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The mission of the Brooklyn Museum is to act as a bridge between the rich artistic heritage of world cultures, as embodied in its collections, and the unique experience of each visitor. Dedicated to the primacy of the visitor experience, committed to excellence in every aspect of its collections and programs, and drawing on both new and traditional tools of communication, interpretation, and presentation, the Museum aims to serve its diverse public as a dynamic, innovative, and welcoming center for learning through the visual arts.

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About the Mut Expedition

Since 1976, the Brooklyn Museum has been carrying out archaeological work at the Temple Precinct of the Goddess Mut at South Karnak, an important religious site for almost two thousand years. Dig Diary invites you to follow the recent work of the expedition in weekly photo journals covering every aspect of our team's activity.

About the Mut Precinct


Brooklyn Museum

Richard Fazzini

Mary McKercher

Lisa Bruno

Previous Posts

Dig Diary 2008

An end and a beginning

The end of the season

Finishing up - conservation projects

New Skills

Soluble salts



Winding Down

Treatment of an Egyptian copper alloy statue of Wa...


December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

December 2007

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I'll Be There Soon

It has been interesting to read the postings on the Brooklyn Museum: Dig Diary. Especially, as I work here in the conservation lab at the Brooklyn Museum, knowing that I will soon be in Egypt. Last year, my colleague Tina March and I (with the glasses) each spent approximately 4 weeks on the site of the Mut Temple Precinct. I started the season and Tina finished up with a one- week overlap to exchange information, and make a smooth transition. This year I'll be going at the end of the season to close, while an SCA Conservator from the Luxor Temple, Khaled Mohamed Wassel, who Tina and I worked with last year, has been keeping things in order. Being on an archaeological site, as a museum conservator is a fantastic learning experience. Nothing compares to seeing the condition of art objects, be they sandstone, limestone, organics or copper alloys, as they come directly out of the ground, after being buried for hundreds or thousands of years. Many times, in the conservation laboratory at the museum, when working with the archaeological objects in the collection, we see conditions that are a direct result of the burial environment. Seeing first hand what objects go through during burial, makes those conditions, often unstable, seem so much less terrifying to deal with in the museum.

My colleagues Tina March, pictured here with an Egyptian sandstone stele,

And Jakki Godfrey, seen here with an Egyptian copper alloy statue of Wadjet

will be dealing with the conservation issues at the Museum, while I'm at Mut. The sandstone stele, and the statue of Wadjet, are both archaeological objects in the Brooklyn Museum's collection. They are currently undergoing stabilization treatments for exhibition. Tina and Jakki will discuss these treatments, as they relate to the archaeological environment in upcoming posts to this blog. In the mean time, I have a lot of supplies to pack.

Lisa Bruno, Objects Conservator

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Week of Puzzles

First thing this week we stood the large fragment of the limestone statue of Tuthmosis IV against the 2nd Pylon of Temple A. It was a bit of a struggle because the varying levels here made placing the siba rather difficult and the statue is heavy and awkward to move.

While most people don't associate mud brick with temple architecture, mud brick formed an important element of most temple construction in ancient Egpyt. This is particularly evident at the Mut Precinct, where even some pylons were built of mud brick. Towards the end of this week, we uncovered the corner where the mud brick wall running south from Temple A's stone 2nd Pylon (center) meets the mud brick wall that defines the south side of the Forecourt.

Here you are looking west along the Forecourt's south wall to the Lepsius Gate in the background. To the left is a larger, rather damaged mud brick wall.

While chewed up to the west, at the east end the bricks of this second wall are becoming more distinct. This should be the wall running east off the Lepsius Gate. So far we have followed it as far east as Temple A's 2nd Pylon but have not yet reached a corner.

One goal of our expedition is to uncover and restore the original appearance of the site's temples. In order to do so, we have to remove the Roman Period structures built against the Mut Temple's 1st Pylon that we uncovered and documented in 2006. We began that work mid-week and have already come up with a surprise.

