The 2017 Season: Part 1

From January 11 – 24, 2017 the Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund conducted a short initial season of survey and recording in order to figure out ways to protect and restore the Palace-City of Sekhenenre and Ahmose at Deir el-Ballas.

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Map of Der el Ballas

At the request of Mr. Mustafa Waziri and the Qena Inspectorate of Antiquities, in response to damage at the site, new work was conducted at the site from January 10th to the 24th 2017 to survey, photograph and planning to assess the condition of the site, the perimeter of the antiquities area, and possible ways to protect and restore the standing structures.

The team consisted of Peter Lacovara as Director along with Piet Collet, as surveyor and Tom Hardwick and Victoria Jensen, archaeologists.  The work was greatly facilitated by Hassaan Mohamed Ail.  We concentrated this season on the “South Palace” which had suffered from looters emptying out some of the casemate foundations and digging holes in the façade of the eastern wall of the platform, which has caused significant parts of the brick facing to collapse.

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Façade of the “South Palace” cut into by looters

 

To record the current condition of the structure, it was photographed and surveyed by Piet Collet. In addition, a number of exposed sections of casemates and casemate fill were planned and photographed to better understand the construction.  (fig. 5) We also endeavored to clean up modern trash and debris littering the area. Piet Collet also surveyed the entire ancient site and we conducted a walking survey to assess its condition.

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Piet Collet surveying on top of the “South Palace.”

 

The areas of the Workmen’s Village and associated chapels have been entirely destroyed. Fortunately, much of the other parts of the settlement have so far been preserved for the time being under the stacks of hay used by the village potters. These will need to be mapped and cleared and recorded in future seasons. The North Palace is being encroached upon by the spread of the modern town and cemeteries, so it is critical to find a way to protect and restore this important structure.  As part of the program this season the area around the North Palace was surveyed to plan for a protective wall to be built around the structure in coming seasons.

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Photograph of the North Palace, showing the encroachment of the modern village.

 

We look forward to  continued collaboration with the Antiquities Inspectorate in Qena and the Ministry of Antiquities to find additional ways to protect and preserve this important site.  We would like to thank Dr. Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Antiquities and Heritage, Mahmoud Afifi, Director of the Antiquities Department, Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled, Surpervisor of the Permanent Committee of the Antiquities Department, Madame Manal Ahmed Mostafa, General Director for the Egyptian Committee, Mohamed Mahmoud Hamed, General Director of Qena, Iyman Hindy, Director General of Qena Antiquities, Maryanne Danielle, Director of West Bank Antiquities of Qena, and our Inspector, Abdullah Moshamed Abdullah.  We would also like to thank Dr. Salima Ikram, Mr. Magdy Aly and the American University in Cairo for their help and support and to Dr. Sergej Ivanov and Natasha Kharlamova for their kind and generous hospitality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deir el-Ballas 2017

We are happy to report that we will be headed back to begin an initial survey at Deir el-Ballas  from January 10 to 24th, 2017.

The fieldwork proposed for January 2017 will be to co-ordinated with the Qena Inspectorate and the Ministry of State for Antiquities to develop a strategy for site protection, conservation and management. In addition, we will concentrate on the completion of recording of the areas excavated by the original Reisner Expedition as well as those areas threatened by the expansion of the modern town and explore means to undertake the stabilization and preservation of the standing monuments.

The areas to be worked in this initial season  include:

l). A perimeter survey from the South Palace to the north end of the site to determine where Antiquities land should be demarcated.

2). A survey of the South Wadi and the South Hill to assess the condition of the South Palace, the chapels area, workmens’ village and administrative area.

3). Survey of the North Palace. We will continue the documentation and recording of the North Palace and assess damage and pal for future conservation and restoration. We will also attempt to trace the eastern perimeter of the enclosure wall and the east end of the central hall.

4). Surveying the central and northern zones of the site and the planning and documentation of the houses excavated by Reisner.

5.) Survey the South Palace where looters have dug holes at the base of the eastern façade of the stair platform which has collapsed much of the wall.  In a future season we would intend to replace the tumbled brick and secure the façade to prevent further deterioration and restore its original appearance.

 

 

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Mud Brick Conservator  Tony Crosby beside collapsed section of South Palace facade.  The fallen bricks have exposed the remarkably well-preserved halfa-grass  matting placed between some  of the courses.  

 

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Just this past year looters emptied out one of the casemates at the South Palace.

 

 

In addition to renewed fieldwork at the site, we have also been fortunate to obtain a grant from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications for the preparing the material from the unpublished work of George Andrew Reisner at the site  for final publication.  Objects from the site in storage at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have been photographed and are being drawn by Andrew Boyce.  An international team has been put together to go to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of the University of California in Berkley in April to record the material from Deir el-Ballas in storage there.

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Clay figurines from Deir el-Ballas drawn by Andrew Boyce

 

Back to Ballas

One of the least well known archaeological sites in Upper Egypt is the Second Intermediate Period-early Eighteenth Dynasty town site of Deir el-Ballas in the Qena Governorate, beside the modern town of Ed-Deir.

Charlie Evers recording the brickwork in the North Palace.
Charlie Evers recording the brickwork in the North Palace.

Deir el-Ballas was originally excavated by the Phoebe A. Hearst Expedition of the University of California under the direction of George A. Reisner in the years l900 to l901. During the season’s work he uncovered the remains of a large royal palace, a series of cemeteries, and a settlement. Unfortunately, the excavations were never published and the field notes were so brief that any in depth study of the excavation was impossible.  In order to clarify the records of the expedition and enable publication of the site, I undertook four seasons of survey and clearance at the site in l980, l983, 1984 and 1986 under the sponsorship of the American Research Center and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The results of these seasons were published in a Preliminary report by the American Research Center in Egypt.

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During this work detailed maps were made of the site and plans of the North Palace and a number of the houses excavated by Reisner During the course of survey work we realized that there were many areas of the site which Reisner had only partially excavated or not cleared at all. The discovery of the latter area we owe to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, who intervened on our behalf to have the land cleared of fuel stacked there by the potters in the modern town, which had obscured the area for many years and was the cause of considerable damage.

The North Palace in the 1980's
The North Palace in the 1980’s

Now however, the growth of the modern village and the construction of a number of roads along the desert edge now threatens to obliterate significant parts of the site.  Thanks to the concern of Mustafa Waziri, now the cheif inspector of Qena, I was alerted to the danger and hope to go back this winter to work with him on ways to protect the site from further destruction.

The North Palace from the same location today.
The North Palace from the same location today.

The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund

 

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I have left the Michael C. Carlos Museum after many years to start a new venture, The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund.  The Fund is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission is to support research and conservation on Egyptian history and culture.  In particular it seeks to record and publish sites and monuments at risk from agricultural and urban expansion, looting and vandalism and climate change.  The organization will also work to foster a greater awareness of the risks to Egypt’s archaeological heritage and to promote education and training in site management and protection.

Our first mission, I hope will be to return to Deir el-Ballas, where I worked many years ago and which is now under threat from the rapid expansion of what was a small town and is now becoming a medium sized city.