The Sirius Project

The Sirius Project
Logo design by Scotty Roberts

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Home of the Mother goddess and the creation of Mother Earth, a visit to Gebelein and Dababiyna

The Ancient Nome of Gebelein Pathyris /Aphroditopolis, Ezbet Abu Humus. “The two mountains”
As planned the mini bus promptly arrived at our house at 6.00am to transfer us to the East Bank where we would meet Moamen. Now Moamen Saad is a well accomplished archaeologist with the S.C.A. [now: MSA] here in Egypt and after us discussing it for awhile, Moamen suggested a visit to Esna Temple this Friday. So after picking up Moamen we hit the road at 7.00am having briefed the police that we would not be continuing past Esna and that we would be on our own from there.
We arrived at Esna lock and proceeded to the West bank to the village of Ezbet Abu Humus to meet with Adel Abd el Satar who is an inspector at Esna Temple and would be joining us for the day. From there we drove to Sheikh Musa’s tomb on top of one of the smaller gebels in the village. Its natural location provides a valley in which the small village has grown up in. The town of Gebelein, whose modern archaeological site name is known as Naga el-Gherira or Ezbet Abu Humus, is located in Upper Egypt 29 km south of Luxor/Thebes on the West Bank of the Nile. Its name in Arabic means "the two mountains," and this derives from its Kemetic name of Inerty, "The Two Rocks." The site consists of a western embankment (manmade with a central gulley resembling a canal) having numerous tombs from various periods and an eastern gebel having the ancient temple of Hathor located on top. A mud brick wall fortified the temple during the Late Period. The town took its name, calling itself Pr-Hwt-Hr , (Per-Hathor) which later became Pathyris /Aphroditopolis under the Ptolemies. The site was in use right through the Graeco-Roman period and possibly into the Gnostic/Coptic eras.







The Eastern gebel itself is strewn with shallow graves from various periods. The escarpment used to be home to a modern Egyptian army look out post, but has fallen into disrepair over the years. The actual post was built on the foundations of the earlier temple structure, of which nothing remains today except for a couple of pink granite pillar bases and some foundation walls constructed of mud bricks, of which some bear cartouches.







The remains of the mud brick structure were posing many questions to us.  Firstly, where was the approach/entrance to the site? The pathway that we had taken was rocky and not well trodden, seemingly it had not been there for the thousands of years that the site had, and given the fact that the temple had been dismantled and removed from the site, there were no real evident pathways to associate either the removal or the existence of a site at all at this location. There were, however, still evidence of the mud brick foundations lying very close and precariously to the edge of the gebel: this may suggest the actual entrance and approach to the temple was by means of an artificial, manmade stairway or causeway from the bottom on the eastern side, which had direct access to the Nile itself. The temple complex could also have had a dual purpose, not only was it a place of pilgrimage for the followers of Hathor, but also by means of collecting taxes from the river traffic and possibly military purposes due to its vantage point across the eastern and western terrain, but also due to its view over the Nile and its traffic. Given the strategic location of such a temple it is no wonder that the modern Egyptian army utilised the site for its posting. A similar site that collected taxes from the river traffic was at Gebel el-Silsila, the very name meaning “chain”: legend has it that a chain in fact spanned the river Nile at that point and it was the chain that prevented the Nile traffic from passing without paying its taxes.

Returning to Gebelein, the base of the gebel is a sheer drop and is impossible to scale at any point except where the mud brick foundations can be found. It was at this point that we were met by our other guest for the day, Amer Amin, another inspector from Esna Temple. He to wished to join the hunting party as we climbed down the uneven slope which at times had the better of all of us as we slipped and skidded our way down: without, I may add, breaking our necks!