The photo on the left, taken at the end of the 2006 season, is what we thought might be a stairway with bins, just visible toe th right, below the now-vanished upper steps. Now we're not so sure. We removed the northern (front) row of bricks and uncovered 3 distinct hollow spaces. We have no idea yet what they are, although it has been suggested they may have been used for cooking: fuel in the hollow, pots on top.

We also don't know how these 3 hollows (center, behind the meter stick) relates to the large, brick-lined pit in the foreground of this picture that we uncovered last year.

On the north side of the court, things are clearer, if more confusing. We definitely have the south face of the enclosure wall along the full length of the Forecourt and thought that we had uncovered traces of the wall's plaster coating, between the man in the man in jeans and the man to his right. It now appears, however, that this plastered wall is a separate construction between the enclosure wall and the north stone wall of the Forecourt. Another puzzle to decipher.

Conservation work continued in the East Porch, where Khaled is carefully consolidating a deteriorated portion of a column.

By week's end, the new foundations for the intercolumnar wall in the East Porch are basically finished, incorporating the original blocks with modern materials. The finishing coating has also been applied to part of the wall south of the tallest column; it will dry to the color of hte sandstone. Next week we hope to finish this project.

Mary McKercher


Friday, January 19, 2007

A Productive Week

At the start of the week, finding the mud brick of the northern enclosure wall proved easier than we hoped, at least at the west end. Here there was only a relatively thin layer of earth over the bricks. It's dusty work.

Further to the east, the bricks were more deeply covered, but by week's end their pattern was clear. Abdel Aziz (in light blue galabiya) and Mahmoud Abbadi (dark blue galabiya), two of our Qufti, carefully define the bricks. The Qufti are technicians from the village of Quft, north of Luxor, who provide the skilled labor for many archaeological expeditions in Egypt.

Looking east along the enclosure wall at the end of the week. We are fairly certain we have found the south face of the wall along the whole length of Temple A's Forecourt.

Late in the week William and Elsie Peck, former curators at the Detroit Institute of Arts joined the team. William is our architect and surveyor and Elsie is site supervisor and artist. With Jaap van Dijk they admire a block from Chapel D that we reassembled recently from broken pieces. If we can figure out where it belongs in the chapel we'll restore it.

The siba (tripod and winch) arrived Wednesday morning and here is being set up by the East Porch so we can carry out the next phase of work there.

Our conservator, Khaled, supervises rigging the portion of the wall between two columns that needs to be moved. It must be done with great care to protect both the workers and the block.

Success. Despite the close quarters, we are able to remove the top block of the intercolumnar wall without damaging it or the columns on either side. We were also able to remove the course below successfully.

For once we found Mary, the expedition's photographer, a comfortable position; usually she's up a ladder or flat on the ground. The wall in the last photograph has been completely dismantled and she is photographing its foundations. The limestone block just beyond her shoes has part of the name of Ramesses II, as do many of the foundation blocks in this area of the East Porch.

On January 14, President Mubarak visited Luxor. The streets along which he passed were lined with welcoming banners and arches.

One of the purposes of the President's visit was to open the Mubarak Heritage Center, a cultural center and library for Luxor. We didn't see the event itself (we were working that day), but were able to watch a group of children rehearsing for the event the day before. The Center itself is a large and dramatic building.

And now back to the dig. From this picture, taken late Thursday morning, you can get some idea of the scale of the work on the north enclosure wall. At the start of the week, all the workmen were standing on the top of the mound. They have made great progress. The time has come, however, to move the large fragment of a limestone statue leaning against the north side of the court, on the extreme right in this photo.

Supported by the siba and cushioned with foam sheeting, the statue is lowered slowly onto its side so it can be moved to its new location.

The statue now lies on wood supports in front of Temple A's 2nd Pylon where we will re-erect it on Saturday beside its more complete companion.

