Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 4, 2019

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

We were greatly saddened today to hear of the sudden passing of our wonderful inspector during our 2017 season, Walla Abd el Moged Hussein. We remember her very fondly, and wish to express our heartfelt condolences to her family and colleagues. Walla was extremely kind and helpful, and especially loved to work with Diana to sort and identify the material coming from the excavations at the Industrial Site.

We thank Walla for all of her assistance and friendship. We will never forget her, and she will be greatly missed.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 2, 2019

Life’s Little Rituals

Life’s Little Rituals

Jan Picton

I suppose that it is unsurprising that archaeologists have rituals since we study so many. One of my favourites is the first return to the site, retracing the well-beaten paths of previous years to sites which greet you like an old friend. Here I am! I’m the first wall that you drew; I’m the tiny patch of shade that gave you refuge; I’m the marker peg you fell over! I’m back in my palace. Well, it’s Amenhotep III’s palace really, and I hope that he’d be pleased with what we’ve done with it. We’ll be missing our lovely brick conservator, Tony Crosby, this season so there won’t be the same pressure to complete wall drawings so that his team can cap the walls, and we just may build up enough of a reservoir of drawings to put us ahead of the game next season.

View of the king’s suite of rooms in the palace

With two new team members, Ivor and Danielle, we did a broader familiarisation tour of the site. It always gives me a kick to see the extent of the infrastructure necessary just for the king to celebrate his heb-sed festival, and how poor the accommodation was for his servants. There is a definite sense of the temporary nature of the structures not quite so apparent in the king’s apartments!

Our walk continued to the ‘industrial area’, all the evidence is there except the area itself which may either have been lost during the clearances of the royal viewing pavilion by the 1907 Met team, or may still to be found… Of course, the kilns could be under the spoil-heaps – that’s an archaeological truism – there’s always something good under the spoil heap. One of this season’s objectives is to excavate part of the spoil heaps to understand more about the industrial processes and the relationship between the different crafts. Just in a few square metres we find evidence for faience and glass manufacture, and carnelian working in huge quantities, pieces of worked pink granite – perhaps fragments of statuary. If we excavate a new square towards the West Settlement area where Janice is working we may discover if there is any relationship between the two areas, and perhaps that elusive industrial base.

The viewing pavilion, ramped on three sides, is still impressive with its niche and buttress façade, faced by a huge open court on its fourth ‘flat’ side. I wonder how many people stood in the courtyard staring in awe at the king sitting in splendour? Hundreds, or thousands?  The heb-sed was the ritual that celebrated the renewal of kingship on which hung the prosperity of the land and its people, and the king’s relationship with the gods. Not an event to be taken lightly!

The royal viewing pavilion

We then walked to the Amun Temple with its huge sun courts that anticipate the better known courts at Amarna. The temple is in a sad state of decayed splendour. Although it would repay re-excavation the early excavators had to deal with a relatively unknown phenomenon – a mud-brick temple – and in trying to understand the structure in some places they cleared the casemate support walls down to their foundations and made understanding the structures that stood on the casemates a difficult prospect. The conservation and reconstruction work necessary here would be a huge burden to whoever took on the project. However, it would be immensely rewarding to reinterpret this Amun temple in the light of what we now know about the Amarna sun cult.

Amun temple
The Amun Temple

We worked our way back to our main site tracing the line of the raised royal road, now washed out by a wadi and vanishing under the monastery. I had no chance to explore in that direction last year and I don’t suppose there will be time this year, either. Arriving back at the West Settlement and industrial area we set up our first squares so that we can start work first thing on Saturday.

stringing the square
Jan and Danielle stringing out the square ready for a clean start on Saturday

Welcome in Egypt! Welcome in Malqata! It’s so good to be back.

small finds
Surface finds as we set the square
Posted by: iMalqata Blog | January 30, 2019

Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited

Diana Craig Patch, Janice Kamrin, Jan Picton, Ivor Pridden

We are very happy to announce our arrival back “home” on the West Bank. Our respective planes landed at the Luxor airport late on Monday night, and we spent most of Tuesday visiting the East Bank Taftish and our friend Ray Johnson at Chicago House, and organizing supplies back at our hotel. In the late afternoon, we decided to take a walk to reintroduce this season’s photographer, Ivor (also known as Jan’s husband) to the local landscape, which has changed a lot in the fifteen years since he was last here. We walked up past the Colossi of Memnon at Kom el-Hettan, then down the Qurna road to the Ramesseum. To start out our blog for the 2019 season, we thought we’d share some of the photos we took along the way.

