Saturday, 28 March 2009

Amarna, Elephantine and Luxor

I am writing from Luxor this time where I intend to stay until the day after tomorrow, before I go back to Cairo. Will probably take the day-train, just to see some more of the country and to make sure I can actually get some sleep during the night...

I travelled from Cairo to Mallawi by bus which took 5 hours but was a smooth ride and the desert road provided some beautiful scenery. At Mallawi I was collected by the project's house caretaker and its driver who took me to Amarna via the car ferry.

My visit to Amarna was superb - I was welcomed by some very friendly people working on the project. Barry kemp had kindly arranged for me to stay in the excavation house and share meals with the team. There were not many people working at Amarna at the time, and the three days and four nights I spent were the more enjoyable due to a very pleasant atmosphere.
The first morning I left the house which is located in the South Suburb and walked from there all the way to the Main City, accompanied by a policeman who was very kind and jolly and tried to communicate despite my lack of Arabis communication skills. the houses, some of which have walls preserved to shoulderheight, were great to look at and to go inside and I was able to take a large amount of good pictures. The layout of the city as a whole became a great deal clearer, as did the sheer scale of the place and the climatic conditions people would have dealt with on a daily basis. It was also good to observe what obstacles the survey of the site had to overcome, as some of the structures are only visible as very shallow mounds. I ended the walk just by the Small Aten Temple and the King's House, having incorporated the Great Palace and getting more and more to terms with the scale and layout of Amarna.
After a lift back to the house on a donkey cart, I left the house with the photographer, Gwil, and we were driven to the plain to the South of the Stone Village . We had to climb up the Gebel to reach the site, where we then met Anna and Wendy who were surveying some stone features, the function of which has not yet been determined. Gwil and I walked further to the Workmen's Village and walked around this before returning to the house.
In the afternoon I was given the opportunity to look at some of the cylindrical vessels connected to the glass workshop published by Paul Nicholson in 2007, most of which were surface finds from the vicinity of the Great Palace.

The following day I went to the Stone Village with Wendy and Anna and was assigned a feature to plan, so I actually did some work at Amarna :-) Spent some hours doing this, planning most stones and the cut at 1:25 and then left them and walked over to the South Tombs. I was able to see four toms: those of Eje/Ay (No. 25), Any (No. 23), Ramose (No. 11) and Maha (No. 9).

My last full day was spent driving around the site with a car Barry Kemp had hired for me to take me to the Northern part of Amarna. I first visited the North Palace and then the Northern City with the impressive Great Gateway.
After that I was able to see some tombs in the North Cemetary: Ahmose (No. 3), Merire (No. 4), Pentu (No. 5), Panehsy (No. 6) and Huia (No.1 ), and the Boundary Stela U before ending the tour at the Royal Tomb and returning back to the House. I mapped a large portion of the drive with the OpenMoko and shall display the results as soon as I have downloaded them.

I left at 8:30 the following morning, having to catch a train from Minya station at 10:40 to get to Aswan. I am extremely grateful to all the staff at Amarna for enabling me to visit and experience this site!

The train journey took longer than expected and I did not get into Aswan until 9pm... I cannot recomment the hotel (Nubian Oasis Hotel) I stayed in, despite the low prices the level of cleanliness is not satisfactory and the staff not very friendly and too pushy. I was not feeling too well, having been hit by the curse of the Pharaohs (it had to happen at some point) and maybe my temper was a little short for that reason. I managed to wake up at a reasonable hour and took the ferry to Elephantine Island where I met up with Cornelius von Pilgrim of the Swiss Institute who works with the German team on the New Kingdom settlement levels on Elephantine . he showed me around the site and pointed out the New Kingdom remains - these were not so obvious and rather badly preserved, partly due to the fact that in most cases the New Kingdom levels had been quarried out by later phases of occupation before these were established. Most of the recently uncovered NK remains were in fact, residential in nature.

I left for Luxor by train the same afternoon and fortunately this journey only took 3 hours and I got to my hotel on the west bank at c. 7pm. This morning I left for Malkata , the palace and temple city of Amenhotep III on the west bank. I met Ginger, a PhD student at Chicago, and she walked me over the site. As she is working on the current project she knows the site to a great detail and was able to explain the archaeology to me extremely well. I am very grateful to her for her time and help!

Tomorrow I intent to visit the mortuary temple of Seti I at Qurna amongst other (but not too many) things. Good night!

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