Saturday, February 24, 2013
Last year during the 2012 field season, several members of the team went up in a hot-air balloon to try to take aerial photographs of the site using a digital infrared camera, but fate, and the winds, were against us and we were blown eastward towards the river, rather than southward towards Malqata. Our pilot tried to adjust the altitude of the balloon to catch a layer of wind going in the right direction, but his attempts were in vain. Once a hot-air balloon is airborne, the winds determine all possible navigation routes, so there was nothing to be done.
But, being determined (or stubborn, as the case may be) another attempt was made this year to do the same in hopes of more favorable winds. As has been mentioned in previous blogs, the hot-air balloon rides are a popular, but problematic, tourist attraction on the west bank of Luxor. It is a beautiful way to see the hills and monuments of the Theban necropolis, but the balloons frequently land near, and sometimes within the site of Malqata, especially between the Birket Habu mounds and on the fragile remains of the South Village. We hope that our concerted efforts to explain the site to the pilots and balloon owners will persuade them to avoid the archaeological zone and land farther out in the desert as they are supposed to do.
So, it is with mixed feelings, that we use the services of a balloon company, but the birds-eye position that gives spectacular views to tourists can also provide a beneficial platform for the study of the site. This year, I volunteered to be the one to give it another try and this year, for a change, the winds cooperated. We departed before the sun even rose, and I was a little concerned about the light since we seemed to be moving very quickly southward from the take-off location towards Malqata. But as we moved along, the sun rose in the east, and as we progressed southward, the light strengthened. By the time we were over Malqata, there was plenty of light for photography and I was able to collect a number of images, both in color and in infrared, of the various locales at the site. I also took some of the desert that, while appearing to be void, may yet contain archaeological features. The purpose of the infrared photography is for remote sensing to try to “see” beneath the surface of sand and rocks to find additional architectural features or concentrations of archaeological material. This work will be conducted by a specialist and, hopefully, we will have some results to present in the future.