Tag Archives: Thebes

THaWS 2016. A Late Start and Sediments Beyond the Temple of Ay and Horemheb

So another season of survey and augering is under way at Thebes. The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey has, for the past 5 years, been using geoarchaeological and geophysical survey to study the changing floodplain of the river Nile, and the dynamics between the ancient harbours and waterways and the Theban temple complexes on the West Bank and Luxor and Karnak temples. In 2015 the survey work focused on the areas around Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum, with Electrical Resistivity Tomography profiles and auger locations running from the edge of the floodplain to the modern course of the Nile. In addition an area survey was conducted over the mounds at Malqata, associated with the harbour of Birket Habu. This year the season is focussing its attention on the floodplain between the colossal seated statues of Amenhotep III and his huge ceremonial lake (Birket Habu), immediately to the east of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb.

 

Sunrise over the Nile floodplain as viewed from the West Bank

Sunrise over the Nile floodplain as viewed from the West Bank

 

After a slight delay at the start of the project for permits, the work commenced on 19th January. Reconnaissance of the area to the east of the temple, looking for a route across the floodplain for both ERT and auger locations, was conducted last autumn and walked over by the team as we waited for our paperwork to be completed.

The aim of the transect of boreholes (hand augering and a percussion coring) and geophysical survey (Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT)) is to understand the geoarchaeological history of the floodplain in this area of Thebes. We are using our RTK GPS to establish the location of the ERT profiles and to survey in borehole locations during the course of the work.

Carolin Johansson (Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm) setting up the GPS base station

Carolin Johansson (Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm) setting up the GPS base station

 

Carolin conducting GPS survey along an ERT traverse

Carolin conducting GPS survey along an ERT traverse

 

As the ERT survey was set up and continued to collect data across the floodplain from west to east, the team also attempted some GPR. However, issues with the equipment meant that no survey could be completed, and this will have to wait until later in the season. The augering got off to a flying start, with boreholes starting immediately east of the temple of Ay and Horemheb and supported by the ERT profile data. The coring and hand augering both revealed the variation in the sediments from the desert edge, running east across the floodplain, with different depths of silts and sands.

 

Ben Pennington (University of Southampton) removing sediment from the auger head assisted by Mohammed

Ben Pennington (University of Southampton) removing sediment from the auger head assisted by Mohammed

 

Dominic Barker (University of Southampton) gets to grips with a corer sample

Dominic Barker (University of Southampton) gets to grips with a corer sample

 

Jan Peeters (Utrecht University) recording sediments from Auger site 71 in the West Bank floodplain with the Theban hills in the background and assisted by Moustapha (auger) and Hassan (sitting) and onlooked by Zazou, who is working on the ERT profile behind them

Jan Peeters (Utrecht University) recording sediments from Auger site 71 in the West Bank floodplain with the Theban hills in the background and assisted by Moustapha (auger) and Hassan (sitting) and onlooked by Zazou, who is working on the ERT profile behind them

 

Willem Toonen (Aberystwyth University) working at auger site 67 with Youssef and Ahmed in front of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb with Medinet Habu immediately south (in the background)

Willem Toonen (Aberystwyth University) working at auger site 67 with Youssef and Ahmed in front of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb with Medinet Habu immediately south (in the background)

 

The work with the augers was matched by the pace of the ERT, with resistivity data being collected along a traverse completed in four separate profiles, measuring over 2.7km in length. This traverse is located to complement the borehole data and the ERT data collected in the traverse to the east of the Ramesseum in 2014 and 2015, allowing comparison of the varying resistivity values from both locations.

 

Zazou, Ahmed, Reis Alaa and Sumara take a well-earned rest while the ERT collects data

Zazou, Ahmed, Reis Alaa and Sumara take a well-earned rest while the ERT collects data

 

As with many field projects, in some cases the work in the field marks only a part of the overall effort. Once the geophysical survey data is collected, and the auger samples are bagged or put into plastic tubes, the hard work of data processing and study of the augered samples begins. After a week of work, the whole team was called on to soak, sieve and pick through the sediments, weighing and measuring the different inclusions in the sediment to glean as much information about the nature and chronology of the floodplain sediments as possible. This data will be compared with the geophysics to help ground-truth the data and provide crucial information of the potential date of different deposits.

