the cracks caused by a late subsidence of the rear chapels, and certain walls were repainted in a distinctly Ptolemaic color palette, further obscuring the original details and resulting in painted overlays of different colors. The amount of paint and plaster on these scenes has truly put our standard drawing conventions to an unprecedented test.

Figure 2. An enthroned Amun sits forlornly in front of a pile of offerings that was recarved over a figure of Hatshepsut, who once hovered attendance on him. Original traces of the queen and her inscription are rendered in thin line wherever they can be confirmed. Drawing by Christina Di Cerbo.

Figure 3. An ink graffito placed by the Ramesside restorers of the temple of Amun next to an inscription hacked out by the agents of Akhenaton. The notation is a clue for the draftsman that the damaged text should be recarved to read: "(I) have given to you the throne of Geb and the office of Atum".

Ann Russmann spent six weeks with us once again in February and March, continuing her research of the previous season on Theban monuments of the Late Period, especially those dating from the Twenty-fifth through Thirtieth Dynasties, in relation to the additions made to the Kushite pylon at Medinet Habu. Her art-historical perspective will prove most valuable to the epigraphic work still to come at Medinet Habu, and her preliminary findings will receive public airing during a British Museum symposium on Egyptian temples later this year. For a week in early March we were also very pleased to have John Nolan for a brief sojourn as a student epigrapher at Chicago House, following his work with Mark Lehner's expedition at Giza. During a month's stay at Chicago House while he worked for the Swiss Archaeological Institute on the reconstruction of a monumental doorway of Amenhotep III, artist Will Schenck engaged the staff in discussions concerning the challenging task of drawing reused block fragments. And it was a special pleasure, as always, to welcome our colleagues from North Karnak, Jean and Helen Jacquet, to the house and benefit from their expertise and advice concerning both the architecture of the temple of Amun and the many unidentified photographs of sites and scholars that still remain in the Labib Habachi Archives.

Field photography at the temple of Amun remains an ongoing commitment, as many of the older photographs of the monument are unsatisfactory for the purposes of producing drawing enlargements. During this last season, photographer Jerry Kobylecky took one hundred and three large-format views of the temple, many of them in astonishingly cramped locations, difficult to square and to illuminate properly. The pace of the field epigraphy at Medinet Habu required him to make eighty-seven drawing enlargements for the artists and to bleach thirty-six inked drawings in preparation for making collation sheets. He also produced a fine series of color slides of the temple for lecture purposes and undertook record photography for the expedition on 35 mm film.

One important photographic challenge was suddenly thrust on us at the beginning of the season, when we arrived for an inspection tour of our blockyards at Luxor Temple to discover that the Supreme Council of Antiquities had begun the huge task of dismantling the eastern range of columns in the sun court of Amenhotep III, both to consolidate the foundations of the columns and to extend excavations along the eastern side of the courtyard. With Ray Johnson's supervision, Jerry Kobylecky completed fully squared photography of the eastern wall of the court, sufficient for making enlargements if necessary. He was assisted in this task, as in so many others, by our archivist, Ellie Smith, whose services were invaluable in the photographic archives and relieved Jerry of many clerical burdens. In addition to the field photography at Luxor and Medinet Habu, Ellie registered the season's negatives, prints, and contact sheets, pulled all necessary materials for printing and duplicating, and updated the database. Special tasks included the compilation of a detailed catalog of the decorated block fragments, most of which will be published in the Survey's Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 3 , but including blocks of Amenhotep III and talatat of Tutankhamun as well. Ellie also registered a fine group of snapshots taken by Caroline Ransom Williams in 1925-26 (during her season as an epigrapher at old Chicago House), donated to the Survey by the Egyptian Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The early views of the area around the old house on the western bank have already proved of interest to the expedition of the Swiss Archaeological Institute, now at work on the adjacent mortuary temple of Merneptah.

