Tony Crosby and Peter Lacovara
We are concentrating our reconstruction work this season on the outer perimeter wall, the southern apartments, and the central court of the King’s Palace. We have a formidable workforce this year, with three expert builders and 30 workmen to carry bricks and mortar. We are beginning with the western perimeter wall, which is the largest preserved wall on the site, measuring about 120 meters long and 2.5 m thick. Like the southeast-running wall it joins, the western wall was battered on its outer face, a possibility suggested first by Barry Kemp and David O’Connor during their work on the Birket Habu back in 1974. The gentle slope inclines inwards toward the top at about six degrees from the vertical. The batter was achieved by simply stepping back each course by approximately one centimeter. When plastered over, this would have presented a smooth outer face. Making the reconstruction even more complex , the wall runs over uneven ground that is 1.5 meters higher at the southern end than the northern end and straddles two major hollows ranging from one half to three quarters of a meter deep.
Following the protocol established in 2014, we place a layer of sand and plastic mesh over the ancient bricks to protect them and make it easy for people to see what parts of the wall are original and what sections are modern reconstructions. Several days ago, we had an interesting surprise while cleaning the ancient brick preparatory to covering it — we found, wedged in the original mortar, a fragment of a faience ring surmounted by a squatting frog (more on this later).
It isn’t clear how high the wall stood; given its massive base, it could have been very high, but it may have been conceived to allow for a glimpse of the palace behind it. This is the case for the battered exterior wall around the temple of Medinet Habu, where the wall and gate at the entrance to the temple gave it a fortified appearance, much like a medieval castle. This is not surprising, given that this type of architecture originated in the Middle East. It appears at least some New Kingdom Egyptian palaces, such as one depicted in an Amarna relief, may have had this fortified style copied from Syrian Migdol fortresses. Such an impressive structure would have suited the pharaoh called “Amenhotep the Magnificent” quite well.