Friday, June 20, 2008

Hopkins in Egypt Today: Summer 2008

RJ Note: This sounds like a lot of fun. Join in on the archaeology dig in Egypt.

Follow along online as Johns Hopkins University Egyptologist Betsy Bryan and her team of graduate students, artists, conservators and photographers expand their investigation of Mut Temple this summer, turning their attention to the temple's Sacred Lake. Bryan and her crew are once again in Luxor, Egypt, sharing their work via "Hopkins in Egypt Today," their popular digital diary offering a virtual window into day-to-day life on an archaeological dig.

With new posts appearing daily through mid-July, visitors to "Hopkins in Egypt Today" at www.jhu.edu/egypttoday/ will find photos of Bryan and her colleagues working on site in Luxor. In collaboration with the American Research Center in Egypt, which also supports Johns Hopkins' work inside the temple proper, Bryan will excavate on the northeast arm of the lake after ARCE's engineers have drained the lake. Excavation will proceed from the region of an ancient stone dock in a swath around 20 meters in breadth down into the basin of the drained lake. Any materials found in the lake bed will be conserved and desalinated near the bank of the lake before being transferred to a protected environment. The primary goal of this brief dig is to develop procedures for more extensive excavation of the lake next year. The lake will be refilled with less saline water after the work is completed in July and will be drained again next winter when the dig resumes.

The team will consist of former Johns Hopkins graduate student Violaine Chauvet, now a lecturer in Egyptology at University of Liverpool in England; photographers Jay Van Rensselaer and Will Kirk; Hiroko Kariya, stone conservator; Will Schenck and Keli Alberts, artists; Lotfi Hassan, conservator; and three Johns Hopkins graduate students, Ashley Fiutko, Shaina Norvell-Cold, and Meredith Fraser, all of whom are finishing their first-year studies.

Joining the team in Egypt later this month will be Edward Bouwer, Abel Wolman Professor of Environmental Engineering and chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins. Bouwer's role will be to provide advice and recommendations on water management and contamination issues. The water quality in the lake is poor because of excess nutrients and salts and potential contamination from herbicides sprayed to control vegetation, Bouwer said. The water supply and quality issues influence the disposal of the water, and there are concerns about exposure to the excavators. Bouwer will also help with a plan to maintain good water quality in lake after the restoration project is completed.

The goal of the "Hopkins in Egypt Today" Web site is to educate visitors by showing them the elements of archaeological work in progress. The daily photos and detailed captions emphasize not only discoveries, but the teamwork among Bryan, her colleagues, students and their "gufti," the local crew members who are trained in archaeology. That teamwork is essential to a successful dig, Bryan said. The Web site typically garners more than 50,000 hits every winter, when the dig ordinarily is active.

According to Bryan, modern-day Luxor is rich in finds from ancient Egypt's New Kingdom, like the major discovery made by the Johns Hopkins team in 2006: a 3,400-year-old nearly intact statue of Queen Tiy, one of the queens of the powerful king Amenhotep III. Bryan has said that the statue is "one of the true masterpieces of Egyptian art." Bryan is the Alexander Badawy Professor in Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Johns Hopkins. Her work is funded by grants from the American Research Center in Egypt and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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