Saturday, November 21: In the evening, we visited Deir el Medina, the village of the artisans who were employed constructing and decorating the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. In addition to the town, we visited several tombs (sorry, no pictures allowed inside!) and the nearby Ptolemaic temple. Here's a slide show of our visit:
Deir el Medina, towards the east
The tombs of the artisans and their pyramidal superstructures
Four Headed Ram in the Sanctuary of Amun-Sokar-Osiris within the Ptolemaic Temple
Saturday, November 21: In the morning, we met Ray Johnson, the tireless director of Chicago House, for a fascinating tour of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Ray pointed out all the interesting work going on around the temple, including the block yard where conservators are preserving blocks and trying to make joins between now separated pieces. The main temple was built by Ramses III, but we also toured the 18th Dynasty small temple and passed briefly over the tombs of the God's Wives of Amun. Houses from later settlement can still be seen following the remains of the enclosure wall. You can download the Oriental Institute Epigraphic Survey publications concerning Medinet Habu for FREE online. See the links listed here. It was a great way to start a morning!
Court with Osiride Statues
Ray Johnson explaining ongoing work at Medinet Habu
The Colossi of Memnon sit before what had been the enormous mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. Most of the mortuary temple has been destroyed by later pharaohs who re-used the stone in their own monuments. A portion of it still lies under the modern road which passes by the complex. The name derives from Greek travelers who visited the massive statues and reported to hear one of them "sing," associating the sound with the Trojan hero Memnon. We stopped briefly for photos during a very busy day on the west bank.
Friday, November 20: A visit to the Valley of the Kings started our day, but unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside the tombs. However, a virtual tour can be taken from home by visiting the Theban Mapping Project website. For the very interesting compositions inside these tombs, known to Egyptologists as the "Underworld Books," you can consult the very useful volume by Erik Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999). Very interesting visits to the tombs of Ramses V/VI and Tutankhamun highlighted our brief tour through the valley. After a beautiful rooftop lunch at the Amenophis Hotel, we continued with the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari ("the Northern Monastery"). The sun setting behind the Theban mountain was a perfect backdrop to a beautiful temple in the cliffs of western Thebes - nestled in the cliffs along with the mortuary temples of Montuhotep II and Thutmosis III.
Loyal blog readers take note: we are currently on the Amarante Isis cruise ship and having a blast. Unfortunately the internet connection will not allow for photo uploads and blogging, but stay tuned - updates await when we return!
For those of you who want to review the architecture, reliefs, and inscriptions from Karnak and Luxor temples, you can download the volumes of the Oriental Institute's Epigraphic Survey from the OI website:
Karnak OIP 106. The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, Volume 1, Part 1: The Wall Reliefs. By Harold Hayden Nelson. Edited by William J. Murnane. Originally published in 1981.
OIP 107. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak, Volume IV: The Battle Reliefs of King Sety I. The Epigraphic Survey. Originally published in 1986.
OIP 74. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak, Volume III. The Bubastite Portal. By the Epigraphic Survey. Originally published in 1954.
OIP 35. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak, Volume II. Ramses III's Temple within the Great Inclosure of Amon, Part II; and Ramses III's Temple in the Precinct of Mut. By The Epigraphic Survey. Originally published in 1936.
OIP 25. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak, Volume I. Ramses III's Temple with the Great Inclosure of Amon, Part I. The Epigraphic Survey. Originally published in 1936.
OIP 123. Temple of Khonsu, Volume 3. The Graffiti on the Khonsu Temple Roof at Karnak: A Manifestation of Personal Piety. Helen Jacquet-Gordon. 2003.
Luxor OIP 116. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 2: The Facade, Portals, Upper Register Scenes, Columns, Marginalia, and Statuary in the Colonnade Hall. The Epigraphic Survey. 1998.
OIP 112. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Luxor Temple, Volume 1: The Festival Procession of Opet in the Colonnade Hall. The Epigraphic Survey. 1994.
November 19, Thursday: In the afternoon, we went over to Luxor temple - a perfect compliment to seeing Karnak temple earlier in the day. A sphinx alleyway, now under renovation, once linked the two sites. We were lucky enough to have our tour of Luxor provided by none other than Ray Johnson, director of the Oriental Institute Epigraphic Survey, whose headquarters in Luxor, known as Chicago House, received us for a warm reception in the evening. At Luxor temple, focus was on the battle scenes of Ramses II, the divine birth of Amenhotep III, and the recently conserved Roman paintings which show that the apse in the back of the temple once functioned in the divine cult of the emperors under the tetrarchy, rather than as a church as previously thought. We would like to thank Ray for taking time out of his busy schedule to give us an amazingly insightful tour of the temple loaded with all kinds of insider information!
First Pylon of Luxor Temple: Sun forming the Akhet hieroglyph with the pylon
First Pylon as depicted in the first court
Divine Birth of Amenhotep III: Khnum creates the body and ka of the king on the potters wheel
Yesterday we spent the morning visiting the Temple of Amun at Karnak, one of the largest temple complexes in the world. Needless to say, it is an amazing and overwhelming site to visit. We concentrated on the New Kingdom remains such as the obelisk of Hatshepsut ("Foremost of the Noble Women"), the Akh-Menu ("Effective of Monuments") of Tuthmosis III, battle scenes of Sety I on the northern enclosure wall, and the statues of Ramses III. However, a brief trip through the open-air museum allowed us time to view the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut/Tuthmosis III and the White Chapel of Senwosret I (Senwosret = "Man of the powerful (goddess)"). As a way to review the complex, visit the Digital Karnak website and explore the temples from home!
On Wednesday, the group was able to visit the Giza Plateau, home of the great pyramid! Everyone had the chance to enter the Great Pyramid and climb the long, sloping gallery to the burial chamber. Some of us have been waiting our whole lives for the experience! In addition, we toured the area, seeing the solar boat museum, the Sphinx, and the valley temple of Khafre. See for yourself!
What a first official day! We had a wonderful visit to Saqqara where we toured the tomb of Mereruka (see OI publications here and here), a 6th Dynasty official of King Teti. Unfortunately, you cannot take photographs inside this tomb, but luckily it was published by the Oriental Institute!
We then moved on to the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, dating to the 3rd Dynasty, which was designed and supervised by the king's famous vizier Imhotep who would be deified and worshiped in later periods.
On Site Learning in Saqqara
Architectural Elements in the Djoser Complex
We had just enough time to walk down the causeway of the pyramid of Unas, last king of the 5th Dynasty.
Unas Pyramid and Causeway
After lunch, we had a brief visit to the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara and then off to Dashur to see the pyramids of Snefru - the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid.
Everyone has arrived safe and sound! In fact, a few of us have already been on an optional trip to Alexandria. We are off to a fast and furious start. Our accommodations at the Mena House Hotel in Giza are fabulous with pyramid view rooms and balconies.
Here is our view:
We are looking forward to a day at Saqqara and Dashur tomorrow!
OI Splendors of the Nile is a photographic and textual complement to the Oriental Institute's Splendors of the Nile program escorted by Dr. Nadine Moeller.
This trip is a great introduction to Egypt and a treat for anyone who wants to see Egypt through the eyes of a Nile traveler. We will experience many of the famous landmarks of Egyptian history as well as exclusive site visits and on-site learning.
Oriental Institute Travel Programs provide exclusive visits and on-site learning privileges not enjoyed by other institutions and travel groups. Participants learn directly from some of the most eminent archaeologists and scholars in the world, at sites the OI has been excavating and researching for almost a century. For more information on Oriental Institute Travel Programs including future departures for 2010, visit the Travel Programs website or contact the OI Membership Office.