We haven't been idle on the south side of the Forecourt, either. The limestone foundations of the wall and colonnade are completely clear, as are the brick walls to the south (left). Now the challenge is to figure out how all these structures go together.

Egypt is a land where old and new constantly meet. Cement to build mastabas is delivered to the site on a donkey cart whose owner chats with a friend (or arranges his next delivery) on his cell phone.

We promised to follow the progress of the wall whose design was laid out using the same technique as in pharaonic times. It turns out to be a large mosaic. The color of stone to be used in each area has been written in chalk in the drawing.

Looking west along the sphinx avenue north of the Mut Precinct at noon to the village and the mountains beyond. What a view!

Richard Fazzini

Friday, January 12, 2007

After the Eid

The early morning light filters through the dust as we get back to work on the first day after the break for the Eid el Adha and Coptic Christmas. We have had a busy week.

One of our projects this year is to re-organize the many blocks of temple decoration and pieces of Sakhmet statues discovered over the years. Moving even the upper half of a single Sakhmet statue from the storage magazine to its new location is hard work.

Thanks to the strength and skill of our workmen, we were able to consolidate all the fragmentary Sakhmet statues onto a single new mastaba.

This is the original "mastaba" (Arabic for "bench") we built many years ago to hold decorated blocks and pieces of statues. Mastabas are constructed of baked brick and cement with a layer of bitumen cloth between the courses to act as a barrier to ground water.

We are hoping to be able to reconstruct more of Chapel D using blocks from there uncovered in the 1970s. To make reconstruction easier, we have built 3 new mastabas just to the east of the chapel and have started organizing the blocks.

On January 8 Dr. Jacobus van Dijk of the University of Groningen arrived joined the expedition. Richard and he were in Chapel D discussing work there when I interrupted them for a photo.

An urgent conservation project for 2007 is the restoration of the east wall of the East Porch of the Mut Temple. Its foundations are deteriorating to the point that a fox has been able to dig a den under one of the columns. The sandstone and limestone blocks of the upper parts of the wall are decayed as well.

We are fortunate this year to have the SCA conservator, Khaled Mohammed Wassel (right) working with us again. Here he, Richard, Jaap, and our inspector Mouna discuss the work to be done in the East Porch.

Before work could begin on the foundations of the column, we had to shore it up with metal supports to prevent its collapse.

By the end of work on Thursday the basic restoration work on the south part of the wall and on the column's foundations had been completed. The rough new surfaces will be coated with a layer of material tinted to match the stone, as has been done elsewhere in the site. Now we have to dismantle and restore the wall to the north (left) of the column.

Excavation in the Forecourt of Temple A also proceeded while all the block moving and restoration were going on. The south edge of the north wall has been uncovered along its entire length. In order to go any further, however, we are going to have to remove much of the mountain of earth and decayed brick that has collapsed onto the wall. We need to do this both to prevent any possible collapse of the mound and to try to find the face of the Precinct's enclosure wall behind the Forecourt.

We are continuing to trace the limestone and brick walls that form the south side of the Forecourt. By sometime next week the two squares should meet and we'll have a clearer idea of the relation between the various features we are uncovering. So far there has been little pottery uncovered in either area.

Locally made pottery is still important to the people of Luxor. With the exception of the few stone cats and small obelisks, all the wares displayed by this potter are for everyday use.

We were fascinated to watch this wall along the road to the Mut Temple being prepared for decoration just as pharaonic artists prepared tomb and temples walls. The wall has been smoothed and gridlines drawn. Using the grid to scale up preliminary sketches, local artists have drawn the outlines of the decoration just as their ancient counterparts did. The next step will be to fill in the outlines. We aren't sure whether this is to be a painting or a mosaic. We'll follow its progress.

On a sunny, bright day in Luxor (which, let's face it, is most days) the view across the Nile to the hills of the west is breathtaking. No matter how hot and dusty we may be, spending a few moments looking at scenery like this refreshes us all.

Mary McKercher