Friday is our “day off,” which means that we don’t go out to the field. We usually spend part of the day catching up on notes and emails, and then perhaps go sightseeing or spend time with our friends here. Today has been an especially full day.
Right after breakfast some of us went to Medinet Habu, the huge mortuary temple of Ramesses III (r. ca. 1180-1150 B.C.), where we were treated to tours of three separate projects run by Chicago House of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Along the south side of the temple, Frank Helmholz and Johannes Weninger are supervising a large team of stone masons and mud brick experts as they conserve and reconstruct the stone walkway along the temple’s southern wall and some of the mud-brick structures that lay alongside.
Farther west, nearer the great enclosure wall, master conservator Lotfi Hassan is working on the late Ramesside (ca. 1100 B.C.) house of the Necropolis Scribe Butehamun. He showed us how he and his team are carefully distinguishing between the ancient mud brick, the early 20th century reconstructions done by the site’s early excavator, Uvo Hölscher, and the new sections that they are adding now.
Finally, we went to see Jen Kimpton and Keli Alberts at the destroyed Western High Gate. This was once similar to the still-standing Eastern Gate, but was totally destroyed in antiquity. All that remains today are mudbrick structures and scattered blocks of stone. But many of these blocks still bear beautifully carved decoration and traces of their architectural contexts, and Jen and Keli are starting to put this ancient jigsaw puzzle back together on paper and reconstruct some of the original decorative program.
Our next event was the opening of Stoppelaere House, attended by the Minister, Khaled El-Enany, and many of our friends in the antiquities service, This house, which was built in 1951 by the great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, has just been restored by Factum Arte / Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation in collaboration with the University of Basel under the supervision of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to use as a training center for the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative Training Centre. This is the group that has, using advanced 3D scanning techniques, made a full-scale replica of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. They have now started their second major project – a complete scan of the Tomb of Seti I, which they will again use to make a replica of the tomb. This copy will be buried underground next to the replicated Tomb of Tutankhamun, so that the original sepulcher will be kept closed and not subjected to the damage created by even the most well-meaning of tourists.
We are off now to the East Bank, where we will enjoy some shopping at the souk, and then attend an event celebrating the work of Hourig Sourouzian and her team at Kom el-Hettan, the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. We pass this impressive site every day on our way to Malqata, as it lies just across the road from our hotel. Greeting more friends and colleagues here in Luxor will will be a wonderful conclusion to a full day off.