Monday, November 10, 2014

News, Luxor: Chicago House Back in Action in Luxor

Chicago House, the Oriental Institute headquarters in Egypt, functions as a major center of Egyptological studies for Egyptian and foreign scholars alike, and is open from October 15 through April 15 every winter season. The research library, among the finest in Egypt, has more than 20,000 volumes. The Chicago House photographic archive is a major research collection containing over 21,000 negatives and 21,000 prints ranging in date from the late-nineteenth century to the present.

A project to conserve, register, and provide proper archival storage for the collection was funded by the Getty Grant Program and a catalog of the archival holdings, The Registry of the Photographic Archives of the Epigraphic Survey, was published in 1995. Beginning in 1999, we undertook the process of scanning all of the negatives in the archive for inclusion in our Photo Archives database, a work of many years that has now been extended to incorporate other photographic collections housed in our facility, such as the Labib Habachi archives and the photographs of Helen and Jean Jacquet. The Epigraphic Survey based at Chicago House in Luxor began its 2014-2015 archaeological field season in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage (MAH) on October 15th, and we resumed our work at Medinet Habu shortly thereafter.

Luxor is peaceful, tourism is going up, and many archaeological missions have returned or are returning - the town is busy. Chicago House hosted a visit by the MAH Deputy Minister Dr. Yousef Khalifa and his family to Medinet Habu, on November 1st, to see our conservation and restoration programs in the areas surrounding the mortuary temple of Ramesses III.

The group - including Dr. Yousef in the suit, Luxor director Abdel Hakim Karrar second from left, and Gurna director Talat Abdel Azziz behind him - is shown here in a photo taken by staff photographer Yarko Kobylecky with the House of Butehamon in the background, part of the Epigraphic Survey's concession and one focus of our work this season.

Chicago House will also continue its ongoing documentation and site management program of the destroyed western High Gate; its restoration of the Domitian Gate; and a conservation student training program, initiated last year, supervised by Medinet Habu conservator Lotfi Hassan and his team, designed to give Egyptian conservation students fresh out of school valuable field experience, a plus for later employment. The documentation, conservation, and restoration work at Medinet Habu is supported by a grant from USAID Egypt.

The Epigraphic Survey began its long collaboration with the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Ministry of State for Antiquities) in 1924, initially with documentation work in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, and we maintain an ongoing commitment to the recording and conservation of all of the monuments that form part of the Medinet Habu complex. Over the years, however, the Survey has also devoted considerable effort to the recording and preservation of inscribed material from other sites, including Karnak, Luxor Temple, the Theban Necropolis, the Sakkara Necropolis (during the 1930s), and the Nubian salvage campaign (during the 1960s). At present, we have ongoing projects, in collaboration with the MSA, at the following four sites:

Medinet Habu
In 1970 the Epigraphic Survey completed its record of the reliefs and inscriptions in the principal buildings of Ramesses III’s mortuary temple, comprising Medinet Habu Vols. I-VIII. The temple enclosure nevertheless contains a number of lesser monuments, dating both before and after the 20th Dynasty, which still await documentation, and for this reason in the early 1990’s the Chicago House team resumed activity on the site, focusing on documentation of the small 18th Dynasty Temple of Amun with its later extensions. 

In 1995, a conservation component, funded by ARCE and USAID Egypt, was incorporated into our work on the Amun Temple, focused on cleaning of the painted reliefs within the temple’s inner chambers. Starting in 2006, with a grant from USAID Egypt, this program was expanded to include restoration of the subterranean wells, gateways, and other minor structures within the precinct, as well as cataloguing and conservation of over 4000 loose inscribed stone fragments found throughout the enclosure. More about Medinet Habu Click Here

Luxor Temple
In the late 1970’s, the Epigraphic Survey applied for and received permission to document the 18th Dynasty reliefs in Luxor Temple, which date mainly to the time of Amenhotep III and his successors. The great Colonnade Hall, with its festival scenes carved during and after the reign of Tutankhamun, was the primary focus of the Chicago House team throughout much of the 1980’s and 1990’s, resulting in the publication of Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Vols. I-II. Throughout the same period, we have undertaken the systematic cataloguing, conservation, and analysis of the more than 40,000 inscribed stone fragments, collected from all over the Theban region, which are now stored within the Luxor Temple precinct. From 1995, a project funded first by USAID Egypt and ARCE, and then by the World Monuments Fund, permitted proper storage platforms to be created for all of the fragmentary material, emergency conservation measures to be undertaken for the most threatened pieces, and made possible the creation of an on-site open-air museum.

Khonsu Temple, Karnak
Since the 1920’s, the Epigraphic Survey has undertaken a number of documentation projects within the great temple complex of Karnak, including the temples of Ramesses III in the first court and in the Mut enclosure, the Bubastite gate, the battle reliefs of Seti I, and the temple of Khonsu, located in the southwest corner of the main temenos. Our work in Khonsu Temple has resulted in the publication of two volumes on the wall reliefs, The Temple of Khonsu Vols. I-II, along with a third volume on the rooftop graffiti by the late Helen Jacquet-Gordon. In 2008 the Chicago House team resumed work on the site in cooperation with the American Research Center in Egypt and the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The focus of the present documentation program is the large corpus of inscribed blocks, originating from earlier monuments, which were used as building material when the present temple was built during the reign of Ramesses III.   More about Karnak Temple Click Here

Tomb Of Nefersekheru (TT 107)
In the years 1959-1970, the Epigraphic Survey added to its program the documentation of the tomb of Kheruef (TT 192), a senior courtier of the reign of Amenhotep III, whose beautiful reliefs, carved in limestone, exemplify the high standard of artistic achievement that characterized the late 18th Dynasty. Interest in stylistic and historical parallels from the same period, along with our objective of preserving the information contained in monuments that are particularly threatened with damage or destruction, has led the Chicago House team to undertake a program in the nearby tomb of Nefersekheru (TT 107), a contemporary of Kheruef and steward of Amenhotep III’s jubilee palace at Malqata. Epigraphic work and architectural survey of the tomb will continue through the 2013-14 field season and beyond.   More about Tomb of Nefersekheru Click Here

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