Thursday, 14 October 2010

Dr. Elena Pischikova Lecture at MAES: "Excavating the Tomb of Karakhamun at Thebes"

Following our visit to WAES on Monday 11th October I travelled with  fellow PG students Claire Ollett and Hayley Meloy to a lecture given by Dr. Elena Pischikova (Director of the South Asasif Conservation Project), entitled "Excavating the Tomb of Karakhamun at Thebes", hosted by the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society at the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester. 
This audience was larger, though certainly no less entertaining than the group at that afternoon's WAES lecture, and the session kicked off to a good start with an auction of Egyptology-related books by the Chairman of the MAES, Bob Partridge. Everyone in the audience seemed to get into the spirit of the auction and it certainly appeared to be an effective idea for a fundraiser judging from some of the larger bids!
Relief of Karakhamun from the East Wall of the first Pillared Hall
The lecture centred on the previous season's work by Dr. Pischikova and her international team in the Late Period necropolis in the South Asasif on Luxor's West Bank, on behalf of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the excavation and conservation of the rediscovered Kushite tomb of the enigmatic priest Karakhamun (TT223). The construction of the tomb can be dated to the 25th Dynasty, between 710-690BC, and  it preserves an exquisite decorative programme which includes a relief of the tomb owner together with his dog, and painted elements including a cavetto cornice from the tomb entrance. This tomb is the largest in the Late Period necropolis, and preserves two pillared halls together with a five-roomed burial chamber.

The tomb was discovered in the 19th Century in an unstable condition, and since then the tombs of the Asasif necropolis have deteriorated significantly. During past seasons Dr. Pischikova and her team have been working to remove the ever-growing piles of rubbish which lay upon the tombs, while excavating section by section to reveal the tomb.

Image of the goddess Nut
from the ceiling of the Burial Chamber
Dr. Pischikova and her conservation team worked to a very high standard in order to reconstruct inscribed pillars and consolidate areas of painted and carved wall decoration. She is adamant that the materials used for the conservation and reconstruction should be as close to the ancient building materials as possible; for example using limestone cut from the area of Deir el-Bahri both for building stone and lime cement. This is very effective in making the repairs look as authentic as possible.

The team completed their fifth season at the site during May-August 2010, when the excavation took a fascinating turn. The team exposed the first steps leading down to the burial chamber in July 2010, and later during August the 8-metre deep burial shaft was revealed. The Press were quick to report the story, and it soon made headline news

The burial chamber was the first room in the tomb to be discovered with an intact ceiling, which preserves a detailed painted image of the goddess Nut together with a series of astronomical elements, including the circumpolar stars and the decans. The main constellations are also all in situ. This is a deserving find for the team, whose hard work over the past seasons has finally been rewarded. The ceiling will be completely consolidated by the conservation team, and Dr. Pischikova's main aim is to reconstruct the tomb in situ over the coming seasons.
The entrance to the tomb (
Dr. Pischikova presented a fascinating insight into Karakhamun's life and death, and owing from the reactions during the questions she certainly convinced the audience that Egyptian history does not simply 'end' at the Ramesside Period. She is a very entertaining speaker, who not only made light of a technical hitch or two but also encouraged her daughter to actively participate in the presentation. I highly recommend that you attend one of her lectures should you ever have the opportunity.

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