Saturday, February 6, 2010
The palace city of Amenhotep III at Malqata, where we have just begun our second season, is one of the few ancient town sites that have survived to the present day. Most ancient Egyptian towns and cities are in prime locations along the Nile River and the settlements have been destroyed and rebuilt over and over again for thousands of years. But Malqata’s buildings were constructed on an uninhabited stretch of desert specifically for the king’s three jubilees which were celebrated in years 30, 34, and 37 of his reign (between about 1360 and 1353 B.C.). The palaces, and ceremonial buildings, and even the workmen’s houses seem to have been used for only a decade or so. Then they were abandoned and no later buildings were constructed on the site.
Diana Craig Patch, Peter Lacovara, and I started thinking about organizing an expedition to Malqata several years ago, with a lot of important input by our friend and colleague, Ray Johnson, the director of Chicago House where we are staying. We each have slightly different reasons for wanting to investigate the site (I will let Peter and Diana explain theirs), and each person’s individual skills and interests reinforce and compliment those of the others. Diana and Peter are both very experienced archaeologists. I, on the other hand, spent a great deal of time working for the Theban Mapping Project when I was a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley. This allowed me to walk from one end of western Thebes to the other and gave me a particular interest in the stunning landscape, in the ways it has influenced the ancient Egyptians, and the ways they have used or changed the landscape to enhance their religious and ceremonial architecture. Joel Paulson, who will join us in a week, also worked on the mapping project while studying at Berkeley.
Malqata was chosen as our focus partly because Diana and I are curators in the Department of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In the fall of 1910, almost a century ago, the Museum began almost of decade of excavations at Malqata. Summaries of the work done by the Egyptian Expedition, as it was known, were published in the Museum’s Bulletins, but there is a wealth of information in the department’s archives, including plans and photographs that were never included in the bulletin articles.
One of our goals is to study this information, match it to what is still preserved at the site, and make it more widely available.
– More Later –