Posted by: imalqata | February 17, 2014

Up On The Roof

Monday, February 17, 2014

Diana described the roofing in the North Village last year, but the roof of the Main Palace was constructed somewhat differently. Although the same materials were used – wood, straw and mud plaster – the Palace roof was a far more elaborate construction.

Ceiling painting from the palace of Amenhotep III Antechamber to King's bedroom, MMA 1910–1911 Mud plaster, paint, gesso Dimensions: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund,11.215.451

Ceiling painting from the palace of Amenhotep III
Antechamber to King’s bedroom, MMA 1910–1911
Mud plaster, paint, gesso
Dimensions:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund,11.215.451

Most of the roofing plaster seems to have been painted with a variety of designs including birds and geometric patterns. Large portions of this decoration were preserved and removed by the Tytus (1890s), Metropolitan Museum (1910s), and Waseda University (1970s) Expeditions, although we still find numerous tiny fragments today. The roof was held up by wooden beams sitting on columns and plastered with mud above and below. The plaster was secured by attaching it to reed matting, which acted as lath. The top of the roof appears to have been finished with two thick coats of mud plaster and then a layer of mud bricks.
While the roofing beams have been suggested to be palm logs, it appears from the ceiling plaster that cut timbers were used instead.

Section of plaster from the Palace that held a roofing beam

Section of plaster from the Palace that held a roofing beam

Tytus suggested that the roof of the Palace collapsed in a rainstorm, which accounted for such large sections of the ceiling murals being preserved. Evidence of termites and mud dauber wasps, which would have eaten and weakened the roofing structure, could have precipitated the collapse and, as Tony Crosby noted, the very homogenous silt bricks of the palace, though very strong when dry, easily melt in the rain. Despite being a desert country, Egypt does, every so often, experience a catastrophic downpour, and one can imagine that the Palace’s incredibly heavy roof, when wet, could have easily given way, destroying the palace but preserving many of the beautiful paintings that decorated it.

Mud dauber wasp nests in the roofing plaster of the Main Palace

Mud dauber wasp nests in the roofing plaster of the Main Palace

Peter Lacovara

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