Posted by: imalqata | January 23, 2013

Sweeping the Sand

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sweeping the Sand

While many people think of archaeology as being done with a pick and shovel, or more correctly, a trowel, much of our work is done with brushes and brooms.  Because much of our site was already excavated, the remains that we are recording lie on the surface or just below it.  The best way to clear these structures is to simply brush away the centuries of dirt, sand, and dust.

Annie at work

Annie sweeping at the northern edge of the Palace.

Annie Shanley has been working patiently sweeping away the surface of the North End of the Palace.  This part of the site is the least well-understood portion of the structure.  It was excavated by Georges Daressy for the Egyptian Antiquities Service in 1888 and some floor paintings were found there and brought to the museum in Cairo.  No plan was ever published of the work and the subsequent expeditions left this a blank area on their plans.  To complete our restoration of the palace, we would need to know what this end of the palace looked like, particularly the northern enclosure wall.  Annie’s careful sweeping revealed what appears to be an area of laid brick pavement and plaster which may have been the substrate for one of the paintings found by Daressy.   In addition to sweeping, one of our best tools is the wind itself, which often picks clean the remaining dust and debris and brings features into sharp focus.

MT_CLEANING3_p39

Robbe-Grillet Cleansing Every Object in Sight
Mark Tansey (American, born 1949)  1981.

6′ x 6′ 1/4″ (182.9 x 183.4 cm).

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Warren Brandt.
MoMA213.1982

In our work, I’m often reminded of a painting by Mark Tansey, “Robbe-Grillet Cleansing Every Object in Sight.”   In it, the French writer and film-maker is shown on his knees cleaning an endless array of artifacts, including a sphinx, obelisks, pyramids, and an image of Napoleon.  It is a wonderful representation of the overwhelming drudgery that is part of the “romance of archaeology.”

Peter Lacovara

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