Posted by: imalqata | February 19, 2012

Sometimes X Does Mark the Spot

February 19, 2012
Contrary to Indiana Jones, X does sometimes mark the spot. For the past year Joel and I have been working on figuring out the old plan of the South Village. We both went over the plan, the photographs, and Joel looked at the old survey notes that are in the Egyptian Department archives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Using these clues, I thought I would be able to find the “narrow house” that looks like it’s located between two mounds, but that didn’t work, partly because the topography drawn on the old plan doesn’t seem to correspond to what’s actually there.

X Marks the Datum Point for Measurements on the Old Site Plan

On the old plan, there is a large X that has measurements radiating out from it to various features in the South Village. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly where that might be. In the old photos, there is a building near the tents used by the Met’s Egyptian Expedition, and I wondered if they had set up their surveying instrument (probably a transit) on the roof. It would have given them a good vantage point for measuring the topography of the mounds and sighting on corners of walls in the village. Unfortunately, If that were where they measured from, its foundations would be under the buildings used by the French as an expedition house (you may have noticed it in our photographs – it looks like a large walled garden).

Building that was on the Site in 1910. Photograph Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

When we found the wide walls and the corner the other day, I asked Joel if it would be possible to estimate the position of the datum point from which all the measurements of that building were taken – which he did. This morning, we walked out to the South Village and, using the GPS in his phone, he found a place he thought might be near the datum point. When we got there, he said, “it should be around here some,” and I (who was looking at the ground) said, “it’s right here.” There was a large X that had been dug into the desert floor. We had walked within 20 feet of it numerous times, but it has been almost filled with wind-blown sand over the past century. Joel didn’t believe me at first – an X in the desert floor, ridiculous – but there it was – almost as clear as day.

Can You See the X at Our Feet?

A large X in the desert may seem a rather silly thing to get excited about. But actually, it’s the key to the South Village. Even though the measurements taken 101 years ago may differ slightly from those we might take today from the same place – knowing the datum point will allow us to relocate any of the buildings excavated by the MMA, if they still exist, in future seasons (and we have found a few walls).

One of the Arms isn’t as Clearly Preseved – But the X is There

Catharine Roehrig
Joel Paulson



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