Once at the bottom, you can appreciate the strategic location of the site at the top of the gebel: the sheer vertical walls of the cliff side gave it a formidable presence and protection; the height at which the temple would have stood would have been most impressive to the approaching traveller. Located at the bottom on the eastern side a small cenotaph has been cut into the base of the cliff. Approached via a small climb up the base of the gebel (no stairs have been cut into the stone surface), the shrine is entered by a small open doorway giving access to the first chamber with another door immediately in front of you and two small niches either side. Continuing through the second doorway leads you into the main chamber with two small niches to both left and right, and directly in front in an alignment with the doorways the shrine itself. Unfortunately nearly all the relief has all but disappeared except for a few instances; one can be clearly made out to be that of Hathor. The discussion that took place amongst us was whether she was in a seated position or standing position as it was not easy to determine the exact positioning, but made for healthy discussion of relief work.


After a small banana break at the base, we continued around northwards into the valley between the two mountains, walking through the mud brick village that had utilised this safe and protected valley. The mini bus was awaiting our return near the Islamic cemetery; it was now time for breakfast. We drove a short distance to one of the many road side cafes serving fool and falafel: we ate and drank heartily and then proceeded to the second gebel situated due west of the first.



At first glance the hillside has no interesting characteristics, it is not until you actually stand on it that you start to see the undulations of the hundreds of tombs that have been dug into its surface: very similar to the Coptic burial pits at Malqata in Luxor (next to Medinat Habu). I (John) took the opportunity of climbing into one tomb that had been cut into the cliff side: there were no relief scenes and the tomb itself had not been excavated or emptied from what I could gather. At the end of the rock and sand filled passage I could make out a rectangular room with clean dressed walls and ceiling but again this chamber had been filled with rock and sand debris over the centuries from being open to the elements. Immediately next to this tomb was a mud brick structure that had been first excavated back in 1935 by the Italian mission from the Museum of Turin. Unfortunately the lack of protection from weathering and locals has not been beneficial to this site and it now stands buried again, but one could still make out the structure from the existing mud brick walls that were visible. It seemed as if it were aligned to the Nile with a large open courtyard to the front followed by a square pillared chamber having ten pillars five of which were visible, but given its symmetrical layout it would sensible to assume that there would be another five square pillars to the other side of the vaulted doorway that gave access to the tomb itself, the tomb entrance has been sealed by the S.C.A as it contains much of the archaeological finds from the area, directly behind the doorway to the tomb sits an open cut shaft, now filled with sand and debris, given though its depth and location directly behind the doorway, it is reasonable to assume that the tomb descends at a steep angle thus allowing this open shaft not to interfere with the tomb itself.

We continued exploring the area taking many photos of the numerous open pits/tombs, some of which were mud brick lined and others that were completely destroyed by wear and tear. As we walked the length of the western embankment it became more and more obvious that this was a man made structure taking advantage of the rock formations carved out by the Nile over thousands of years: the gully or canal for better words that ran its length could well of provided an means of access to the “cave of Hathor”, during either the inundation of the Nile or by means of actually permanently flooding the canal by the waters of the Nile. The cave is located mid way in the first embankment; the cave system is open and is obvious again that man has played his hand in moulding this natural formation to suit his own needs. It is said that Hathor dwells within the cave and could well have been the place at which a ceremonial boat could have used the canal to ferry her from the cave to Dendera in a ceremonial passage similar to that of a barque shrine travelling from site to site or a deity or God visiting a certain temple. The gully/canal ends by opening onto the modern village today at the far northern end. The central valley between the two gebels could never have sustained habitation during the ancient dynasties due to the inundation of the Nile every year. It would have been totally fool hardy to build any structure in the path of the rising Nile waters. If you analyse the landscape you can clearly see that the Nile water have formed the two islands in the Nile, and that the land area between the gebels was used for agriculture as much as it is today, and the man made gully/canal stretches towards the north. There is a point in the canal that looks like it could have been a harbour/landing place for the cave of Hathor.