Our Mudira Diana poses in front of the Colossi of Memnon, just down the road from our home away from home at the New Memnon
We are always amazed to see how much our good friend Hourig Sourouzian has accomplished at Kom el-Hettan, the memorial temple of Amenhotep III.*
Jan, Ivor, and Diana playing tourist in front of the back of the Ramesseum
Our pathetic attempt at a selfie
You only get skies like this in Egypt!
The Theban necropolis at dusk
Looking over the remains of Tawosret’s temple to colossi at the northern entrance of Kom el-Hettan
The remains of the Merneptah temple, with the magazine in the distance
Almost home, as we pass the colossal stelae at Kom el-Hettan

*We want to express our sorrow at the loss of Hourig’s beloved husband and our great colleague, Rainer Stadelmann.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 25, 2018

Broken Dishes

Broken Dishes

Susan Allen

While the pottery of the West Settlement has been buffeted by millennia of wind and water (from the wadi that runs through the site), much has been recovered from our recent excavations. This year, we were able to build on the progress made last year by Egyptian interns Aisha Mohamed Montaser and Hussein Fawzi Zaki, with the expert assistance of Pamela Rose. Using the corpus of pottery fabrics and forms developed by Pamela at Amarna, we are now tackling the substantial number of still-to-be-analyzed pottery groups.

A collection of sherds from the West Settlement

From each context (living surfaces, trash pits and other features) all pottery is collected and bagged. The first step is to lay out each group and divide the sherds into the two basic clay types: Nile silt and Marl clay (clay mined from desert sources). These are then divided between those from open forms (such as bowls), those from closed forms (jars, amphorae), and non-containers such as stands or lids. Each group is then sorted by surface treatment. Diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles, etc.) are counted and set aside for further analysis, comparison to the Amarna corpus, and in some cases for drawing. The body sherds, if they cannot be associated with a diagnostic form, are recorded and disposed of at a set location on site.

At this preliminary stage, it appears that the majority of the pottery is made of Nile silt and includes bowls and dishes of all sizes and medium-sized jars. Only a small percentage are Marl clay sherds, usually from large amphorae. Some of the bowls, especially the large ones, show indications of burning and were probably used as braziers, while smaller dishes were sometimes used as lamps. Each group collected usually includes a few pieces of the beautiful blue-painted decorated pottery that is characteristic of the late 18th Dynasty and particularly of the reigns of Amenhotep III and the Amarna period.

Left: Body and rim sherds from a blue-painted vessel found in the West Settlement. Right: Blue-painted vessel from The Met’s earlier excavations at Malqata (Rogers Fund, 1911, 11.215.462)

The shapes and wares analyzed so far support the interpretation of this site as a settlement area, where non-elite inhabitants of the complex were living. The predominance of dishes, bowls and jars may show that they were used for the consumption of food prepared elsewhere at Malqata. The large Marl clay sherds mixed with a few imported types from elsewhere in the Levant come from wine and oil amphorae which would have been stored and consumed in areas like the Palace. These large sturdy sherds may then have been reused in the West Settlement as leveling and filling material.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 21, 2018

Step by step by step by step…

Step by step by step by step…

Anthony Crosby

One of the priorities for this season at the King’s Palace at Malqata was to document, protect and interpret the one palace stairs that remains. Four palace staircases had been identified when the Metropolitan Museum’s excavations concluded in 1911, two of which had been recorded previously by Robb DePeyster Tytus and Percy Newberry during their 1901-1903 excavations.

The two staircases recorded by Tytus are highlighted in yellow. The one at the right is still partially preserved today. Detail of the palace plan published by Tytus in his preliminary report on the excavations in 1903. In this plan, south is at the top.

Only one of the staircases documented by the Metropolitan Museum is still visible today and that one is in an important interpretive area just north of the main central courtyard. Undoubtedly there were other stairways and ramps to connect various parts of the palace but the preserved staircase is apparently the only one that clearly provided access to the second level of the main palace area.

Model of a house with stairs leading to the roof. Gift of the Egyptian Research Account and the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1907 (07.231.11).

The remains of this staircase consist of what I assume is the first step of four that were documented on the early site plans along with three parallel mud brick walls that formed the stair well. Both the steps and the adjacent mud brick walls were shown by Tytus with a flight of stairs on the west ascending to the south and the parallel flight of stairs on the east ascending to the north (see arrows on the plan above). The remaining mud brick walls and step (below) support this interpretation.

