Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Short Story: Documentation Work Begins

State-of-the-art technology is being used to document the Esna Temple south of Luxor and the Tanis archaeological site in the Delta. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

In a step towards scientifically documenting all archaeological sites and monuments in Egypt, the Antiquities Documentation Centre (ADC) of the Ministry of Antiquities has started to document the Esna Temple south of Luxor and the Tanis archaeological site in the Sharqiya governorate in the Delta.

Director of the ADC Hisham Al-Leithi told Al-Ahram Weekly that the documentation of the Esna Temple had started in 1993 but had stopped due to the high level of subterranean water that had leaked inside the temple and the beginnings of the restoration work

The whole project to document all the archaeological sites in Egypt was also stopped in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution due to budgetary problems. Al-Leithi said that the ministry had resumed the documentation project earlier this year and had started with the Esna Temple and the Tanis site.

The documentation project, he explained, aims to register every inch of every monument in Egypt according to the most up-to-date scientific and archaeological techniques.

“The actual documentation methods will consist of computer-data sets, plans and sections, as well as photographs, drawings and illustrations, recording forms, logbooks, site notebooks, diaries and dive logs,” Al-Leithi said. He added that GIS systems, 3D reconstructions, applications that support on-site recording processes, modern measuring techniques and data-processing software used in geophysical research would also be used.

The Esna Temple is located in the town of Esna roughly 50km south of Luxor. Its history goes back to prehistoric times, although Esna was first mentioned in the Pharaoh Thutmose III’s annals when it was part of the Upper Egyptian region extending from Al-Kab in the north to Armant south of Luxor.

During the ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom, Esna was an important centre for trade, as it was the focal point of trading convoys from Sudan going to Thebes. During the Graeco-Roman period, Esna was called Latopolis in honour of the Nile perch that was worshipped there. In 1971, a necropolis dedicated to the Nile perch was uncovered west of the town.

The Esna Temple is one of the most important archaeological sites in Esna, Al-Leithi said, adding that the temple goes back to the reign of the 18th-Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III and was built on top of the remains of a Saite temple. The present temple, he continued, was built during the Ptolemaic era, although most of its engravings and decorations go back to the Roman period.

The temple is dedicated to the god of the Nile, as well as other deities such as the ancient goddess of war and weaving Neith, god of magic Heka, goddess of the Nile Satet, and the lion goddess Menhet.

The temple was built almost nine metres below ground level and was completely uncovered in 1843 during the reign of the khedive Mohamed Ali. Earlier the area had hosted French soldiers during the French expedition to Egypt in 1799. “The names of some of the soldiers are engraved on the upper surface of the Temple,” Al-Leithi said.

Some masonry blocks attesting to the construction during the reign of Thutmose III were reused at the site, and the oldest complete part of the temple is the back wall of the hypostyle hall, built during the Ptolemaic period and showing scenes depicting Ptolemy VI Philometer and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes.

The rest of the temple was built by a series of Roman emperors, including Claudius, and Decius. The hypostyle hall is decorated with 24 pillars beautifully carved and painted with different floral designs. 

Texts describing the religious festival that once took place at the temple and depicting Roman emperors standing before ancient Egyptian deities are also inscribed on the pillars.

On the northern wall of the hall, the pharaoh is depicted catching wild birds or conquering evil spirits. The decorations also include a number of calendars, while the ceiling is decorated with Egyptian astronomical figures on the northern side and Roman zodiacal signs on the southern side.... READ MORE.

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