Of course the gully/canal does also end abruptly at its southern end: is does have the characteristic though of curving at this southern end and if one looks at the eastern gebel. There is a gully/canal at its southern end too. The two gullies/canals may well have joined during the ancient times in which it was in use, thus protecting the land area between the two gebels, allowing habitation to take place at the foot of both cliffs. The land further south of the two mountains does flatten out considerably and this probably has a lot to do with the agriculture that has taken place there over the hundreds of years of cultivation, but there is a water course that runs inland and this may have had a relationship with our gullies/canals. Further exploration and investigation is required to ascertain this relationship and the function of the gullies/canals.

Gebelein may well have been as important as Abydos was, given the amount of burials around the cave system and the temple location on the eastern Gebel. It is quite ironic that the temple of Hathor is located in this part of Egypt given the location of the protected Dababiyna quarry on the East Bank of the Nile, which overlooks the two mountains. This area clearly shows within the strata of the rock formations and shale the beginning of Mother Earth herself, and that her temple overlooked these monumental stages in earth’s evolution given her authority as the mother goddess is a nice touch.

The cave today houses a spectacular array of bats that fly around you as you enter this sacred place. I must admit at this point that I was not exactly at my best due to fact that I am totally scared of the little buggers. But I stood my ground and took it all in. On leaving the cave system we proceeded a little further down the road to the main village, which happens to lie at the northern end of the gully as previously mentioned. If you inspect the landscape you will notice that the gully/canal has been cut just short of the village and that it did indeed at one time continue where the village stands today.






Just past this point sits what has been determined by the pottery shards as a Ptolemaic temple and associated buildings. Not much is left of the temple itself except for some mud brick foundations and a burial pit in the centre of the foundations. To the left of this structure, built into the hillside, were the domed houses belonging to the local inhabitants of that period. The Italian mission documented these in 1935, concluding that there were similar structures to the right hands side too. However, this still has not been excavated at this time. The pottery shards that we found located around the site dated from various different periods, suggesting that due to the lack of actual evidence it would be difficult to present an absolute date of the site.

Many artefacts have been found Gebelein and are dotted around various museums around the world: some of the finest early sculptures of lions have been found here together with different styles of linen with decoration including dancing women. Various alabaster jars and other household and ceremonial ware have also been documented. It is unfortunate that the magna itself is no longer visible and that we only have the necropolis to excavate. Suggestively, the actual magna actually lies beneath the modern village at the extreme end of the eastern embankment. Only further excavations will determine this to be accurate or not.

After finishing at Gebelein we continued our day of exploration by crossing the Nile to the east side to visit the protected area of Dababiyna: a once active and thriving quarry. On reaching the site, through, the mud brick villages and dirt track road made great trouble for our mini bus driver, who was not pleased at the fact that he was driving his gleaming white mini bus in such a dirty terrain. But he coped with the experience quite well, especially given the fact on reaching the quarry site there was no shade to park in at all, again adding to his demur.

We climbed the small well trodden track strewn with various pottery shards from all different periods. On reaching the summit of this small hill we gazed upon a cavern quarry with all the same characteristics as east bank Gebel el-Silsila. A stela was once erected by a Pharaoh giving the reasons for extracting stone from this particular quarry, of which is only preserved the top frieze with partial recognition of the sun disc and one cobra. The caverns were a gem to us and our research with various inscriptions and graffiti from numerous periods and cultures. The floor of the cavern had been excavated either by a mission or by someone hoping to find antiquity, but the pit that had been left gave us an opportunity to gaze upon the many layers of pottery shards and working levels of the quarry at various different times. This quarry had been particular busy in its history and the levels of strata bore witness to this. I continued on foot around the escarpment to be met by another cavern entrance this time the floor levels on the outside had risen considerably and the entrance instead of being of extreme height was in fact a crouch to enter. The ceiling had a similarity to that of the Theban quarries in so much as the ceiling had been gridded out by means of red paint and the addition in parts by hieroglyphic text, unfortunately hard to distinguish and translate at the time, but I am sure given time and the help of computer soft ware, we will be able to decipher the hieroglyphic text when returning.