Facing south: the stair well of the remaining staircase with preserved step; and a plan of the staircase (in yellow) made by the Museum’s excavators in 1911. 

Okay, so we have one step made of mud bricks which are 17 cm long by 35 cm wide by 10 cm high, and the remains of three parallel existing mud brick walls 5.7 meters long that define approximately the overall width of the stairs. That’s a start, but what about the height of the riser, or step, and what about the width of the tread?

We can start by measuring the steps as recorded in the 1911 plan (above) and interpreting the width of the tread using the map’s graphic scale. This results in a tread of somewhere between 35 and 50 cm. This is quite a large range but the drawing that we are measuring was produced at a scale of 1 to 200 and, at that scale, the width of a line on the drawing could translate to several centimeters. There were three other avenues of research we pursued to more clearly define the stair details.

The first was to look at other examples of stairs that are contemporary and are also part of Malqata. I reviewed the documentation of several stairs at the site of Kom el Samak located just south of the palace site. The relevant structure was a desert shrine excavated by Waseda University in 1974. There were several monumental stepped ramps, the gradient of which was too flat to fit in the allowable space at the palace. Another stairwat appeared more functional with treads of 43 cm and a riser of 11 cm. We also looked at stairs at the Amun Temple located approximately 300 meters north of the palace with approximately the same tread and riser as the Kom el Samak stairs.

Another important consideration and one that would help establish the staircase details was to calculate the number of steps and the height of the steps that could reach a second level. Based on architectural modeling done at Amarna and other sites. I assumed that the height necessary to reach the second level would be somewhere between 3.5 and 4 meters which would include the thickness of a roof or ceiling system. If I used the step height of 11 cm and a tread width of 43 cm, the maximum height of each flight would be 1 meter and a total height of 2 meters, clearly not enough. To achieve a steeper stairway that could reach the appropriate height, we can increase the height of the step or decrease the width of the tread, or a combination of both. Increasing the height of a step to 15 cm, keeping the same tread width and assuming a 1 meter landing between flights of stairs we can gain approximately 3.6 meters or 12 feet.

Continuing our research, we communicated directly with Barry Kemp on the staircases at Amarna. Previously I had reviewed his book on Amarna but found it didn’t have enough specific detail about stairs. However, we contacted Kemp directly and he shared several important details. “Staircases at Amarna were normally built from mud bricks of standard size laid on their long edge. Thus, if the width of the bricks was around 16 cm, then the steps or treads would have been about the same height…”

Talatat blocks from a temple of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), discovered at Karnak Temple and included as part of a large reconstructed wall on display in the Luxor Museum.

Incorporating this important information into our design process would result in step height of 17 cm, as our remaining step consisted consists of bricks that are 17 cm wide. With an assumption that the second level would be approximately 3.6 to 4 meters higher than the first, 22 to 24 steps would be required. Assuming a landing of 1 meter, we divide the 4.7 meters by 11 or 12 steps for one flight and arrive at a tread width of 40-44 cm. Depending on the number of steps, the height reached by the stairs would be approximately 3.7 to 4.1 meters. The thickness of mortar and the variation in brick sizes could alter the actual number of steps to a minor degree. Of course we can never know the specific dimensions of the staircase, except the height of the steps, because all other information has been lost. However, this solution is logical as it incorporates the existing physical evidence, the documentation of the early Malqata excavations, and knowledge of normal construction practices of the period.

After the walls were capped, we laid out two additional steps to indicate the possible configuration of the lower stairway. The preserved step has been covered with sand.

Our next step was to construct a full size model of several stairs. We hope in the future to construct a partial staircase of four or five steps to show the general characteristics of a Malqata Palace stairway that is a considered response to the existing original conditions, to the earlier documentation at Malqata, to examples at similar sites and to traditional historic stair design.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 16, 2018

Fallen Ceilings

Fallen Ceilings

Catharine Roehrig

When we started work at the Palace two weeks ago, we had the workmen clean the walls that were going to be capped in the area of the King’s bedchamber and its antechamber at the southern end of the palace. In the process, they uncovered a section of fallen ceiling next to a wall in the southern half of the antechamber. Interestingly, the pattern of this ceiling is not the same as the fallen ceiling discovered in the northern half of the same room by the Metropolitan Museum in the winter of 1910-1911.

Looking east at pieces of the cow ceiling lying on the floor at the northern end of the antechamber. The decorated wall plaster at the center left is the east jamb of the antechamber entrance.

