Posted by: peterlacovara | March 1, 2015

Goodbye to all that

Peter Lacovara

Yesterday we finished up at the site for the season. We carefully re-buried all the ancient surfaces that were exposed in the Palace, North Village and West Settlement with clean sand to protect it from erosion until we return next year.

The West Settlement covered with a protective layer of sand.

The West Settlement covered with a protective layer of sand.

All our equipment, supplies and fashionable old clothes we wear to dig in went into storage and we submitted our final reports to our colleagues in the Ministry of Antiquities. We brought the season’s small finds with a police escort to the Antiquities Storage Magazine at the other end of Western Thebes where we entered through the massive, squealing, iron doors and past about forty snarling Sekhmet statues to deposit them with great ceremony into the JEM’s storage trunk.

Our last task is to return the survey equipment to Chicago House and bid our fond farewells to our workmen and assistants, our colleagues in the Antiquities Ministry, the New Memnon staff and friends and fellow Egyptologists in Luxor and after stops in Cairo, head home until next season.

In the meantime, we will be busy digesting all the work of this season, giving presentations, writing reports and doing further research as well as planning and fundraising for our further adventures at Malqata. We hope you’ll all stay tuned for our further adventures.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 28, 2015

Ghost Town

Janice Kamrin

We have been working this season in a previously unexcavated part of the site that we are calling the West Settlement. Identified during a magnetometer survey in 2012, this lies northwest of the North Village and just east of “Trench P,” a long southeast-northwest trench excavated by Barry Kemp in 1974.

The team’s surveyor for the first half of the season, Christopher Gray, set up a grid of 5 m x 5 m squares over an area of 25 meters square. As we began to excavate within this grid, we uncovered the traces of walls only a few centimeters below the surface. At first, it looked like these were just ghosts, as if they would disappear if the wind blew. And in fact, in the squares we have excavated so far, only the foundation bricks remain – the walls are never more than a single brick high, and in a few places they are gone completely. Perhaps Amenhotep III’s builders dismantled this entire area at some point and reused the bricks in other structures. Even so, the basic plan is clear: the defined spaces here are large and regular, much more so than in the North Village.

The ghost walls begin to emerge.

The ghost walls begin to emerge.

As we cleared further, especially in the northeastern squares, we came across mud surfaces at several levels. The lowest of these is even and well packed, and evidently represents the main or original floor. Above this in some places is what may be a second floor surface, or might be a fill of decayed mud brick. Palace ware dominates among the sherds we found. In one room, we uncovered a large deposit (probably dumped here from somewhere else) of broken vessels, which included half of a lovely large blue-painted jar (enough so we can determine its profile) and fragments from a number of red-slipped bowls of various sizes. Mixed with and under these pots was a lot of charcoal and many bones, including the remains of several small fish!

Looking south across the site. The large deposit of sherds is in the center right.

Looking south across the site. The large deposit of sherds is in the center right.

Among the artifacts we discovered were several that may link this site to the manufacturing area where Diana and Catharine are working: an awl of copper alloy, which was found next to a carnelian bead; the bit from a discarded awl, also of copper alloy; a bit of a glass cane; and several fragments of material with traces of glaze on them that look like they might have been used in a kiln.

Bronze awl.

Copper alloy awl.

So what was the function of this area? The jury is still out. Our best theory so far is that this was a storage area connected in some way to the manufacturing site Diana and Catharine are exploring. We hope to learn more in the seasons to come.

The eastern part of the site after excavation, looking north.

The eastern part of the site after excavation, looking north.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 27, 2015

Greetings from our 2015 team

It’s our last Friday, so we are back at the hotel today, packing and getting ready to go home.

Here’s a photo, taken yesterday, of this year’s team.

Our 2015 team, from left to right: our surveyor, Joel Paulson; our driver, Mohamed [] ; Catharine Roehrig; Peter Lacovara; Diana Craig Patch; our brick expert, Tony Crosby; Janice Kamrin; and our excavation manager, Hassaan [].

Our 2015 team, from left to right: our surveyor, Joel Paulson; our driver, Mohamed Mostafa ; Catharine Roehrig; Peter Lacovara; Diana Craig Patch; our brick expert, Tony Crosby; Janice Kamrin; and our excavation manager, Hassaan Mohamed Ali. (Missing: Chris Grey, surveyor)

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 26, 2015

How do I stack thee? Let me count the ways.

