Progress Reports

January 2008

It has been over a year since our last report to you, and both the Theban Mapping Project and Thebes itself have undergone several changes.. 

For example, there is a new addition to our website that I think you will find especially useful, a bibliography of Theban West Bank archaeological sites.  It is now up and running and offers over 5,000 references that describe tombs in the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, outlying wadis and the Tombs of the Nobles, plus all the memorial temples, shrines, villages, graffiti, predynastic remains, and Christian sites.  The entries include publications from early in the 19th century to the end of 2007, and deal with excavation, recording, conservation, history, analyses—everything but grammatical analyses of a monument’s texts.. There is also a list of abbreviations of journals and series, plus a list of variant spellings of the names of private tomb owners that should help students and scholars find their way through the complexities of Egyptological literature.  We will regularly update the bibliography, and we hope to add a search engine to make it an even more useful tool in the near future.  Your comments about (and additions to) the bibliography are, of course, enthusiastically welcomed.

Over the next few months, we will add to our website nearly 900 color photos of decorated Valley of the Kings tomb walls.  Many of these images will be Zoomifiable, meaning that one will be able to admire entire wall scenes, or zoom in and examine in detail the brush strokes in an ancient artist’s rendering of an owl, or examine the corrections made by senior scribes to an apprentice’s drawing.  With the addition of these images, the website now offers comprehensive coverage of most of the decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings.  The photographs, bibliography, a growing number of historical images, plus our detailed architectural plans, conservation reports, and tomb descriptions, make the website a comprehensive one-stop source for information on the Valley of the Kings.

Our TMP staff spent most of 2007 helping the Supreme Council of Antiquities  begin the implementation of  the TMP’s Valley of the Kings Management Plan.  This is urgent business, as the number of tourists visiting KV can now reach over 7,000 each day, a number that the valley cannot safely  handle without careful planning.  (Our Management Plan is available on the website; just click here.)  A new parking area for tour buses, an improved tram line from the new Visitors Center to the KV entrance, new tourist shops, toilets and piped water, and a cafeteria—all are part of the plan.  We undertook a major—and highly successful—test of LED lighting in the tomb of Rameses VI, a tomb recently re-opened to the public after a three-year-long closure, on a limited basis and at an additional charge.  Hopefully, the demonstration lighting system will be made permanent one day soon and, eventually, will be added to all the KV tombs regularly visited by tourists.  Within the next few months we will install electronic temperature and humidity recorders in all tombs open to the public to monitor the effects of visitors on each tomb’s environmental condition.  We are also working to devise new ticketing systems that will help control the numbers of tourists visiting the tomb to prevent overcrowding and reduce damage from sudden changes in temperature and humidity. 

Along with several other concerned archaeological research institutions in the Luxor area, the TMP has been documenting the dramatic changes to the West Bank landscape caused by the government’s decision to destroy village homes that, over the past hundred years, have been built in the archaeological zone known as Qurna.  (Qurna comprises the low-lying hills between the cultivation and the cliffs of the West Bank. And is home to hundreds of Tombs of the Nobles)  Because many of these homes were built over entrances to ancient tombs, the Supreme Council believed that it was necessary to move the people and the houses in order to protect the tombs.  Whether the resulting bulldozing was a force for good or ill remains to be seen, but the effects on Thebes, its people and its monuments, have been dramatic.  Other major changes to the Theban landscape are in the works, decreed by the Luxor City Council.  These may soon result in new roads, new tourist facilities, the removal of dozens more homes and shops in the West Bank’s agricultural zone, and a completely changed Nile shoreline.  In addition, a major project to lower ground water along the edge of the cultivation, where several dozen mortuary temples are located, has been begun by contractors funded by USAID.  These changes to the West Bank are mirrored by even more dramatic changes to the East.  There, the two-kilometer-long Avenue of Sphinxes between Luxor and Karnak temples is being cleared,  the town’s major streets are being widened and straightened, new zoning ordinances are being put into effect, and a huge, paved field covering several acres surrounded by tourist facilities and shops,  is being built in front of Karnak’s Temple of Amun..

The TMP will return to the cleaning of KV 5, the tomb of the sons of Rameses II, early in February, and will work there for about two months.  Our goal is to try to determine the extent of several corridors whose entrances we cleaned a year ago, and try (finally!) to determine the full extent of this most enigmatic tomb.  We’ll report to you on that work at the end March.

Thanks to all of you who have written to us over the past year.  We welcome and appreciate your comments and suggestions.  And thanks, too, to those of you who have made contributions to our work.  The preparation of the management plan, the upgrading of the website, the lighting and environmental tests, and, now, the return to KV 5, are all expensive undertakings.  Your help made them possible.  Thank you.

With best wishes,
 
 
Kent Weeks
 
 
Kent R. Weeks
Director
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