We know the exact location of the 1911 ceiling discovery because a photograph was taken of the fragments lying on the floor where they had fallen. (And yes, odd as it may seem, large numbers of the ceiling fragments were found lying face-up.) The pattern of this ceiling has a series of cows’ heads separated by spirals enclosing rosettes. At the time, it was possible to remove two large portions of this ceiling and set them in plaster. In the division of finds at the end of the year’s work, one section went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the other was sent to New York where it is now on display in gallery 119 (11.151.451).

Section of the cow ceiling that was given to the Museum in the division of finds in 1911. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.451).

The pattern uncovered two weeks ago consists of alternating red and blue concave squares with rosettes in the center. The lens-shaped spaces between the concave squares are painted yellow and have green circles at the intersections. A similar ceiling pattern was found by Waseda University in a room at the north end of the Palace during their excavations here in the 1970s (

A ceiling fragment that was found while cleaning a wall in room J. This piece has the same pattern as the fallen ceiling, but was not found in situ.

Anyone who has visited the nobles’ tombs at Qurna has probably noticed that the ceilings often have more than one pattern, and the same seems to have been true in the King’s Palace.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 13, 2018

What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

Janice Kamrin

We have been excavating in the West Settlement now for a little more than a week, continuing to clarify the architecture and function of this intriguing site.

Plan of the West Settlement excavations, 2015-2018, with the magazine area to the south and living areas to the north (see Digging the West Settlement)

We began by opening up several squares along the eastern edge of the excavated area, hoping to find a connection between the buildings here and Diana’s industrial area farther to the east.

Hoping to avoid hitting any of the spoil heaps from the Met’s early 20th century excavations, we chose to continue a line of squares toward the north end of the site. The first locus looked promising – not far below the surface, we began to find a wall that fit in with the ones we had found in earlier seasons —one brick wide, laid as a stretcher, and running southeast to northwest across our grid. But as we moved to the east, it just petered out, as did any hint of cultural material, and we soon came down onto the natural desert substrate, a coarse, dark brown-grey matrix with outcroppings of lighter “tafla.”

The west half of Square N150/E140-N, looking north, with a new wall and mud tumble beginning to show.
Square N150/E145-N, level 1, looking E over N150/N140-N
Square N150/E140-N, looking east, with the natural desert surface exposed in the east half of the square.

As we extended our trench to the east, we continued to find nothing, just the original desert surface. When we moved to the south, we found some architecture in the western halves of our squares, but to the east, the architecture and most of the cultural remains are gone. In fact, although this is disappointing, it is not surprising: we are in a wadi, and it looks like water has washed away the eastern part of our excavation area.

N150/E140-N  level 1-3 and N155/E140-S, level 1-2, , looking E
View east down the line of squares at N150. Only the natural desert surface remained here, just below the current surface.
Overview of excavation site, 2018
Looking southeast over the site. The small wadi indicated here likely funneled floodwaters through the east edge of the West Settlement and washed away any remains.

The good news is that we have also opened up two half-squares farther to the south, hoping to find more of what we believe to be the boundaries of the complex. The bricks in these “exterior” walls are laid as headers, rather than the usual 1-brick wide stretchers, and are therefore wider and more substantial (although again, always only one brick high). And we are happy to report that we have found this type of wall in three places, helping us to complete the plan of the eastern part of the complex.

N125/E125, level 1, looking N
Square N125/E135, showing one of the newly exposed sections of exterior wall
Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 9, 2018

A Flock of Pigeons

A Flock of Pigeons

Catharine Roehrig

When we first arrived in Luxor, I was looking at the old photographs of the work done in the King’s Palace during the winter of 1910-1911 to see which ones might give us some information about the areas we are working on this year. At the end of the series there were a few photographs taken in 1912, during the following excavation season. Among these I found photos of ceiling fragments that were given to the Museum in that year’s division of finds. In 1912, the Malqata excavation team, which included Ambrose Lansing, Hugh Evelyn-White, and Herbert Winlock, were working in an area they called the “western extension.” This lay west of the King’s Palace, across a well-worn pathway that is now the desert road which cuts north/south through the site. The first group of rooms was later called Ho W1 and a second, farther west, was called Ho W2 (house west 1 and 2). The relationship between these “houses” is unclear because a wadi (dry river bed) has washed out the area between them, but they are now interpreted as a single structure called the Middle Palace.

Pigeon ceiling
Ceiling fragment depicting pigeons startled into flight. The end of a duck’s wing is visible in the upper left. Rogers Fund (12.180.257).