Tony Crosby

In previous blogs we have briefly discussed the sizes and numbers of mud bricks used in the construction of the palace at Malqata; in this blog we are going to discuss the actual bonding patterns – how did they stack bricks to make the palace walls?

To review, there are two main sizes; bricks that are 30 cm long and those that are 40 cm long. The width of these bricks are approximately 1/2 their length and the thickness is about 1/2 the width, although the thickness will vary the least, regardless of the overall size. These proportions vary slightly, but bricks will normally be within a centimeter of these ratios. Recently, we are recording more and more bricks that fall between these two sizes, being 35 cm long and 17 cm wide. We have also found a few bricks, in only one location, that are 27 cm long.

The multiple sizes seems a bit unusual as they do not relate to the function or actual sizes of walls constructed; the same size wall may be made up of the largest or the smallest bricks. One example is the enclosure wall, which is 2.4 – 2.5 meters thick. Mud bricks 30 cm long are used for most of its length utilizing a simple bonding pattern of seven headers and one stretcher (7 x 30 cm + 15 cm + mortar joints). In one section the wall is made of 35 cm bricks with a bonding patten of six headers and two stretchers (6 x 35cm + 17  cm + mortared joints).

Enclosure wall showing the bonding pattern of 7 headers and one stretcher in a section that we added to this year.

Enclosure wall showing the bonding pattern of 7 headers and one stretcher in a section that we added to this year.

Another wall is 1.33 meters thick and made of three headers and one stretcher of 35 cm bricks and another wall of the same thickness made of four headers of 30 cm bricks. In all cases, small variations in the width of the mortar joints will made up any differences.

The most common bonding pattern is two headers and one stretcher for a wall thickness of 0.6 meters. The pattern on the vertical wall surface is always alternating rows of headers and stretchers, unless a mistake is made or there is a need to level a section of a wall – more on this later. We have recorded walls that are one brick wide, two bricks wide, three bricks wide, the most common, four bricks wide and every width up to 10 bricks wide, and then the enclosure walls which are either 14 or 15 bricks wide, depending on the size of the bricks used. The least common are walls that are only one brick wide; these are thin partitions or perhaps even walls that are not full height, as they would not be stable even if they were not supporting walls.

Sketches of several bonding patterns used in the palace.

Sketches of several bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

Sketches of more bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

Sketches of more bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

An important character of all the walls is that stretchers are never used on the interior of a wall, only on the edges. A wall is never built with three stretchers as that would require a stretcher in the interior of a wall. A wall that size would always be made up of a header and a stretcher. Even the thickest walls — the enclosure walls — are made up of all stretchers except one or two on the edges of the wall.

One wall was documented that was 0.88 meters thick and the pattern was two headers of 35 cm bricks and the alternating course was two stretchers and one header. In one case there was a gap in the center of the wall of 18 cm that was filled with mortar and mud rubble; the alternate course had two 9 cm gaps also filled with mortar and rubble. In this case, stretchers used in the center of the wall would have eliminated the large spaces between and resulted in a much stronger wall.

A great deal of the variation in the bonding patterns is obvious only under close scrutiny. The most visible variation is on the wall surface when there is a deviation from the standard alternating rows of headers and stretchers. The most common is a brick that is set in the wall on its edge, rather than flat. The principle purpose is to level that and subsequent courses, which have strayed a little from level. The other purpose is is to correct a change in the bonding pattern that may have adjacent rows of headers, rather than alternating headers and stretchers.

Original mud bricks set on edge to level courses in a wall.

Original mud bricks set on edge to level courses in a wall.

On rare occasion we have documented bricks set on edge, but set parallel to the wall axis rather than perpendicular to it. This is perhaps the worst solution possible as this brick might just tilt a little on its edge and fall out of the wall. In this case, although it shouldn’t work well, the fact is that the examples we see are 3,400 years old.

Another example of bricks set on edge in the original masonry. Note the two thin courses immediately right of the bricks set on edge.

Another example of bricks set on edge in the original masonry. Note the two thin courses immediately right of the bricks set on edge.