The quarries were extensive and not just assigned to caverns, but open face as well. There was a remarkable difference in the geology of the quarry, which was the main reason for the area coming under the protection of UNESCO; the natural rock formations visible give a time line from life on earth first appeared and it can be traced through all the stratas in these rock faces. There is so much more that can be said about these three areas that we visited today, never actually reaching Esna Temple as planned due to all excitement provided in the other locations, but as this is a brief report we will leave a more detailed account till later.





We would like to take this opportunity to thank Moamen Saad, Amer Amin and Adel Abd el Satar for a fantastic day and all their help, without them the trip would not have been possible.



There are various articles and journals which have been published on the subject of Gebelein and it is worthy to carry out further investigation into this little known area.

Dr John Ward & Dr Maria Nilsson
Trustees
The Sirius Project
in association with the Historical Preservation Society

 

Arch news April 26-27th

The meaning of words, new evidence of ancient Maya history:
Not so much breaking news, but more of an update on the Egyptian excavation at the Temple of Amenhotep III:
Lost Mayan city found under layers of rain forest:
Medieval treasure found in Austria:
Bear DNA clue to cave art:
Has the mystery of Easter Island finally been solved?
Trove of 4000 year old remains being unearthed in Uttar Pradesh:
Roman tomb found under Naples toxic waste dump:
El Mirador, the lost city of the Mayans:
Diamond light illuminates silver decay in Catalonian altarpieces:
Dig, draw and digitise guard houses of county Mayo:
Missing parts of the sphinx found in German cave:
Iraq’s ancient past:
Tell el Basta end of season 2011:
Harvard Egyptologists on protecting Egypt’s cultural heritage post-revolution:
Who was afraid of Prince Rupert's dog?: The enduring power of seventeenth-century propaganda:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter arch news

17th century Swedish warship won new lease after salvage:
Lahun Excavation is shut down:
Archaeologists explore site for answers about first European farmers:
Indians first to ride monsoon winds
Scribbled by a community of nuns – Ancient Coptic graffiti adorns walls of 3,200 year-old Egyptian temple:
Tameside castle was built to keep 'Scots from Cheshire'
Anglo-Saxon hall unearthed at Bamburgh Castle
Fin cop hillfort unearthing a mystery:
Two ancient tombs unearthed in Hanoi’s new urban center
Unknown ancient kingdom found in China:
historical walk in Herculaneum:
Fossil sirenians give scientists new look at ancient climate

Friday, April 22, 2011

Online library

The Sirius Project is currently structuring an online library (https://sites.google.com/site/siriusprojectegypt/online-library), which eventually will incorporate literature from various research fields (Egyptology, Ancient History, Symbolism, Art History, Iconography, Semiotics, Numerology, Archaeology, Philosophy, Hermetics, Mysticism, Freemasonry, Templarism, etc., etc.). The collection provided is much based on the work of dedicated scholars and laymen within their field, who generously have given access to their collections. For that, we express our gratefulness! Sharing thoughts and ideas, material and publications is an important step in reaching out to a larger amount of people regardless of professional background. We hope that you will enjoy our library, which we must emphasize consists exclusively of links to established uploaders, such as ETANA  Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, Google books, etc. You will find included in the material also journals uploaded by various societies, universities and institutions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Arch news April 21st

Egyptian museum served as torture chamber?
Evolution of super-human brain...
Did Neanderthals believe in afterlife?
Roman settlement reconstruction provides a picture of the past:
Mindful meditation can change the decision making process
New theory of evolution for spiral galaxy arms
Ancient Roman mausoleum found under tons of garbage


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Alternative usage of travertine (=Egyptian alabaster)

Is there anyone who is aware of an alternative usage for travertine, the so called Egyptian alabaster (other than making bowls, figurines and minor objects)? Please note that this Egyptian alabaster is different from "real" alabaster, thus not the material used for larger size items. The main difference between the two is that travertine is a calcite while alabaster is gypsum. Calcite is occasionally documented as being used as an ingredience in medical remedies, and we are very interested in finding similar application areas. Please feel free to reply either here or privately to John or myself.
We wish you a great day!

