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labelThe Dig Diary 2002--Part 3

Friday 20 September

Friday is the usual day off each week. After a slower start than usual, Tony and I decide to go to Karnak. Tony's been once before and I haven't been for a few years. We start off the tourist track and go to the Open Air Museum, where monuments recovered from the interiors of other buildings have been reconstructed. I think this place is a real treasure, and a real tonic after all the other massive stuff at Karnak. The most recent building to be reconstructed is the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut (below left). For many years these blocks stood on stone benches to represent the different course of stone; now they have gone they have been replaced by others, mostly blocks of incredible fineness and beauty of Amenhotep I (below right). These blocks show the quality of work which was already being done at the beginning of the 18th dynasty; they seem to owe a lot in style to the Middle Kingdom.

Then we go off round the rest of the temple, trying to avoid the main tourist routes. We go to the temple of Ptah, then round to the sacred lake and in the back of the temple. Here's a panorama over that part of the complex.

Once inside the temple proper, I made another panorama of the area of the Middle Kingdom temple; the sanctuary of the temple is in the middle, just to the left of the palms.

We finish off with a walk down the southern axis to the temple of Khonsu. Karnak is at least a three hour visit to try and get the feel of the site, and in the end we were completely 'karnaked'.

Saturday 21 September

Back to work. Tony is sorting the remaining loose bone from Shaft H, while I continue making notes on the granite false door pieces. Tony also moves onto dealing with the skulls from the shaft and also the bones of a child which we tentatively identified last year. Tony finds many more pieces from that body, suggests it was a child (perhaps female) of about six years only, and also locates parts of the body of another infant who was a little older.

Things move faster than I expect on the false door front. I thought I would try and see how many of the pieces I could fit together, and I was remarkably successful. I put most of the right side together and various bits of the top and the left side as well. Here are a couple of photos, one showing the pieces roughly laid out in the tomb, and the second the right-hand part of the door put together in the sand. See also a video (380k).

This is pretty successful. I now need to work a bit more and add in the photos from the other parts of the door we found in earlier seasons.

In the meantime Tony has finished the bones. We are now just left with the job of photographing the interesting bits and pieces, and we leave that until tomorrow.

An aside on the problems of Qurna. Most readers will have heard of the various campaigns to move the villagers off the area around the tombs and into new villages. This process has lost some of its momentum as there do not seem to be any new houses available now, and it is true that it was not always handled with tact and sensitivity, and that the new houses were not always perfect. But here is an illustration of the original problem. This photo shows a new extension to the house of Mohamed 'Snake', owner of the Sennefer Coffee shop. It is illegal to build new constructions in the area, but he is doing it anyway, against the wishes of the Inspectorate. The police have been informed but as yet nothing has been done to remove it. Snake is a good illustration of the problems faced by the necropolis from the local inhabitants.

Sunday 22 September

Today is going to be the very last working day in TT99. We start by making photographs of the bones which Tony has selected as being of interest as potential illustrations for the publication. Here are a couple of examples. That on the left shows a case of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, in which the ligaments surrounding the spine have ossified. That on the right shows a massive bone cyst in a jaw.

We finished the photography about 10:15, and the material then has to be put away. We chose shaft F in the front room as being the easiest from various perspectives. Here it is with the cover off.

The fragments of false door were placed in the small room at the back of the tomb which we have used for a number of years for storing equipment. To my horror, I found a mummy in there which I had failed to get out at the beginning of the season, so Tony did a quick examination of that on the spot.

So we finished, and the locking up procedure started. Abdul Rahman and Ramadan came round to help out if needed.

So that's it. We say our farewells to everyone around the tomb. As always when something finishes, it's a bit of an anticlimax. We go back to the inspectorate to say goodbye there as well. On the way we visit the newly restored site of the temple of Merenptah.

The temple of Merenptah was partly constructed reusing blocks and statues from that of Amenhotep III, and many beautiful reliefs have been located. These are in a museum building and also in three separate storerooms, while a number of statues and other blocks are in their approximate position on site. Unfortunately the temple is not yet on the tourist route and it is very quiet. Here are a couple of photos:

Back in Luxor I go to find Mohamed el-Bialey in his new office on the East Bank. We have a very pleasant chat, and it is always a shame to say goodbyes to everyone in Luxor. So it really is all over now.

Monday 23 September

Off early to the airport at Luxor to catch the flight back to the UK. Good flight, on time, and now back to the real world...

All text and images © Nigel Strudwick 2002

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