Now, if these were problems faced by the ancient builders, you can bet that in our preservation of the palace we run into some of the same problems of unlevel courses and bonding patterns that don’t match. Well, we do it the same way as the ancients. In the example below we changed from two courses to one course; we did do a bit of sloping of the subsequent course, but in another course, we are level again.

New masonry showing the use of bricks set on edge to go from two courses to one course and the level the subsequent courses.

New masonry showing the use of bricks set on edge to go from two courses to one course and the level the subsequent courses.

So there we have it. Of course as a preservation project we not only want things to function properly, we also want the character of the original masonry to be reflected in the new protective masonry. By using the same techniques as the ancient builders in our new masonry and using the same bonding patterns, we achieve both.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 25, 2015

Planning the Palace

Peter Lacovara

Before Tony caps a wall with a protective layer, it is carefully planned and recorded. In addition, Joel does a 3-D laser scan of the whole palace and we photograph the brickwork. The last step is to make carefully detailed brick-by brick drawings of the tops of each wall along with elevations and sections of special features. Although many of the earlier expeditions made plans of the palace, they did not record  this degree of detail. In examining the walls this closely, many details are revealed. I just finished drawing a long room called Mwhich appears to have been one of a series of storage rooms or magazines surrounding the central core of the palace.

Plan of M1

Plan of M1

M1 is a long, narrow corridor with low buttresses jutting out perpendicular to the walls. The buttresses, constructed of a different size brick, were added after the walls had received a finishing coat of plaster. They were placed at regular intervals of 1.85 meters and would have supported a low shelf for storing food and supplies for the palace residents.

Photo of M1

Photo of M1

In fact, the original Metropolitan Museum Expedition discovered a wall painting of a bowl of fruit, maybe pomegranates or dom-palm nuts, in a basket on a stand on one of the buttress walls.

Archival photo from the MMA excavations of 1910-11 (PA 12)

Archival photo from the MMA excavations of 1910-11 (PA 128), showing the wall painting as found

Bench End-Panel from a shelf support in the Palace of Amenhotep III-Fruit Stand (11.215.454)

Bench End-Panel from a shelf support in the Palace of Amenhotep III-Fruit Stand (11.215.454)

 

This same device of painting what would be stored on the shelf above can be seen in some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptians obviously believed very strongly in a place for everything and everything in its place — for all eternity!

Shelves in the burial chamber of Seti I

Shelf for holding a bed from the tomb of Seti I

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 24, 2015

Our 2015 Representative from the Ministry of Antiquities

Diana Craig Patch

Every year the Joint Expedition to Malqata is given an inspector of antiquities from the West Bank Inspectorate to join us for the season. Their role is an important one as they make sure we are able to work as agreed to in our concession. They also oversee the registration of every member of the team, which is another requirement of our excavation permit.

This season we are joined by Mrs. Amal Moatasem Mustafa, a seasoned member of the West Bank Inspectorate. Mrs. Amal was appointed to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (now the Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage, but still referred to as the SCA locally) in 2009. She received her BA from Sohag University in 2008, specializing in Egyptology. From 2009 until just two months ago, she was assigned to the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II that was first made famous in Western culture by the Percy Shelley poem “Ozymandias.”   Mrs. Amal’s current assignment is as an inspector in the Carter Magazine, the huge storage facility north of Qurna where some of Malqata’s objects have been placed for safekeeping.

 

Janice and Mrs. Amal discussing pottery finds from the West Settlement

Janice and Mrs. Amal discussing pottery finds from the West Settlement

Mrs. Amal likes to keep busy and I was impressed, while speaking with her about her career, by how many places she has worked in this area since joining the West Bank Inspectorate. She joined her colleagues to record noble’s tombs for an SCA project in Qurna. In addition, she has worked with a number of other foreign expeditions: a German-Swiss mission at Tomb 95; an Italian mission at the Amenhotep II temple; and a Spanish mission that is reconstructing the funerary temple of Tuthmosis III. After 2010, she worked with ARCE (the American Research Center in Egypt) on a USAID grant to record the old houses of Qurna after the village was closed and the inhabitants relocated.   Mrs. Amal was also selected by ARCE to join a field school project in Tomb 110 where ARCE offered training in excavation techniques, pottery drawing, and bone analysis.