Arch news etc. April 20th

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wadi Hammamat

Well we finally got round to using our permissions from the S.C.A. to visit Wadi Hammamat yesterday. The journey there was pretty uneventful except for the usual sleepy day dreams.

There is definitely something different about the Eastern Desert compared to the western one. You can feel the difference as soon as you enter it, not too sure how to word the feelings, but there is let’s say a calm about it, a more relaxed atmosphere. This could be attributed to the cooling easterly wind, which carries with it moisture from the Red Sea, hence the reason for so much vegetation in the wadis as you drive through. Wadi Hammamat is steeped in history and even today with its newly tarmac road it retains the charm of a trade route in way or another. The trucks that slowly crawl through the wadi carrying their loads destined for either end prove that the trade routes that were first found in Egypt all those years ago are still important today. It provides a life line to the various communities to which the delivery of such goods are a valuable source of income, and not only to the recipient but also to the small communities that still live and work in these wadis. One such community, if it can be called such, was the cafe in the centre of the wadi half way between Qift and Quseir. The area is known as Bir Umm Fawakhir and has been documented through history by many travellers and more recently by the Bir Umm Fawakhir Project, which was under the supervision of the Oriental Institute. The project was managed by Carol Meyer and the reports, which can be found online, are well worth reading through. They give an in-depth account of the life in the wadi, not only based around the mining that took place there, but also the day to day living of the inhabitants of this village and the outlining villages in the nearby wadis.

The cafe that lies in Bir Umm Fawakhir was a welcome sight for us and provided us with the much needed hot water for our coffee which our bodies was crying out for. It was there at the cafe that we were met by our guides for the day, which our beloved friend and archaeological colleague Moamen Saad had organised for us. Moamen who has accompanied us on some previous trips was the former inspector for the Red Sea area and it was this area that he was familiar with as it fell under his jurisdiction. It was hard to tell who was more excited at finally being in Wadi Hammamat, Moamen or us.

After a much needed coffee break we were introduced to Awad Ali Mahmoud, one of the guardians of the area. After the introductions we set off on our first walk of the day to the so called workman’s village that just happened to be situated across from the cafe in one of the wadis. This village has played a major part in the research carried out by the Oriental Institute and has been investigated, mapped and in place excavated to determine its date of habitation as well as its main functions and that of its inhabitants. The conclusion set out in the annual reports. We were lucky to have arrived so early in the morning as to allow us time to walk around and explore the entire site. I (John) did my usual and walked off in my own little world, taking in as much of it as possible, trying to make sense of the mixture of housing and their layouts, architecturally speaking the huts had been built with due care and diligence, the main sandy road that ran down the centre of the village helped bring to life images of the village in its heyday. The houses are in extremely good condition given their remoteness and the activity of looters in the area. There is still much evidence of door jams, complete windows, niches and such like architecturally details that I could draw an image of the house in their entirety. The small narrow streets, if they could be called such, that ran between the houses would of been well shaded and given the close proximity of the houses to one another this would of been a desired effect given the climate and environmental conditions out there which are harsh to say the least, especially in the mid day sun.

The village, though, did lack the usual utility buildings such as a main grain store, church/sanctuary, communal meeting room or hall. Without these buildings being present it does pose the question as to whether this village was inhabited all year round or whether it was frequented as and when gold from the mines in the locality was required or other minerals, stone, etc., for that matter. Was the village a kind of modern interpretation for barracks? There was also no mass of pottery sherds that you usually equate to ancient towns and villages. The pottery that was on lying on the surface was in abundance, but by no means in the quantities that we have become accustomed to. The sporadic layout of the village also raises questions as to how it evolved. Was this ongoing project, new houses being built for new incoming families of workers it did not seem as if the village had evolved normally around itself? We concluded from what could be seen and the evidence on the ground that the village was indeed some kind of billeting for the workers of the mines and quarries and that it had evolved of a long period of time, for ever being extended to house more and more workmen, some of which we would say lived their entire life there, but it was by no means a permanently inhabited village, there was just too much missing from the picture to prove this.

