Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Summary of work over the last few years

It has been a long time since we have posted anything on this blog. We thought those who follow us may appreciate an update on what has happened the last several years for the BYU Egypt Excavation Project. We are intentionally vague about some locations and names due to privacy and security concerns. This blog posts summarizes each year since the current director became director. The earliest season is at the bottom and the latest is at the top.

This was one of our most ambitious and successful seasons in a decade or more. We again express our gratitude for the amazing support we receive from the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt. They are so supportive and do such an excellent job. Both the Cairo office and the office in the Fayoum are excellent in every way and provide wonderful people for us to work with. This year we also cooperated with the American Research Center in Egypt, after successfully applying to be an excavation sponsored by them. They were immensely helpful to us throughout the entire process. This year we had a three-fold season. We re-excavated portions of the Seila Pyramid that needed to be better understood, mapped and recorded. We were successful in that and even found a few features that had either escaped notice or recording before. We also did extensive work in cataloguing and properly housing many of the osteological remains that have been stored by the excavation in the past. We also began serious osteological analysis, and are grateful for some new team members from other universities who are helping us do excellent work in this area. We also did conservation work at the government storage facility. There as we combined our regular team members with some new ones, including a wonderful conservator from Europe and a team member that works in a museum in America, we did more and better conservation work than we have ever done before. We also furthered, slightly, our efforts to photograph and analyze all the artifacts from the excavation. We also had success in the study portion of this season, finding valuable pertinent archival materials at the Ministry of Antiquities, the Cairo Museum, and at American University in Cairo. We are grateful for help from our Egyptian colleagues at all of these institutions. The director was also invited to give a lecture at the Library of Alexandria, where he was wonderfully hosted and gave a well-received lecture. We could not be more pleased with our combined excavation, study, and conservation season this year.

This was an excellent conservation season. We continue to express our gratitude to the Ministry of Antiquities and the wonderful support they have shown us over the years. They are an amazing group to work with and we are grateful for them and their support. This year we finished cataloguing the artifacts at the government storage facility, and made sure that each one of them was in an acid free environment. We also made great strides towards photographing and analyzing the artifacts there for our planned catalogue. We also continued work at the Cairo Museum. A short time later there was also a study season at the University of Oxford as the director finished his fellowship there, doing research on those who excavated in the area during the earliest explorations of the site by archaeologists.

This was another study season. This is in keeping with our plan to catch up on analysis, conservation and publication of the work already done. It was spent briefly in Egypt, looking at comparable sites and in museums looking at comparable mummies and beginning the search for the golden mummy from Fag el-Gamous that was moved to the Cairo Museum many years ago, and in looking at other Snefru objects. From there the director continued the study season at the University of Oxford, going through archives and libraries there as he was a visiting fellow at Oxford's Harris Manchester College for the 2016-17 year.

This was a study season, largely spent in the archives at the University of Oxford and the Egypt Exploration Society offices in London, as well as in the archives of the British Museum. All of these institutions had material from those who have worked at the excavation sites over the last 115 years. This was part of a summer research fellowship for the director, Dr. Kerry Muhlestein. A brief time was spent in Egypt meeting with the wonderful people of the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt as we cleared with them our future plans for the excavation and jointly decided how to deal with rogue media reports. The Ministry was, as always, wonderful to work with and encouraged us to continue our work and pursue our plans as we have outlined them.

In keeping with our plans to slow down excavation so that we can catch up on the analysis, conservation and publication from decades of excavation, this was a conservation and analysis season. We spent quite a bit of time analyzing the artifacts and burials from the last season. We also spent a great deal of time doing further conservation at the government storage facility. There we also began serious photography of artifacts in an effort to create a catalogue of the artifacts from Seila Pyramid and the Fag el-Gamous cemetery. We assembled a wonderful team that consisted of people from BYU and elsewhere who brought their expertise and energy to the project.

This year we had an excellent excavation season. We finished excavating the square begun in 2010 and began analysis of all that we had excavated. We also brought with us acid free tissue paper and boxes and did more conservation work at the government storage facility. It was a great season!

We had a great study and conservation season. We analyzed and conserved finds from the year before, and spent a lot of time at the government storage facility where many of our artifacts have been stored. There we worked on creating acid free storage for our artifacts and inventoried so we could make a conservation plan.

The regular season was interrupted by the revolution. Later that year the new director, Kerry Muhlestein, and a colleague, met with the Ministry of Antiquities and got everything in order to begin the work again next year. We are so grateful for the unfailing and enthusiastic support we receive from the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt. Our Egyptian colleagues are wonderful to work with.

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