The preliminary data is already pointing to some interesting results on the deposition of sediments deposits, and their relationship with the West Bank monuments. There is still lots of processing and studying to be done!

 

Bird’s eye view of clasts from sieved samples drying and then being sorted from the borehole sediments

Bird’s eye view of clasts from sieved samples drying and then being sorted from the borehole sediments

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Between the Desert and the Nile. Theban Harbours and Waterscapes

The West Bank of Thebes

The West Bank of Thebes

Back in 2011 the Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (THaWS) started with a field season of geophysics. This Egypt Exploration Society project (www.ees.ac.uk), directed by Dr Angus Graham,  was established with the aim of using different techniques to study the settlements and temples on the east and west banks of the Nile, and how they relate to the changing floodplain and river. Unfortunately the season had to be aborted after the 25th January revolution, and the survey was postponed to the 2012 season, when the fieldwork progressed at a cracking pace.

After five years of the project a large quantity of survey data, together with sedimentary data from auger samples, has been collected and is pushing forward some tentative interpretations about the archaeology and geomorphology of the area. Fieldwork in areas as diverse as Malqata, Birket Habu and the floodplain in front of Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum has provided food for thought on the depth of ancient ground levels and the organisation of the waterways on the West Bank, with interesting results from some of the East Bank work, including Karnak.

For the 2015 season the fieldwork has shifted up a notch with a larger and more diverse team. The plan was to run different geophysical survey techniques, while also continuing the auger sample strategy and processing of samples from the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Work has very much focused on Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) surveys on the West Bank, particularly in the area to the east of the Ramesseum heading up to the current course of the Nile, with Ginger Emery working on the instrument. This has been complemented by an intensive season of auger work conducted by Ben Pennington and Willem Toonen, to investigate changes in the sediments represented in the ERT.

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

The survey has allowed a solid dataset to be collected running from c.600m to the east of the Ramesseum all the way the the modern banks of the Nile, with the resistivity and auger data integrating to allow some more nuanced interpretations of the development of the floodplain and the presence of possible man-made canals to be ascertained. The work in this area relates closely to the function of temples further to the south between the Birket Habu and the Ramesseum.

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

This week we have focused the work in the area of Kom El Hetan. Previous seasons provided information on the axis of theTemple of Amenhotep and the possible presence of channels associated with the temple. The aim this week has been to expand on this information with more intensive ERT and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in the area.

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

Hopefully by the end of the week we will have a series of close (5m) profiles of ERT data to model, and GPR data at 0.5m intervals across the front of the Colossi, in the first court, and in the third court for comparison, with a second plan to conduct more GPR profiles in the fields to the south to detect the possible enclosure of the temple. It promises to be an exciting week.

There have been trials and tribulations in the fieldwork, including negotiations with landowners, and issues with the burning of sugar cane chaff during the first two weeks. There have also been compensations, not least in the form of tea and cake, the latter being provided by the wife of Sumara, one of our workmen.

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara's wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara’s wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

The fieldwork will be carrying on at Thebes until 1st April. However, results from the previous seasons of work are presented in the last three editions of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, and in other papers listed below. Happy reading!

 

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2012, The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey. Recent Fieldwork to Investigate the Canals and Harbours on the West and East Banks at Ancient Thebes (Luxor), Egypt. The Newsletter of the International Society for Archaeological Prospection 31, April 2012, 6-7.

Graham,A., Strutt, K., Hunter, M., Jones, S., Masson, A., Millett, M., Pennington, B. 2012, Reconstructing Landscapes and Waterscapes in Thebes, Egypt. In Journal for Ancient Studies eTopoi, 3, 135-142.