During the walk about we were able to photograph many differing types of pottery, these pictures can be found on “MySpace albums” for you to look at. The pottery mostly dated from the Byzantine periods and Roman periods (but also from previous periods); however we did find some fine ware which one would not normally attribute to a workman’s village, not exactly their “cup of tea” so to speak. Most of the fine ware could be found at the base of the foot hills from the run offs: I was compelled to follow one of the trails and this led me to the top of one of the foothills where at the summit I discovered a collection of broken fine ware and some painted pottery sherds. It was as if the fine ware had been deliberately broken at this location on the summit of the hill, could this of been some kind of offering/votive? There was no plausible reason for the accumulation of the fine ware in such a remote location and it was obvious that they had not been collected and merely left there, due to the run off along the slopes of the hills to their bases where the trails began, the reason had to be for some kind of libation act, possibly giving thanks for water, wine, as water would off been and still is a valuable commodities in this part of the world, in my mind worth its weight in gold, excuse the pun. However, the only problem with this theory is that the Oriental Institute report and findings pinpoint the village to a Byzantine era with possible links to the late Roman period, this would not therefore allow for such pagan activities as libation acts of worship by the Coptic inhabitants, possibly Gnostic but definitely not Coptic.
The time was coming close for us to depart and the others were calling for us to return to the cafe. There was enough time for some quick photographs of the fine ware and some bird’s eye shots of the village in the wadi below before returning to the cafe. The village left more questions in mind than originally turning up with. Even with the Oriental Institutes reports in hand there are still huge gaps in the village history and its function in such inhospitable place.

On returning to the cafe I asked Moamen if any further excavation or projects had taken place at Bir Umm Fawakhir, but to his knowledge none had since the Oriental Institutes project. Further investigation, I believe, is warranted at the site and the locality to determine exactly the time line of construction on the site and its function with regards to the silk trade route and also more importantly its relationship with the local Bedouins. As in the Western Desert, which we have travelled extensively, much can be learnt from the Bedouins with their deep traditional beliefs and customs. Something may just be sitting there in their culture that may shed some light on this now dormant ghost town.

From the cafe we headed westward towards Wadi Hammamat itself, stopping at various locations along the way which Moamen had knowledge of either Petroglyphs or Pharaonic graffiti, which we could photograph and later catalogue for our research. We were attended by our second guide and guardian for the day: Nassr Hamdan, a local Bedouin who had first rate knowledge of the area and knew exactly where to look for the inscriptions, which are scattered along the road side on the faces of the once busy quarries, but all but quiet and still now.

The Bedouin are a remarkable people in my book, a whole culture within Egypt itself, I have come to trust the Bedouin of Egypt’s desert terrain. They sometimes act in the most irrational way to us westerners, but look a little more closely and what you actually see is a person who is in total harmony with his surroundings. Their knowledge of the desert and how to respect the environment in which we are guests in is second to none and should always in my book be adhered to, to the letter.

One hour rolled into four due to all the off - stop - start - stop – start -  at all the locations along the road side towards Qift. The climbing up and down over the rugged foothills made me in desperate need of a coffee: thankfully our driver Ahmed had kept my thermos cup full of hot water and it was time for me to relax and watch form the window as Maria jumped in and out of the van taking the all important photographs for us and our research.

