Saturday, February 2, 2013
This past week we had the opportunity to visit Deir el-Shelwit, located just to the south of our excavations, not far from the southwest corner of the Birket Habu. Archaeologists from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan worked in this area in the 1970’s and considered Deir el-Shelwit to be located within what they called “Malqata South.” http://www.egyptpro.sci.waseda.ac.jp/e-msouth.html
Among the monuments in Malqata South was a small mound called Kom el-Samak. This had long been understood as an ancient platform of some sort, but it was the Japanese team of archaeologists who uncovered the remains of a mud brick structure with a painted staircase and other painting fragments. The cartouche of Amenhotep III was discovered on several bricks from the building, linking it to the king’s Palace City at Malqata.
240 meters to the south of Kom al-Samak is a small Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. Remains of the mud brick enclosure wall, sandstone gate, and well can also be seen at the site. Inscriptions on the gate indicate that the precinct was constructed by the Roman emperors at the beginning of the 1st century of our era. Inside the temple, the shrine is surrounded on all four sides by an internal corridor with small side chapels and a stairway leading to the roof.
The raised relief decoration inside the temple has been blackened by fire, and it is here that the site management and conservation programs of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) come into play. In a joint venture with the United States government and Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, ARCE’s Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (EAC) began a project in 2004. The program helps provide training for Egyptians interesting in working to preserve and protect their country’s monuments and cultural heritage. In Luxor a conservation and training program was started in 2012 to focus on site improvement at Deir el-Shelwit and at the Mut Temple at Karnak. We had a chance to see the sizable team of conservators in training at work using a technique of poultice and cotton swabs to hand clean the walls and relief decoration. The results look promising, and we were able to see the colors in the cleaned sections of the temple walls. It was great to see the conservation team in action, and we wish them well with their project.