Archaeologists excavate a cultic pit near temple of Ptah at Karnak
An archaeological team working at Karnak in Egypt has just completed the excavation of a pit for cultic objects (favissa), which was discovered in early December 2014 near the temple of the god Ptah. The dig has unearthed 38 statues, statuettes and precious objects, making this an exceptional find, both for the quantity and quality of the religious artefacts brought to light.
The team also used a new recording method during the dig which makes it possible to virtually reconstruct each step of the discovery with millimetre accuracy.
Temple of Ptah
The French-Egyptian Centre for the Study of the Temples of Karnak – Cfeetk) was founded to study and restore the Amun-Re precinct at Karnak (Luxor). Since October 2008, an interdisciplinary programme has been dedicated to the temple of Ptah, located at the northern end of the temple of Amun-Re.
Built during the reign of Thutmose III (c.1479 – c.1424 BC), the temple of Ptah was restored, enlarged and adapted throughout the period before the reign of Emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD). Ptah was associated with the Egyptian town of Memphis.
The favissa was uncovered two metres behind the temple, and contained 38 statues, statuettes and precious objects made of limestone, greywacke, copper alloy and Egyptian frit, sometimes covered in gold. These religious objects had been placed around the lower part of a seated statue of Ptah.
The finds included:
– 14 statues, statuettes and figurines of Osiris,
– 3 statuettes of baboons,
– 2 statuettes representing the goddess Mut, including one covered in hieroglyphics,
– 1 head and fragments of a cat statuette (Bastet),
– 2 unidentified statuette bases,
– 1 small plaque and the upper part of a small stele marked with the name of the god Ptah,
– Several inlays (iris, cornea, beards, headdresses, etc.)
Beginning of the 25th Egyptian dynasty
A sphinx statue and a small statue head probably representing the god Imhotep were also discovered in the upper part of the pit and fragments of a stele were found at the edge. According to the ceramic material found in the pit and the epigraphic data, this collection of statues dates back to the 8th-7th century BC, which marked the beginning of the 25th Egyptian dynasty.
This discovery is exceptional in Egypt in terms of both size and quality. Another aspect that makes it special is the recording method used during the dig. The excavation of the objects was recorded by a topographer specialised in archaeology who made a series of photogrammetric reconstructions by high-density image correlation, from the discovery of the first object until the complete removal of the statues from the pit. This technique requires the compilation of hundreds of photographs taken during the fieldwork to make a virtual 3-D reconstruction of each step of the excavation. By linking these photogrammetric reconstructions with very precise topographical reference points – to within a few millimetres – this method makes it possible to locate all the objects after they have been removed and study their layout in detail. It also enabled the scientists to assemble a video of the whole removal operation, which needed to be completed rapidly due to the objects’ value, while preserving the data collected on the site as it was discovered.
All the artefacts brought to light are being restored in the Cfeetk laboratory. The excavation is ongoing and could shed light on the organisation of the surroundings of the Temple of Ptah – as well as explain the excavation of this outstanding favissa.