When I asked her what she liked about her job, she said she loved everything about it, especially the many opportunities she has to learn. Her favorite material to study is human bone, a comment to which I could relate because my earliest training in archaeology took place in cemeteries in North America. Given the chance, she hopes to have work in the future in the Valley of the Kings and also at Karnak. Mrs. Amal has been a great colleague this season and I have truly enjoyed being given the chance to get to know her and her family.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 23, 2015

Frog Blog 2

Diana Craig Patch

Finding the fragment of a faience ring surmounted by a squatting frog led me to think about why frogs appear regularly as amulets or as decoration on small objects at Malqata. Years ago, the Met’s Egyptologists brought back seven frog amulets from their excavations for our collection. We know these are amulets because they are pierced to be strung as part of a necklace or bracelet, or perhaps even as decorative elements for rooms of the palace. The collection includes two molds for the manufacture of such amulets as well.

Frog mold from Malqata (MMA 11.215.685)

Frog mold from Malqata (MMA 11.215.685)

A study of the range of variation among our frogs indicates that they were all made in different molds. Their features are presented in various colors of faience –turquoise, light blue, and even green– sometimes with eyes whose color contrasts sharply with their bodies. These last are my personal favorites.

Faience frog seal amulet from Malqata (MMA 11.215.48)

Faience frog seal amulet from Malqata (MMA 11.215.48)

This leads us to consider why frogs are an important image at this site. After all, if you look at amulets throughout ancient Egyptian history, frogs are a constant but not at all common subject for amulets, unlike wedjat-eyes, scarabs, or Bes-image amulets. Although the sample in our collection is small, frogs are a significant theme, one of the more frequent subjects outside of floral elements, which seem to be the most common.

Many people who are interested in ancient Egypt know that the frog-headed Heqet is one of the key participants in child-birthing scenes. She is the goddess seen kneeling and assisting at the critical moment. So it is not surprising that frogs were associated with the concept of fertility. Both adult and young frogs would have been present in ancient Egypt in large numbers, reinforcing this association as well as one with overall fecundity. I think, however, it’s their cycle of reproduction that results in the massive birth of young frogs at the time of inundation. This would have worked well with the theme of Amenhotep III’s rejuvenation at his sed-festival. In the New Kingdom, frogs were a significant symbol of rejuvenation and eternity.

The goddess Heqat attends the birth of Hatshepsut, from her temple at Deir el-Bahari

The goddess Heqat attends the birth of Hatshepsut, from her temple at Deir el-Bahari

In ancient times, frogs were certainly common inhabitants of marshes and the Nile, so much so that the hieroglyph representing the number 100,000 and the concept of “too many count” was that of a tadpole. Although once abundant, today frogs are less common in Egypt, although at least seven species of toads and frogs remain. Like many other countries worldwide, including the United States, frogs have lost habitat to the housing needs of a growing population and suffer poisoning from pesticides and other chemicals that enter into their watery habitat. Also in Egypt, the need to provide an already large and growing body of university students with access to scientific knowledge in the classroom has recently severely impacted their numbers. Frogs are a keystone species, meaning that the ecosystem of which they are a part is seriously damaged if their numbers become too low. Tadpoles and frogspawn are are important food for many fish, and frogs are dinner for snakes and other animals. At the other end of this chain, frogs themselves eat insects, helping to control the large mosquito and fly populations that annoy old and young alike.

Mascarene grass frog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarene_grass_frog​)

Mascarene grass or ridged frog (Ptychadena mascareniensis) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarene_grass_frog​)

Lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi) ((c) © Mehregan Ebrahimi)

Lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi) (© Mehregan Ebrahimi)

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 22, 2015

How many bricks would a pharaoh make if a pharaoh would make bricks?

Tony Crosby

We cannot begin to know how many mud bricks were actually used to construct Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata, but we can develop a rough estimate. To start with, the enclosure wall is 2.5 meters thick and was probably over 600 meters long. Each 1 meter of length of a wall 1 meter high requires 540 bricks – if the wall was only 2 meters high, over half a million bricks would be necessary. But a 2.5 meter thick wall would surely be at least 3 meters high, so I’m raising our estimate of the number of bricks in the enclosure walls to slightly more than 800,000.

