Saturday, February 22, 2014
Today was the last day at Malqata for Peter and I, but some aspects of the conservation will continue through the remainder of this week, ending on Thursday, February 27th. During the past two weeks we have protected approximately 150 linear meters of mud brick walls and laid approximately 6000 bricks. During the next few days, under the able direction of Reiss Hassan, builders will add additional mud bricks to walls that have already been capped and we anticipate they will lay another 3000 bricks. The size and guidelines are well established for these walls and the output of the builders should more than double.
The 150 meters of mud brick walls we conserved this season varied considerably in size, scope and complexity. The largest walls are 2.4 meters thick and the thinnest are 0.5 meters wide, with the norm being 1.05 meters in breadth, which equals two ancient Egyptian royal cubits. We see this throughout the palace where features are laid out according to clear divisions of the ancient system of measurement.
Because of the different heights the walls were preserved to, some required only two courses of mud bricks as capping, while others required additional courses, both for conservation as well as for interpretation.
This season, we worked in three main areas, and the builders will continue in a fourth area. The three areas we worked on over the past two weeks are (1) the gateway area of the main palace, (2) the palace court area north of the kings throne, and (3) Ho. W. 1, immediately west of the existing road. The gateway is now clearly defined along with the adjoining walls. At the main court three main walls defining the west side were conserved and the ancient doorways protected and defined them clearly. In addition, two wall fragments on the south side of the court were conserved and the king’s throne platform was delineated with new mud bricks.
On the west side of the road at Ho. W. 1, four walls were conserved in an area where vehicular traffic had begun destroying the walls. In this case the walls were capped and stabilized and several additional courses were added to clearly define and identify this area as an important component of the overall site complex.
Our basic approach to conserve the Palace has been to protect the ancient walls while affecting as little of the original fabric as possible. Prior to the conservation, all the walls were cleaned and carefully drawn, if they had not been documented previously, and before and after digital photographs were taken. Prior to actually laying new mud bricks and mortar, a clean layer of tan colored plastic grid material was placed over the original, ancient bricks to clearly differentiate the old from the new (see photo).
If there was not clear evidence of a corner or the termination of a wall, the wall was stepped down at its terminus to indicate that the wall continued. Of course, if there was clear evidence of an opening or a corner or a door, that feature was reflected in the new mud brick. If there was clear evidence of an alteration to a wall, such as the later closing of a previous opening, that was clearly shown in the new work. One example of the basic concept just described is evident in the photograph showing a section of one of the walls of HO.W. 1. This particular view shows the clear termination of a wall and just a meter away is an intersecting wall that was stepped down, indicating that it continued or the evidence was unclear.
During the project we also reattached a number of small sections of the original wall plaster. Several other sections of fragile plaster will be covered with sand to protect them until additional conservation can be undertaken. In stabilizing the plaster by reattaching it to the wall with new mud, we employed an approach that has been used elsewhere, such as at Abydos.