Graham, A., Strutt, K.D., Hunter, M. , Jones, S., Masson, A., Millet, M., and Pennington, B.T. 2012, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2012. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 98, 27-42.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2013, Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. In Egyptian Archaeology 43, Autumn 2013, 5-7.

Graham, A, Strutt, K., Emery, V.L., Jones, S. and Barker, D. 2014, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2013. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 99, 35-52.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. (forthcoming), Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. Egyptian Archaeology. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 100.

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Theban Waterscapes and Harbours Survey THaWS 2014 – Measure for Measure

The current season of THaWS fieldwork has given the team some time for reflection on the survey results from 2012 and 2013, and has provided an opportunity for addressing some of the outstanding issues related to the mapping of Thebes on the west and east banks. Survey work throughout the 2012-2014 has been carried out by the team members, including the project director Angus Graham, who oversees the work with the Egypt Exploration Society (EES; http://www.ees.ac.uk/),  Sarah Jones from the Museum of London (MOLA) and Dominic Barker and the author from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Southampton. In 2012, due to some problems with equipment, much of the surveying in of the geophysical survey areas and profiles was conducted using a total station. In 2013 an RTK GPS was used for surveying topographic points and giving elevation data for the topographic correction of GPR and ERT profiles. While these surveys gave sufficient data for processing and interpreting the results of the geophysics, it still left some largely unanswered questions in the minds of the team. How does the current GPS survey relate to the existing local surveys on the west and east banks at Thebes? What remaining survey markers or stations exist in the landscape, allowing THaWS to tie material in to the current survey? Most importantly perhaps, we returned to the issue of what elevation above sea level to use for the project. THaWS is interested in looking at the increasing levels of Nile sediment over thousands of years, and how the natural and man-made changes to the floodplain relate to the archaeology of the area. Having a standard benchmark or datum for this is crucial.

Assessing the different surveys and coordinate systems utilised around Thebes, using sketches and charts, the Survey of Egypt and Reimer maps and field notes

Assessing the different surveys and coordinate systems utilised around Thebes, using sketches and charts, the Survey of Egypt and Reimer maps and field notes

The first step in relating the different local surveys in the study area was to list and assess the nature of the different coordinate systems and datums utilised by different surveys.

It is good to give a bit of historical background to the mapping in the area. The data that we have relate ostensibly to national mapping programmes, or individual projects utilising local or arbitrary coordinate systems. We also have mapping dating from the 19th century, in the form of sketch maps and plans. Of these the map data that has provided the most relevant data is the map produced by John Gardner Wilkinson (1797-1875). Wilkinson published The Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt in 1835, describing the monuments and landscape around Thebes. No graticule is present on the map, and no information regarding datum or coordinate system are presented. The map does, however, relate standing archaeological remains with features on the Nile floodplain, and therefore provides a crucial document in building up a picture of the study area.

A detail of Wilkinson’s map

A detail of Wilkinson’s map

The maps that are perhaps most pertinent to the THaWS work are those produced by the Survey Department between 1892 and 1907 for the cadastral mapping of Egypt. Lyon’s 1908 description of the cadastral survey includes some notes on technical aspects of the survey, including the use of metal chains and some of the practicalities of surveying this vast country. The maps based on the Survey of Egypt for Thebes all utilise the Egyptian Red Belt datum and the Survey of Egypt coordinate system. These systems were also adopted by the map produced by Schweinfurth, published by Reimer in Berlin in 1909, and drawing on Wilkinson’s map, the Survey of Egypt cadastral survey.

One of the principal aims of the 2014 survey was to try and locate trig points and bench marks created by the Survey Department for the cadastral mapping of Egypt. Locating the remaining markers is, however, another matter. The reconnaissance in 2013 and this season has found only two markers; one a trig point above El Gorn on the heights above the Valley of the Kings, and a benchmark on the corner of the wall of one of the alabaster shops to the south of Hatshepsut. The lesson from this experience is clear: the survival of even official survey markers in the landscape at Thebes is unlikely.