Although fieldwork at Luxor Temple was completed last season, a number of final details were added to schematic drawings that will appear in Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 2 . The facade of the Hall was a particular challenge in this respect. When Ramesses II added his first courtyard and double portico in front of the facade, he recut all the scenes below his new roofline, largely obliterating the offering scenes that had been placed there by Tutankhamun's successor, Ay. Given tall ladders and the right angle of the sun, epigraphers over the years have been able to discern numerous traces of Ay's work, and this season Ray finalized his reconstruction of the scene (fig. 4) with the confirmation of many details by Richard Jasnow and John Darnell. Drawings of the inscriptions on the colossal columns were completed as well, showing the areas selected for decoration in sequence by Tutankhamun, whose cartouches were usurped by Horemheb; Sety I; Ramesses II; and Merneptah, usurped by Sety II (fig. 5).

Figure 4. King Ay offers incense and a libation to Amun and Mut, in a reconstruction of the lowermost scene on the eastern facade of the Colonnade Hall at Luxor Temple. Originally executed in raised relief, the wall was smoothed down and recut with a different scene in sunk relief by Ramesses II (not shown here). Drawing by W. Raymond Johnson.

Figure 5. A schematic drawing by W. Raymond Johnson of the decoration of column 8 in the Colonnade Hall.

The final documentary task at the Colonnade Hall will be the recording of the hundreds of fragments that belong to the upper, now-vanished registers of the interior decoration, which will doubtless serve to confirm or revise ideas about the architecture of the monument. In preparation for this future work, and under Jerry Kobylecky's supervision, our photographic assistant, Gharib, printed 639 small drawing enlargements at a scale of 1:5 that will eventually be used to document the decorated fragments from Luxor Temple and facilitate the reconstruction of the missing walls of the Colonnade.

The newly expanded library at Chicago House received over 220 books and offprints this season, some of them donated by visiting scholars and by expeditions in the Luxor area, bringing us to a total of 16,977 items. As any librarian can easily imagine, the normal difficulties of keeping current with book catalogs and maintaining complete series of publications are magnified tenfold in our own case by having to order from the Upper Egyptian province of Luxor, billing through the Oriental Institute in Chicago, dealing with uncertain postal service and telecommunications, and paying exorbitant customs duties on book shipments. Despite these obstacles, Debbie Darnell's continuing dedicated management of the ordering and tracking of new books has ensured that our collection remains one of the most important Egyptological reference archives in the world. More than once this year, visiting colleagues have remarked that books unavailable to them at home did not cause them inordinate inconvenience, because they knew they could consult them at Chicago House. John Darnell assisted her greatly by scanning catalogs and shelving the piles of books left by a constant flow of regular readers. Another major task was the "reading" of shelves to confirm correct number sequences, necessitated by the wholesale library move of the previous season; with the help of visiting houseguest David Ray and Ellie Smith, entire sections of the library were shifted to simplify the sequences of the numbering and to accommodate future growth. Nan Ray was truly invaluable this season in virtually completing the enormous database for all journal and monograph series, which now contains 347 complete series. Next year only smaller tasks remain: a new library map and shelf labels to assist visitors to the library in locating resources, additional encapsulation for older maps and newspaper cuttings, and the completion of the pamphlet and offprint file.

Paul Bartko managed both the household affairs and multifarious office functions with aplomb, skill, and (perhaps most critically) great good humor, and his assistance with the arrangements for the annual Friends of Chicago House tour over Thanksgiving weekend was most appreciated. With his departure at the end of the season for the greener pastures of graduate school in business, we lose a fine administrator, friend, and colleague, whose absence next year will be noticed by many of our friends in Cairo as well. We were fortunate that, at the end of the season, Paul was able to train his replacement, Ahmed Harfoush, in the complexities of the computer, payroll, and accounting systems and to introduce him to the Egyptian staff and house routines as well. Chicago House assisted several expeditions in the course of the season: the Mut Temple Expedition of the Brooklyn Museum, the Hypostyle Hall Epigraphic Survey of Memphis State University, and of course the Darnells' own Luxor-Farshût Desert Road Survey, for which see their separate report in this volume.

