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!

Sunday, 22 March 2009


I flew to Cairo from London Heathrow on Sunday, March 15, in fact exactly one week ago. Arriving rather late in the afternoon, there was not much time left to do lots, so I went to my Pension , relaxed, got something to eat and had an early night. That was necessary, as the following morning I had to be at the Austrian Archaeological Institute at 6:30 for a trip to Tell el-Dab'a. The objective of the current (and some previous) season is the 15th dynasty palace . I gained some insight in the archaeological conditions and the complex as a whole, was able to talk to Manfred Bietak and take a thorough look around the excavation house.

The first thing I did the following morning (17 March) was to pack my stuff together and move it to the Austrian Archaeological Institute on Zamalek where I was kindly permitted to stay for a couple of nights. The rest of that day I spent walking round Cairo, getting organised, getting lost - the usual sort of thing.

After a good night's sleep I left early and took a succession of several vehicles to reach the city of Tanis, near San el-Hagar in the Eastern Delta. I had to leave from Cairo's Aboud Station (for buses), take a Peugeot Taxi to Faqus, a microbus to Huseynia and then another bus to San which point I was so confused that I asked for help, as I was not sure how to reach the site itself. Thus I ended up following a friendly local who had been on the same bus to his workplace – a school, where I sat in the headmaster's office for about an hour, talking and drinking coffee. Talking mostly in English, mind you, as my Arabic is unfortunately still rather abysmal.
At Tanis, which I reached after being driven there by a member of staff at the aforementioned school, I took about 400 photographs with the lovely new camera I bought a short while ago. I managed to get a good feeling for the site, which I had entirely to myself, wandered far and got a decent overview over the amount of material from Piramesse-Qantir which had been brought there after the Piramesse was abandoned after the 20th dynasty.

The trip back to Cairo took a very long time - I managed to board the wrong Peugeot taxi at Faqus which had a bus station well outside Cairo as its final destination... I met a helpful guy there who travelled into Cairo with me, but managed somehow to lead me through some rather dark suburban streets. I was happy to finally take a taxi which took me to the closest Metro station from which I reached Zamalek and then the Austrian Institute rather late that evening.

The next day I went to Bubastis, a site which is on the outskirts of the city of Zagazig in the south-eastern Delta. The journey was unproblematic – a Peugeout from Aboud took me straight to Zagazig from where a cheap (£E 2) taxi took me to the site. Some friends from university in Berlin work there, now for the University of Postdam, and it was good to see them again. Apart from the temple and I was able to see the New Kingdom necropolis and Middle Kingdom palace with a policeman, and also the current excavations.

I was very lucky on the 20th – my plan had been to visit Memphis that day, as one of the key-sites for my PhD this site had some priority, but I was also aware that this trip was rather expensive. An American tourist who had been waiting for a taxi at my hotel and was only in Cairo for the day had already booked a car for the day and he kindly let me come along. He wanted to see more than just Memphis, so we first went to the Citadel in Islamic Cairo which was very enjoyable. We then went to Giza, where he even paid for a horse and carriage ride round the plateau, before we moved on to Saqqara, stopped briefly at Abusir and then went to Memphis. He gained some egyptological insight from me whilst all I had to pay for were my entrance fees. In Memphis, we visited the museum, but I was rather disappointed, as the site of Kom Rabi'a was closed to the public. Even begging did not work and I was only able to take some pictures through the fence. Finally I managed to find a way into a different part of the site and take some pictures of some mudbrick and limestone structures.

The following day I needed some rest and spent the day in the hotel, working on my GIS project, georeferencing the maps from Amarna which I had recently scanned. I was halfway successful but shall continue working on this.

Today, I am leaving Cairo and will take a bus to Mellawi in Middle Egypt, from where I will take a car to the site of Amarna . Barry Kemp kindly agreed for me to arrive a day earlier than intended and I am looking forward to getting there very much!
Photos to follow - the internet connection is not fast enough at the moment.