The walls comprising the palace rooms generally are much thinner, the majority being 0.6 meters thick, although some are only 20 cm thick and some are 1.6 meters thick. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the average thickness of the palace walls is 0.6 meters. Our estimate of the length of all walls in the palace is 1800 meters, or more than one mile. After some additional quick math we estimate that if all the walls were 2 meters high, the total number of mud bricks would be about 400,000.

A typical completed mud brick wall before plastering.

A typical completed mud brick wall before plastering.

Oh, we forgot the floor paving… For our estimates let’s say there was 7,500 square meters of paving. If we assume that the paving bricks were considerably larger than the wall bricks, as they are in the west villas, our estimate is an additional 60,000 “really big bricks.”

Stacks of new mud bricks. This is a stack of about 3,000 bricks. Can you imagine what a stack of approximately 400 times more bricks would look like?

Stacks of new mud bricks. This is a stack of about 3,000 bricks. Can you imagine what a stack of approximately 400 times more bricks would look like?

So without really trying, we are up to 1,460,000 mud bricks, or to round it off, say 1.5 million. Now we haven’t counted the North Palace,  West Villas (the administrative area), the Amun temple, the Audience Pavilion, or other mud brick features of the immediate site. Rather than trying to calculate these, for now let’s just  double the 1.5 million: that’s 3,000,000 mud bricks of various sizes. A good brick maker can make about 1,000 bricks a day of the smaller sizes, but might produce only 600 a day of the larger sizes. For the sake of estimating even further, let’s say his average production is 800 per day. Rounding off again, it would take approximately 2000 days for one man to make the estimated number of bricks for the palace, or 1 day for 2000 men. . . or something in between! Of course you have to figure in sick leave, holidays and vacation, but I’ll leave that to you.

Mud-brick perimeter wall in the Palace, under construction. Current view, but probably not too different from the view 3400 years ago!

Mud-brick perimeter wall in the Palace, under construction. The current view is probably not too different from the view 3400 years ago!

 

Okay, so we have a lot of bricks, no doubt a lot of builders, different sized bricks, quite a few different mud brick bonding patterns, and probably a pretty tight work schedule. You also have a site that slopes from south to north and west to east, some “change orders” thrown in, and craftsmen and artisans who want things done their way. All these are just normal construction factors that the king had to consider and resolve when needed, on top of planning the festival itself! And then there is the plastering prior to painting. It’s just too much. I’m going back to counting bricks…

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 21, 2015

Thank you, AEF!

Peter Lacovara

We are very grateful to  have sponsorship again from the American Research Center in Egypt’s Antiquities Endowment Fund for conservation work in the King’s Palace at Malqata. This important program was founded with resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as allocated by the U.S. Congress. ARCE’s Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) supports the conservation, preservation and documentation of Egypt’s cultural heritage and the dissemination of knowledge about that heritage.

ARCELOGO

The Antiquities Endowment Fund awards one-year grants for projects that center on the conservation, preservation and documentation needs of Egypt’s antiquities. The projects supported by the AEF involve conservation or protection of sites, buildings or objects with the participation of conservators or other appropriate specialists. Other projects include the training of conservators and students, and the production of publications and presentations to share knowledge of Egypt’s cultural heritage.

USAIDLOGO

With so many sites in Egypt needing conservation attention, the AEF is an incredibly important resource in supplying urgently needed support for archaeological sites, historic structures and artifacts that require timely intervention to ensure their preservation for future generations. To see some other projects funded by the AEF see:

http://www.arce.org/expeditions/projects

Posted by: catharineroehrig | February 20, 2015

Rest Day

It’s Friday again, so we aren’t at the site today. Instead, we did a bit of sightseeing, visiting the open tombs at Deir el-Medina and some of the noble’s tombs at Qurna.
Two weeks ago, Diana wrote a blog on a flint awl we found in the excavation area west of the Audience Pavilion. In the meantime, we have found two more awls, and we thought you might like to see them.

Flint awls from west of the Audience Pavilion

Flint awls from west of the Audience Pavilion

Back tomorrow.

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