Fundraising efforts remained among the highest of our priorities, particularly during the field season when our epigraphic work and facilities can be appreciated to their fullest effect. Especially serious to our local budget was the loss of fully a third of our operating income in Egyptian pounds, due to a marked drop in interest rates, at a time when we are still trying to build our endowment in U.S. dollars at home. Carlotta Maher, as ever, led the fundraising charge at home and overseas; her sparkling presence graced innumerable afternoon teas, receptions, and tours during much of the season, and her indomitable efforts have ensured an ever-growing following of faithful Chicago House friends. We were especially pleased that the beautifully refurbished photographic studio will be named after our dear friends, David and Carlotta Maher, thanks to a charitable annuity established by them for the benefit of Chicago House. Similarly, the newly renovated senior artist's studio was named for our longtime supporter, the late Carolyn Livingood, thanks to a special joint contribution in her memory from her sons, Charles and John (fig. 6).

Figure 6. The new senoir artist's studio at Chicago House was dedicated in honor of our lifetime friend and benefactor Carolyn Livingood, thanks to a special donation given by her sons, Charles and John Livingood.

In 1994 the Survey was awarded a multi-year grant for the continued preservation of the Luxor block fragments in the first round of proposals for the Egyptian Antiquities Project, a fund created under the auspices of USAID in Cairo and administered by the American Research Center in Egypt. A special debt of thanks is due to both Dr. Chip Vincent and Dr. Bill Remsen of the American Research Center in Egypt for their continued advice on conservation procedures and human resources as we prepare to begin this project. Dr. John Griswold, of Wharton and Griswold Associates, Inc., in Santa Barbara, generously offered his invaluable expertise on a weekend visit to Luxor and undertook two analyses on salt samples that will assist greatly in establishing future field procedures.

The 1994/95 season was, like all others, distinguished by a number of unique events. Outstanding among these were the two catastrophic rainstorms that struck the Luxor area on October 8 and November 2, turning the Valley of the Kings into a raging torrent that damaged a number of royal tombs, flooded the mortuary temple of Sety I, and destroyed dozens of homes in the western bank town of Gurna. Temple walls that were soaked in these storms took months to dry out. Even as late as March, on the walls of the painted chapels at Medinet Habu, long, spidery salt crystals grew rapidly in the dry air, reminding us once again of how fragile these ancient stones truly are when subjected to salt efflorescence. Here and there along the western bank, sudden sinkholes appeared even months after the sudden deluge, offering unexpected opportunities for archaeological exploration. At Chicago House, we sprung several leaks in the newly renovated buildings (fig. 7), and it proved to be a perfect opportunity to waterproof the roofs at critical points, a job that was carried out gratis by the engineering firm of Sami Saad. The photographic archives proved to be a boon in one instance: in the tomb of Pairy (Theban tomb 139), one painted wall containing a well-known graffito dated to year 3 of Smenkhkare collapsed in large fragments on the floor. Prints made from our old negatives have enabled the fragments to be restored to their original position.

Figure 7. Heavy rains in October and November turned the front walks at Chicago House into reflecting pools and wreaked havoc with ancient monuments and modern villages on the western bank.

Following almost on the heels of the storms, the international production of Verdi's Aida was staged in front of Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahri on three of the coldest nights of the year; while the glittering crowd was much smaller than expected, the opera was an artistic triumph by all accounts, and one of the stranger features of the landscape made its appearance: a pontoon bridge linking the eastern and western banks of the Nile directly in front of Karnak Temple. Although in position for just a few weeks, the bridge briefly enabled us to drive to work at Medinet Habu in just a few minutes, bypassing the local ferry altogether. (For a fuller account of these autumn events, see Ray Johnson's article in the Chicago House Bulletin VI, no. 1, December 15, 1994.)

In conjunction with our good friend Dr. Mohammed Saghir, Supervisor of Pharaonic Antiquities for Upper Egypt, Chicago House sponsored a lecture series at the Cultural Palace in Luxor that included Dr. Betsy Bryan of Johns Hopkins University, speaking on her work at the painted tomb of Suemniwet, Dr. Richard Fazzini of the Brooklyn Museum with a brilliantly illustrated lecture on Egyptomania, and Dr. Jadwiga Lipinksa of the Polish-Egyptian Mission at Deir el-Bahri, recounting three decades of work on the fragmented reliefs of the temple of Thutmosis III. The logistics were indomitably managed by Tina Di Cerbo and Richard Jasnow, whose efforts made the entire series a remarkably well-attended success.