The ceiling fragments in question depict flying birds. One section is almost entirely composed of pigeons (12.180.257), with the edges of ducks’ wings indicating that there were other types of birds in the scene as well. The second section, smaller and more fragmentary, depicts pintail ducks. All of the birds are moving wildly as though startled into flight.

Both of these ceiling fragments are identified on their accession cards as coming from the King’s Palace, and similar ceiling paintings were found there by Robb de Peyster Tytus and Percy Newberry, who excavated there a decade before The Met’s Egyptian Expedition. However, thanks to the old photographs, it’s now possible to place them in one of the rooms in the Ho W1.

Photograph taken in 1912 showing the pigeon fragments where they fell. Note the wall in the background.
The same wall today partially covered with a century of wind- and water-borne debris

One of the photos shows the pigeon section of the ceiling where it lay on the ground. The photographic context is rather narrow, but there is a wall in the upper right of the photo. This wall, although now partially buried in wind-blown debris, is still recognizable today.

Photo taken in 1912 showing the position of the pigeon fragments. The sawhorses behind the fragments were part of a glass-topped table used to reconstruct the fragments.

In the second photograph, taken from Ho W2 looking east at Ho W1, the fragments are also visible. Behind the fragments are two sawhorses that would hold a large sheet of glass. Several of these glass tables had been used the previous season to facilitate the reconstruction of ceiling paintings. The fragments were placed face down on the glass and were then moved into position. When the reconstruction was as complete as possible, plaster of Paris was poured over the back to secure them for travel and display.

The sections of ceiling that came to New York are now displayed on the south wall of Egyptian gallery 119.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 7, 2018

Malqata’s Own Poet Laureate

Malqata’s Own Poet Laureate

Diana Craig Patch

Jan Picton from University College London has joined us this season as part of the team working at the King’s Palace on the reconstruction of the rooms at the south end of the building. Shortly after getting out to the site last Saturday and looking at the impressive number of reconstructed walls nicely demarcating the various suites and the ones that needed work, she asked me if the King’s Palace brought to mind the famous Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall.”   Although I knew the poem, I had not read it in years and after work, Jan shared a copy of his poem (“Mending Wall”). The images Frost created in this poem, although of course completely different in nature, are reflected throughout the palace.

Workman laying brick w wall kings bedroomjpg
Workmen mending a wall in the King’s Palace.

Even better, she shared her homage to Frost’s poem and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Mending Malqata’s Walls (with respect to Robert Frost)

By Jan Picton

Something there is that does not love the king’s walls,

That sends the ground-swell under it,

and spills the upper mudbricks in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of mud hunters is another thing:

we have come after them and made repair

where they have left not one brick on a brick.

The gaps I mean, no one has seen them made

or heard them made, but at season’s start we find them…

Greater blame to archaeologists who, in sharing history

and not backfilling and preserving, destroyed it.

So here we are to clean and record, to draw and make good again.

To relearn and share what we learn, to educate, and make a plea

to cherish this pharaonic heritage and leave a safer legacy.

Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 4, 2018

The Joint Expedition Returns to Malqata

The Joint Expedition Returns to Malqata

Diana Craig Patch

JEM_KP_2018_team at work reduced
Jan Picton begins cleaning a wall in the King’s Palace.

The 2018 season has started. The team began to assemble in Luxor on January 30 with the arrival of Janice, Catharine, and Diana. We delivered the signed papers from the Ministry of Antiquities in Cairo to the appropriate offices in Luxor and were assigned our inspector.  Therefore, we were able to head into the field on February 1!  As of today, everyone is here and at work.

JEM_KP_2018_RmJ_PC cleaning reduced
Piet Collet brushes the surface looking for the edges of mud brick.

The site looks quite good.  There is the usual growth of camel thorn and we seem to be losing ground on the clearance of halfa grass in the area of the North Palace, but otherwise the many locales that make up the site of Malqata remained stable over the past year.

We’ve already started removing camel thorn. The West Settlement is in the background.

During the 2018 season, our attention will concentrate on two areas: reconstructing several important rooms or areas in the King’s Palace and excavation at the West Settlement. In the King’s Palace, we will be protecting walls in the area of the King’s bedroom at the south end, and at the north end, we will be working on the foundations of a staircase that may have led to a window of appearances.

Ja'allan and Ali working in Square N150?E140
Work begins in the West Settlement.

Meanwhile, at the West Settlement, Janice intends to excavate further in the square where an interesting fragment, the tail from a pottery statuette of Taweret, was previously discovered.  She also will move eastward towards the Industrial Site to see if a connection exists between her settlement and this production area.

Continuing the excavation in the square where we found the Taweret tail in 2015.

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