The next major stop was what Moamen (and the Egyptians) referred to as the bir, a hand dug water hole, possibly dating to the Roman Period. It stretched down to a depth of 34 meters with a winding spiral staircase with windows at intervals led the way to its bottom. The staircase had unfortunately been left to rack and ruin at the bottom and was precarious to say the least. It was s shame to see such a skill of engineering and a life support for so many over the years being left just fall apart like this. The amount of work that had gone into providing the travellers over the years with water from this hole seemed to be in vain as modern man and his plastic spring water bottle driving his automobile along this tarmac road was oblivious that this was once the life line for the travellers of this road and if it were not for this water hole so many would probably of perished in the heat of the unforgiving desert.

The bir was once part of a major station or fort with stone walling and lookout towers. Today the outer wall can be still seen and the front entrance to the fort aligned to the north. Scattered around the protecting wall of the water hole were half broken unfinished sarcophagi: an ironic reminder for me that the desert can give life as well and take it away.

We continued on and came to the final stop of the day, Qasr el Banat or “Palaces of the girls” as it is also referred to as. Here a lonely outcrop sits on one side of the road inscribed with graffiti from various time periods another reminder of how long this trade routes has been here and how many different travellers have trodden these lonely paths. On the other side of the road another station this time the interior walls and outer walls were clearly defined and one could get a clear image of the structure from these emerging foundations. The station would have been a pleasant site to the weary traveller as he approached this site form either route, knowing that food, water and shelter would be on offer even a possibility of business may be on offer. The site had undergone some excavation but most of the trenches that were located within the walls of the building were attributed to looters looking for the possibility of antiquity. Good luck digging in this heat.

Overall the day proved to be an enormous help to our research and into the understanding of one of Egypt’s most well known Quarry areas, not just for its gold and precious stones and other such material but also for its wealth of inscriptions and rock art which we were so privileged to see and photograph. A most memorable day again, it would not of been possible if it were not for Moamen Saad and the permission of the SCA: all of whom we are very grateful to.

I would like to think that we will return to this area as we both believe there is much more to see and investigate in Wadi Hammamat, with special regard to the quarries, which in my opinion we did not even scratch the surface on. The entire area was at one time alive with cottage industry, but it will take some time to investigate and explore the numerous wadis and cliffs to truly find the massive quarries that are referred to in history. I refer, of course, to the great expedition that was organised by Ramessenakhte, the high priest of Thebes for the removal of Bekhen stone for the statues of Ramesses IV around 1150BC. The Map or Turin papyrus was drawn by Amennakhte, son of Ipuy, and provides great detail of Wadi Hammamat including the gold mines, Bir Umm Fawakhir and the quarry face itself, but the main detail of the TP is the description it offers of the expedition itself. A total of 8362 men were sent to Wadi Hammamat according to the inscription left by them on the face of the quarry which we visited ourselves, but this figure just beggars belief. The workers village at Bir Umm Fawakhir could never have supported such an amount of men nor could the wells in the vicinity provided enough water for such an outrageous amount of men not to mention their associated families that would have joined them on the trip and the associated auxiliary team behind the scenes providing food, water, shelter etc. However, saying this, it does prove that the Bir Umm Fawakhir was in function at that time and that there was a settlement there no matter how small or large it was, this does in some way warrant further investigation at the site of Umm Bir Fawakhir to see whether in fact the ancient village itself lies either beneath the sands of time.

This amount of men and their entourage would have left an indelible mark on the landscape of this wadi, but we did not see this. However saying that, if you had a total of 1000 men left permanently at the quarry face while the other 7000 or so dragged the stone back and forth to Thebes, then we might be reaching an accurate account of what took place, it is exactly this picture that stirs the imagination when entering Wadi Hammamat as mentioned previously, so many men working in a common goal for what they perceived as the living God, nothing was impossible: quite a feat of not just engineering but motivation of men. It is a shame that we today as a society cannot work together in such harmony.

We will continue to research the area and bring you missives as and when we find out more that is relevant to the topic.

Until next time.
Dr. John Ward KT & Dr. Maria Nilsson