Survey marker on the heights of Biban el Muluk, one of the only markers in the area of El Gorn where the marker survives

Survey marker on the heights of Biban el Muluk, one of the only markers in the area of El Gorn where the marker survives

Survey benchmark at the alabaster shops to the south of Hatshepsut

Survey benchmark at the alabaster shops to the south of Hatshepsut

 

In addition to the national and regional mapping projects being assessed, many of the local surveys on the east and west banks are of relevance to the project. In particular survey of markers from the Theban Mapping Project (http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/) and markers from the ongoing project work at the temple of Amenhotep III provide useful ancilliary data for the THaWS work. These surveys use their own local coordinate systems, however, the use of reduced heights above sea level for the projects makes the survey of points vital to allow current survey data to be related to existing publications showing the relationship between monuments and the ancient Nile flood levels.

Survey this season with the GPS allowed a transformation to be performed between the UTM 36N coordinate system with WGS84 datum being used by the GPS, and the Theban Mapping Project survey markers. The result of this shows some large error caused by the probably moving of survey markers within the landscape over the last 20-30 years. The systems of these projects give useful elevation information that is germain to the aims of the current THaWS work.

 

Dominic Barker and Kamal Helmy Shared positioning the GPS rover on a survey marker at the temple of Merenptah

Dominic Barker and Kamal Helmy Shared positioning the GPS rover on a survey marker at the temple of Merenptah

One final set of survey data has been essential for resolving the issues surrounding elevation: the survey datum and account of Hölscher for the excavations at Medinet Habu. A datum point, set at 0m, was established by Hölscher on the threshold of the first pylon at Medinet Habu. He wrote:
‘For the leveling of Medinet Habu the threshold of the first pylon was chosen as the zero-point. This point lies 77.09 meters above sea-level. A bench mark of the Survey Department on top of the granite threshold between the two guardhouses of the Eastern Fortified Gate stands at +76.82 meters, that is, 27 centimeters lower than our zero-point of leveling.’

(Hölscher 1934, 3)

Although the Survey Department benchmark is no longer visible, the stones on either side of the central axis at the threshold remain in situ, and provided a useful datum to record with the GPS. In fact when this point is considered together with the other points of elevation on the West Bank there is a discrepancy of 0.12m over points spread some 5km across the landscape, a considerable achievement in terms of the accuracy of the original Survey Department benchmarks and the traversing of these elevations to the different projects concerned. For the THaWS survey we are now in a much better position to use a suitable benchmark for elevation above sea level that relates to the work and published material of the different projects at Thebes.

Kamal Helmy Shared and Dominic Barker surveying on top of the mounds at Birket Habu

Kamal Helmy Shared and Dominic Barker surveying on top of the mounds at Birket Habu

There is still work to do in relating our survey data with work on the West Bank and at Karnak to ensure that THaWS data is compatible with other datasets, in terms of spatial location and elevation. However, the relationship between our geophysical survey and borehole data, our current survey, and its relationship to other survey data at Thebes, is perhaps more transparent and congruent to existing material.

 

References
Hölscher, U. 1934, The Excavation at Medinet Habu. Volume 1 General Plans and Views. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications Volume XXI. Chicago; University of Chicago Press.
Lyons, H.G. 1908, The Cadastral Survey of Egypt 1892-1907. Cairo; National Printing Department.
Wilkinson, J.G. 1835, Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt, being a Short Account of the Principal Objects Worthy of Notice in the Valley of the Nile. London; John Murray.

 

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Day Two at Kom el Hetan

More area to survey today behind the Colossi of Memnon on the West Bank. We started the day one person down, as Dom’s insides are still rumbling, possibly due to the Egyptian cuisine.  He stayed in to do some office work, and the rest headed out to cross the Nile. We continued the GPR survey behind the Colossi of Memnon, and ran two ERT profiles in front of the same. In addition Sarah’s search for survey stations from previous years continued with the GPS rover. She managed to find most points located between Kom el Hetan and the temple of Merenptah, and completed the morning surveying the bases of the Colossi for comparison with the survey data.

