Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Archaeological Excavations in Egypt

Students of the IE University Degree in Architecture have the opportunity to undertake an extensive range of activities designed to round-off their education. These activities often involve work in the field, and include visits to different centres, factories and building sites, where students can observe architecture in action, and broaden and apply the knowledge acquired in the classroom.

Perhaps the most interesting ongoing field project is IE University’s participation in the archaeological excavation currently taking place in Egypt. Work is being done on the Monthemhat burial site in el-Assasif, Luxor, under the supervision of Dr. Farouk Gomaà and the coordination of Professor Emilio Illarregui, of IE University.

IE University archeologists and researchers are participating in excavation projects in the tomb of one of Egypt’s largest burial sites west of Thebes, that of the fourth prophet of Amon and governor of High Egypt, Monthemhat (670-648 B.C.).

Headed by Dr. Farouk Gomaà, IE University, SEK (through its universities in Chile and Ecuador), the University of Tübingen (Germany) and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, are all involved in the mission.

Professor Emilio Illarregui of IE University is heading archaeological work in the field, coordinating members of the IE team and fieldwork. The scientific team of 2008-2009 comprises a total of 35 people of different nationalities, and a group of students on scholarships from other international institutions.

With 57 burial chambers and two courtyards, the tomb of Monthemhat is an impressive burial site that has not yet been subject to deep investigation, or excavated in full. It is situated in a part of the Thebes necropolis known as el-Assasif, close to the famous temple of Queen Hatshepsut en Deir el-Bahari. The Hispano-Egyptian- German mission is an ambitious long-term project that will play an essential role gaining insight into a crucial period of history, spanning from the 25th dynasty to the end of the Coptic period.

Monthemhat lived in the 7th century B.C. and was from an important family of Thebes. He served the Kushite Pharaoh Taharqa (690-664 B.C.) of the 25th dynasty, and bore witness to the sacking of Thebes by King Asurbanipal’s Assyrian troops and the Persians. Moreover there is evidence of Ptolemaic and Roman presence in the tomb. Monthemhat was such a key figure that the Mesopotamians called him "King of Thebes". He also played a role in the unification of Egypt under the Pharaoh Psametic I.

The tomb of Monthemhat is full of chambers and passages and is considered an outstanding archaeological challenge. The 2008 campaign is centred on the continuity of documentation, restoration and excavation work, both inside the chambers and above ground, on and within the walls of the burial site.

The tomb has two adobe gateways built on the east and north sides, and a 117 meter-long perimeter wall, also built using adobe. There is a ramp of some 70m that leads from the gateway to the entrance of the tomb. The luxury of the tomb and the quality of the materials are comparable to the great tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Work to date has been focused on the restoration of one of the central chambers and on flights of steps, as well as gathering and cataloging numerous reliefs, inscriptions and biographical data from the Book of the Dead and other epigraphical texts.

The projects are being funded by private sponsors, IE University, SEK, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. and the University of Tübingen (Germany). They are the result of an agreement signed with the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, the place of work of Dr. Farouk Gomaà, the project and excavation director.

The agreement is in line with IE University’s commitment to international outreach. It also provides IE students and faculty in fields as diverse as architecture, art, or biology, the opportunity to do research in this key burial site, which is expected to yield valuable scientific results that will throw light on this period of ancient Egyptian history.

The IE University researchers bring their experience obtained in other archaeological digs and archaeology excavations to the Egyptian project. These include the Roman foundations in Tiermes (Soria), Herrera de Pisuerga (Palencia), and Cauca (Coca, Segovia), coupled with other archaeological projects in Europe and Latin America.

In the course of the campaign, the participating student and faculty work teams worked to achieve two objectives:

a.) To analyze the physical and structural state of the burial complex, in order to draft a report that included recommendations for actions designed to preserve the stability of the site. Given that there was serious concern about the stability of some of the chambers, the main emphasis was on those in the depths of the site.
b.) To enable architecture students to prepare a plan of the site.

The next campaign will begin between 5 January and 5 March 2009. Work will be centred on the archaeology excavation of the north and south sides of the site walls, along with the continued excavation of the large upper temple structures, restoration and geo-radar prospection of inner chambers in search of new discoveries. There also are plans to include a 3D scan of the site in collaboration with a Finnish University.

Dr. Baixerias and his team from the national Museum of Catalonia will be undertaking some interesting genetic studies of some 70 mummies from the burial site. In 2009 work will start on the restoration of Chamber 27 and other areas inside the tomb, and two articles on the project will be published.

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

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