The Friends of Chicago House tour on Thanksgiving weekend included a memorable bus trip to Elkab---escorted by armed security officers in pickup trucks-featuring visits to the Eighteenth Dynasty tombs, the small temple of Amenhotep III, and a "death march" along the wadi bottom to examine graffiti of all periods. The picturesque return trip was by boat in the late afternoon, followed by the now-traditional black-tie gala highlighted by tangos of the 1930s and by a huge cake celebrating the Survey's seventieth anniversary. Tour members were also treated to a firsthand look at the epigraphic work at Medinet Habu and visits to other areas of Ramesside complex (fig. 8). The logistics of the tour would have been impossible to manage without the unfailing assistance and enthusiasm of Ibrahim Sadek of the American Research Center, to whom we are truly indebted.

Figure 8. At the High Gate of Medinet Habu, artist and epigrapher Andrew Baumann entrances guests on the annual Friends of Chicago House tour by recounting tales of harem intrigue and conspiracy during the reign of Ramesses III, at the spot where it all happened.

Visitors to the house numbered only 490 this season, less than half of the pre-Gulf War totals, but professional colleagues dropped by in unusually large numbers, with the neighboring Pola Hotel exerting a special magnetism for American and Canadian expeditions. In Cairo, the beginning of our season was marked by a special celebration at the home of Tony Barrett and Marguerite Kelly, co-hosted by Chuck and Twing Pitman of the Amoco Egypt Oil Company, at which prints of the Lost Egypt portfolios were exhibited. Chicago House was honored again in March, thanks to the generosity of the American Ambassador, H. E. Edward Walker, and Mrs. Wendy Walker, who sponsored a delightful reception for colleagues, friends, and government officials at the new ambassador's residence in the U.S. Embassy compound. Special visitors to Chicago House this season included H. E. Joan Spero, Assistant Secretary of State, and her husband, Michael Spero; the family and friends of Stephen Bechtel, whose firm in Cairo supervised the recent renovation; Jim Sopranos on a flying weekend visit from Cairo; and two special tours from the Oriental Institute, one led by the Museum's Assistant Curator, Dr. Emily Teeter, and the other by Museum Archivist John Larson. Last but by no means least, the author was privileged to spend four hours with Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore, and their son, Albert III, on a whirlwind tour of the major monuments on both banks of the Theban region, while Richard Jasnow, Ray Johnson, and John and Debbie Darnell guided four other busloads of high officials on a different itinerary. Back at the ranch, Carlotta entertained a delegation of Washington officials at Chicago House, including Ambassador Walker and USAID director Brian Atwood.

With the assistance of a generous award from the Getty Grant Program, the Survey's first volume on the reliefs of Luxor Temple made its appearance in September, initiating a new subcategory within the Oriental Institute Publications series, entitled Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 1: The Festival Procession of Opet in the Colonnade Hall . Richard Jasnow and John Darnell spent much of the spring of 1995 preparing the manuscript for the second volume, Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 2: The Facade, Portals, Upper Registers, Columns, and Marginalia of the Colonnade Hall . This publication will incorporate "everything but Opet," that is, the remaining portions of the Hall still in situ, including fragments that belong to the monumental facade. I am especially grateful to Dr. James Keenan of Loyola University, who consented to look at our drawings of Greek graffiti and contribute his enlightened comments on our fieldwork. A third volume is projected for the architecture and the hundreds of fragments from the interior upper registers. As the culmination of our extended program of conservation in the photographic archives at Chicago House---also sponsored by the Getty Grant Program---the Survey published its Registry of the Photographic Archives of the Epigraphic Survey in January in the Oriental Institute Communications series, supplemented by a reprint of the key plans devised by Harold Nelson, first director of Chicago House, for all Theban temples. A text version of the book will soon be available on the Internet through the Survey's home page at:

Figure 9. The "gingerbread house" at Christmas this year was a scrumptious rendition of the Tenth Pylon at Karnak, baked by our new cook, Tayib, and erected and decorated under the artistic eye of W. Raymond Johnson.

