Important work at different archaeological sites in Luxor was recognised by the Ministry of Antiquities this week, reports Nevine El-Aref
Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enani embarked early this week on a tour of Luxor in order to inspect recent work at the Karnak Temples, inaugurate a number of archaeological sites, and attend the second round of the Thebes in the First Millennium BCE Conference.
Al-Enani started his tour with the inauguration of the Amun-Re Segmnaht Temple, the 11th of the Karnak Temples. The temple dates to the reign of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramses II, and its name means “Amun, listener of prayers.”
“The temple was in a very bad state of conservation when work started three months ago as it had not been restored since the 1970s,” Mustafa Waziri, director of Luxor Antiquities told Al-Ahram Weekly.
He said the restoration work had included removing unsuitable materials used in restoration work carried out in the last century and the use of better ones. Weak parts of the sandstone blocks of the temple’s walls were consolidated, the upper part of a colossal statue of Osiris found in the temple was restored, and the offering table at the temple’s west gate was reinstalled.
Al-Enani’s second stop was at the open-air museum where the barque shrine of the Pharaoh Tuthmosis III had been reconstructed and restored by the Centre franco-égyptien d’étude des temples de Karnak (CFEETK).
Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the ministry, said the shrine was reconstructed in 2010 by the CFEETK and the restoration work was completed this year. He said the work had included the cleaning and conservation of the shrine’s ceiling slab and lintel, found broken in many fragments and each weighing 76 tons.
Between 1914 and 1954, several fragments of the lintel and slab were found in the filling of the Karnak Temple’s third pylon and in front of the ninth pylon. However, in antiquity Tuthmosis III had built his limestone barque shrine in front of the temple’s fourth pylon.
French Egyptologist Christophe Thiers, director of the CFEETK, described the operation as “most delicate,” because it had been performed manually with the aid of hydraulic jacks and temporary walls that had enabled the progressive lifting of the ceiling slab on the top of the walls.
The lintel and slab were placed in their original locations on the shrine’s walls, and the shrine is now ready to be opened to visitors.
Al-Enani then visited the west bank of the Nile where he inaugurated the Second Pillared Hall in the tomb of the 25th Dynasty official Karakhamun.
The opening was part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the Egyptian-American South Asasif Conservation Project (SACP) begun in 2006 to conserve and reconstruct ancient monuments in their original locations and open them to visitors.
Among the sites were the ruins of the Kushite tombs of Karabasken (TT391), Karakhamun (TT223) and Irtieru (TT390).
SACP director Elena Pischikova told the Weekly that the tomb of Karakhamun was the most important reconstruction undertaken by the project. The tomb’s ceiling had collapsed and its rooms and remaining decoration had been buried beneath large chunks of fallen bedrock.
After clearing, the team had discovered the entrance staircase, vestibule, two pillared halls, and the painted burial chamber of Karakhamun, as well as around 35,000 fragments of the detached original decoration.
The Second Pillared Hall was found in poor condition in the tomb, with crumbling walls and fallen decoration. Its reconstruction started in 2012 and lasted four years.
Pischikova said that in collaboration with a Ministry of Antiquities conservation team, epigraphers from the SACP had been able to rebuild the two doorframes of the entrance to the hall, four pilasters, four pillars, all the walls, the false door, and the architrave.
The reconstructed decoration includes 24 chapters from the Book of the Dead, various Pyramid Texts, six offering scenes, and a false door with a statue of Osiris. The central higher aisle, topped by two architraves, is a unique feature, recreating a temple space in an elite tomb.
“The beautiful carving of the ten images of Karakhamun creates an exclusive gallery of early Kushite images of a tomb owner,” Pischikova said, adding that the number of known decorated elite tombs from the 25th Dynasty was very limited and each of them had unique features.
Pischikova said that the reconstruction of the tomb of Karakhamun, one of the first tombs of the Kushite Renaissance, was an important contribution to the understanding of Egypt in the first millennium BCE and brought back to life a beautiful example of ancient Egyptian art.
The Second Pillared Hall of the tomb, inaugurated by the minister, is the first fully reconstructed room in the ruined Kushite tomb rediscovered by the SACP.
In the lecture hall of Luxor’s Mummification Museum Al-Enani later inaugurated the second round of the Thebes in the First Millennium BCE Conference in Luxor. The conference was organised by the SACP in conjunction with the Ministry of Antiquities and the Egypt Exploration Society.
The conference featured presentations from 46 Egyptian and international scholars and attracted close to 200 participants. The main focus was current archaeological research on the tombs and temples of the 25th-26th Dynasties in the Theban area.
Papers on other Egyptian sites and monuments from the Kushite and Saite periods were also invited from all areas of research, including archaeology, art history, history, religion, linguistics, and anthropology.