Protective Wall Separating Villages from the Birket Habu Mounds
Monday, February 06, 2012
In December 2008, we conducted our first season at Malqata. During that time, we surveyed the entire site, some seven kilometers along the edge of the desert, from Kom el-Abd, a mud brick platform at the south end of the site, north beyond the Amun temple, which is just south of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses III. Everywhere we stopped to study a section of Malqata, we found people building new houses or creating new fields for agriculture in the desert, which had begun to overwhelm the nearby antiquities. These new structures and fields were all on antiquities land.
New Fields South of Birket Habu Mounds, 2010
The agricultural expansion was particularly worrisome because the creation of new fields happened quickly and irrigation brought water near the soft mud brick structures. Our report for that season detailed numerous problems across the site, and we produced a map highlighting the threatened areas. We also suggested possible steps to reduce the impact of modern life on the fragile buildings across the 7 kilometers of Malqata.
Water Pump, 2010
When we returned in 2010, we were encouraged to find that the Supreme Council for Antiquities, or SCA had already begun to invest in the protection of Malqata by starting to build a 3-4 meter high wall south of Kom el-Abd. The wall was to run all the way to Medinet Habu and separate the edge of the floodplain from the desert. At the beginning of February 2010, the reinforced wall of baked brick plastered with concrete was painted a color that blended in with the desert and already snaked about 4 kilometers north towards the small Ptolemaic temple of Deir el-Shalwit. During our season, the SCA continued to build the wall and was actively negotiating compensation with local families whose fields and houses were on antiquities land and had to be removed. The wall was finished by the end of 2010 and just in time!
Pump Gone, 2012
This season we finally had a chance to evaluate the success of the wall and, for the preservation of the monuments, the wall has had positive effects. On the desert side, the once flourishing fields are gone. No new ones have been started. Although the desert still has vehicular activity through a few openings which allow villagers to use the desert road, there has been no new building or agricultural activity in the desert. There are a few houses remaining on antiquities
land which we hope one day will be removed, but the pressure on the fragile palaces, ancient settlement sites and the great mounds created by the excavation of the Birket Habu have a much better chance of surviving due the dedication of what is now the Ministry of State for Antiquities and in particular, its members who work in Luxor and on the West Bank.
Unusued Fields Near South End of Birket Habu, 2012
– Diana Craig Patch