Sarah surveying in the north Colossus

Sarah surveying in the north Colossus

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THaWS Project – Start of the week survey at Kom el Hetan

The start of another busy week in Thebes and the team headed back to the West Bank to commence GPR and ERT survey in the vicinity of Kom El Hetan and the Colossi of Memnon. The bus stopped however for a short visit to the impressive brickworks on the east bank to the south of Luxor. A massive chimney and a series of arched entrances leading to the kilns mark the site on the banks of the Nile.

Chimney at the brickworks

Chimney at the brickworks

Staircase on western curved side of the brickwork kilns

Staircase on western curved side of the brickwork kilns

In addition to the main double row of kiln entrances and the office building, a set of mudbrick stairs run up to the terrace of the kilns. A great little industrial site in some disrepair, and a diversion to the main tasks of the day on the West Bank. Continue reading

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THaWS at Birket Habu – There is a camel on the line at Kom El Bir-at

Day four of this week’s work at Birket Habu and a 6.45 start meeting Reis Alaa, Reis Omer and the workmen. Our trip to work from the East to the West Bank didn’t go smoothly however, with a traffic jam on the bridge which lasted for an hour and a half before the blockage was cleared. We took the wrong carriageway across and joined the congestion.

Traffic! Continue reading

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Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey Starts

So the fieldwork in Thebes on the THaWS project is finally under way, with a cracking team of archaeologists and local workers, together with Reis Allah. Some time was spent last week getting the survey equipment from customs, and testing the instruments on the desert edge at Birket Habu on thursday. Work commenced today with Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) profiles across the southern side, and outside and within Birket Habu.

The British and American contingents of the team include the director Dr Angus Graham, from West Monkseaton in Newcastle.

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Angus at Birket Habu

Angus is leading the team looking at the manipulation of the ancient land and waterscapes of the Theban region. Assisting Angus in his adventure is his delightful assistant Sarah Jones. Sarah spent the first part of the morning sourcing a new hat for use on the project. In addition Virginia (Ginger) Emery from the University of Chicago (USA) and Dominic Barker from the University of Southampton (UK) form part of the team. Dominic is an experience archaeological fieldwork hand, with previous excavation and survey work in Syria, Egypt and Jordan under his belt. Ginger is currently working on a phD at the University of Chicago.

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Sarah Jones sporting a new hat

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Ginger photographing some mud brick

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Dominic Barker

Dom will be running the GPR survey, while Sarah will supervise the GPS work on site. Myself and Angus will be running the ERT  survey, and checking up on the rest of the team. To help we have two workmen, Yasser and Yusuf, supervised by Reis Alaa Farouk, of the Farouk family.

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Reis Alaa Farouk

There isn’t much to report in terms of results so far. Work commenced today on the Birket Habu in the southern area of the site, running an ERT and GPR profile across the southern mound of the harbour, and across the area of the interior. The GPR survey went smoothly, with  a 200 Mhz antenna being used, and a profile of some 2.4km being surveyed with waypoints surveyed in with the GPS.

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GPR survey at Birket Habu

The ERT went more slowly, with a Tigre 64 probe system being used, and probes being placed every 3m along the profile. As the survey started the traffic along the road and canal increased, to the point where carts, pulled by donkeys, carrying sugar cane became an absolute distraction, knocking out probes, and tangling tapes.

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Congested highway along the ERT profile, with probes and cable in the foreground

The reason behind surveyig the profile is to map the presence of the mound associated with the Birket, and any possible basins or channels located along its line. Some features seem to be present in the results, but there are plenty of additional profiles and areas that require investigation in the next few weeks. As things develop I will post up more information and summaries of some of the results. However, Angus and all of the members of the team will be updating the project website blog over the next three weeks, which you can visit at http://eestheban.tumblr.com/, or for more information look at the EES website at http://www.ees.ac.uk.

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