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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Brooklyn Museum

Dig Diary, Feb. 14: 

The hot air balloons usually stay over the west bank of the Nile, but sometimes the wind blows them east. On the morning of February 6 we were greeted by the sight of these two balloons drifting by just south of Mut. The week was rather uneventful, although our western square is getting a bit more interesting.

By February 8, however, we finally reached the bottom of the huge stratum of broken pottery that we had been excavating seemingly forever. Beneath it on the east side of the square we found remains of a plaster surface badly cut by later pitting. Just to its west (to the left of the meter stick) there was a patch of mud brick debris that looked promising.

Abdel Aziz (left), his brother Ayman (center) and Abdel Hamid (right) went to work on the mass, which soon turned into a row of organized brick that is appearing under their brushes and trowels.

By the end of the week the row of brick had developed into a clear wall as you can see in this photo looking to the northwest. So far it is 3.5 courses deep and runs into the south baulk. It is well below the diagonal wall we found in our first week and is, in fact, almost 2 meters below the modern surface. Because we are running short of time, we have decided to concentrate on the east half of the square, the new wall acting as our western boundary.

Aside from ostraca (of which we now have 26) and pottery vessels, the small finds this year have been rather mundane. This week, however, we found these two interesting objects. The faience figure on the left plays a musical instrument that rests on his erect (and outsized) penis. This type of figure was quite common, particularly in the later periods of pharaonic Egypt. Brooklyn has a similar and more complete example in limestone. Dr. Ben, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist with a long-time interest in Egyptology, is making a study of female fertility figures such as the one on the right, which are usually found broken. Because sex was strongly linked to ideas of regeneration and rebirth, such objects had as much of a religious as an erotic meaning.

Did I mention that we have a lot of pottery this year? This is just a few days' worth. Once the pottery has been washed, every single sherd has to be examined carefully, even the plain body sherds. Not only do we look for pieces that will join to form a whole pot (or at least a complete profile of a pot), but almost all our ostraca this year were found in the pottery baskets. Julia cheerfully spends her mornings on the pottery mats doing this sorting and photographing interesting or diagnostic shapes such as rims, bases and handles that tell you about the shape of the whole vessel.

Dr. Ben was only able to be with us a short time this season, most of which he spent either sorting or drawing pottery. As you can see from his expression, drawing a pot takes great concentration to be sure you get the precise measurements you need. It also requires patience, which Ben has in abundance. The original pot and Ben's drawing are on the right. The right half shows the pot's profile, the left half the shape of its rim and handles and the thickness of its walls. Thank you, Ben.

There is always something to watch on the Nile. On this afternoon, a motor launch was ferrying a number of Luxor residents and tourists to the west bank while a felucca in full sail provided a pleasant jaunt for visitors.

Posted by Richard Fazzini

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