Between the Desert and the Nile. Theban Harbours and Waterscapes

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 … Continue reading

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.


Geophysics at Karnak – Intensive GPR survey and the beginning of the end of the survey

The latest work on the THaWS project has been marked by the intensity of survey profiles and survey areas covered, and  the fact that the team have been working almost exclusively in and around Karnak temple. The transition of the … Continue reading

The latest work on the THaWS project has been marked by the intensity of survey profiles and survey areas covered, and  the fact that the team have been working almost exclusively in and around Karnak temple. The transition of the GPS survey from the West to the East Bank went smoothly, as reported in the last post. We established a base station on the roof of Chicago House on the West Bank, with the very kind permission of the staff. Some wonderful views were visible across the Nile to the banana plantation and desert edge on the West Bank, andthe set-out made survey convenient for the work at Karnak.

Sarah setting up the base station

Sarah setting up the base station

Much of the ERT profile work was supervised this week by Angus and Ginger, with Dom and myself on the GPR with Sarah wielding the GPS. The plan was to expand on last year’s survey and run a series of ERT and GPR profiles in north-south and west-east directions across the temple complex. Work on the GPR was started running from west to east to the north of the Hypostyle Hall, past the Midddle Kingdom Court and out through the east gate of the Nectanebo enclosure, with other profiles following north-south through the Hypostyle Hall, and past the obelisks near the third and fourth pylons.

Dom and the team on the GPR to the south of the Hypostyle Hall

Dom and the team on the GPR to the south of the Hypostyle Hall

GPR near the second pylon

GPR near the second pylon

The instrument was set to 160ns, so approximately 8m depth. The results from near the temple had some attentuation from c. 6.50m, however a number of anomalies showed up at a depth of 6m or greater. In addition to the long profiles, we conducted several area surveys with the GPR, including the Hypostyle Hall, the Forecourt and, today, the area close to the excavations along the waterfront outside of the Tribune.

The work this week also gave the team a good opportunity to see some of the lesser-visited areas within the Nectanebo enclosure. This included the First, Third and Fourth Courts, up to the gate of the 10th Pylon. The end of one profile gave us time to admire the carving on the 10th pylon, cut into granite, and the view south along the processional way to the Mut Precinct.

Carving on the east facing wall of the western side at the 10th pylon

Carving on the east facing wall of the western side at the 10th pylon

Two profiles were also surveyed in the vicinity of the Temple of Khonsu in the south-western part of the complex. We finished the week outside of the main enclosure in and around the Montu enclosure, the scene of work with Angus, Sarah and Sally Ann Ashton in 2006 and 2007, and with Angus in 2008. The GPR and ERT profiles ran along the outer side of the Nectanebo enclosure wall to the Gate of Ptah, then east from the Gate to the Le Chevrier drain further east. We also ran the GPR along the old ERT profile to the north of the northern Montu enclosure gate, picking out the Ptolomaic and Roman structures surroundin the Montu enclosure.

GPR outside of the Montu Enclosure running west to east

GPR outside of the Montu Enclosure running west to east

It was intriguing to revisit some of these areas from previous seasons of work, and see some of the differences there, including the construction of the SCA wallto the north.

Sadly for the last two days I have been stuck in the office processing GPS, ERT and GPR data, focusing on the Karnak results, and soon to be moving on to the West Bank data. Some interesting anomalies have come out of the data this year, and the opportunity to compare the ERT data with the GPR is useful. Two different techniques collecting data  to different depths is certainly useful, if a little more complex. The GPR will provide an interesting counterpoint to the broader brush-strokes of the ERT results in the coming days.