This season in particular was a time of transitions for both the American and Egyptian staffs. In addition to Paul Bartko's departure, Richard Jasnow has resigned the Survey after six years as senior epigrapher to accept a position as Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University. We wish him every success in his new post, knowing at the same time how much we will miss his professionalism, steadiness, practical advice, and never-failing sense of humor. Fortunately his wife, Tina Di Cerbo, has decided to remain with us, so that we will continue to enjoy her invaluable artistic and organizational skills and can undoubtedly expect to see Richard on regular visits to Chicago House during the season. On a sadder note, our elderly chief cook and pastry chef, the incomparable Taya, passed away over the summer of 1994, leaving a noticeable gap in our lives and in the household routine that has not yet been entirely filled. Two other longtime employees of the Survey were retired for reasons of health at the end of the season: our second cook, Abd el-Zaher, whose indomitable cheerfulness and public salutations to the staff over the Christmas turkey will be sadly missed; and our devout night watchman, Wardani, whose previous employment included service as a guardian with the late Ricardo Caminos at Gebel el-Silsila.

The staff this season consisted of the author as field director; Richard Jasnow, John Darnell, and Deborah Darnell, epigraphers; W. Raymond Johnson, Christina Di Cerbo, Susan Osgood, Margaret De Jong, Andrew Baumann, and Linda Cohn-Kobylecky, artists; Jerry Kobylecky, photographer; Edna Russmann, art historian; Jean and Helen Jacquet, field architects; Paul Bartko, house and office administrator; Jill Carlotta Maher, assistant to the director; Elinor Smith, photographic archives assistant; and Saleh Suleiman Shehat, chief engineer, whose advice and services to the Survey continue to be inestimable. Dr. Henri Riad, our resident Egyptologist, again graced us with his presence for most of the season, assisting us in many matters dealing with the local constabulary, security, and even (now that Luxor has been established as a separate governorate) car registration, and administering the Labib Habachi Archives on behalf of the Survey. I express heartfelt thanks in particular to Richard Jasnow, who cheerfully and expertly shouldered the onerous responsibilities of field director during my protracted absences from Luxor in November and January.

We are especially grateful to the many members of the Supreme Council for Antiquities who contributed directly to the success of the season: Dr. Abd el-Halim Nur ed-Din, Secretary General of the Supreme Council; Dr. Ali Hassan, Director of Pharaonic Antiquities; Dr. Mohammed el-Saghir, Supervisor of Pharaonic Antiquities for Upper Egypt; Dr. Sabry Abd el-Aziz, Chief Inspector of Qurna; Dr. Abd el-Hamid Marouf, Chief Inspector of Karnak and Luxor; and Dr. Madeleine el-Mallah, Director of the Luxor Museum.

In addition to those mentioned for specific contributions, I gratefully express thanks to many other colleagues and friends: the United States Ambassador to Egypt, H. E. Edward Walker, and Mrs. Wendy Walker; Edmund Hull, Marjorie Ransom, and John Westley of the United States Embassy in Cairo; Mohammed Ozalp; David Maher; Mark Rudkin; Lucia Woods Lindley and Daniel Lindley, Jr.; Barbara Mertz; Tom Heagy and Norm Bobins of LaSalle National Bank; Louis Byron, Jr.; Terry Walz, Mark Easton, Ibrahim Sadek, and Amira Khattab of the American Research Center in Egypt; Fathi Salib of American Express in Luxor; and Cynthia Echols, Florence Bonnick, and Diane New of the Oriental Institute. Three institutions in particular have rendered fundamental assistance and support that have proved essential to the success of the season: the Amoco Foundation, Inc., The J. Paul Getty Trust, and The Xerox Foundation.

As always, we will be very pleased to welcome members of the Oriental Institute and other friends to Chicago House from October 1 to April 1. Please write to us in advance to let us know the dates of your visit, and call us as soon as you arrive in Luxor, so that we can confirm a time for a library tour that is mutually convenient. Our address in Egypt: Chicago House, Corniche el-Nil, Luxor, Arab Republic of Egypt; the phone number is 372525 (direct dial from the United States: 011-20-95-372525) and the facsimile number is 381620 (011-20-95-381620).

Revised: July 30, 2007

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