Column - November 2010
 
 

 


  

I have always believed that we have unearthed only about 30% of our monuments and that 70% still lies buried beneath the sand. This, of course, means that there will be always news of new discoveries in Egypt, and that was certainly true this month.

Take, for example, our work in front of the Great Sphinx and the Valley Temple at Giza, where we have begun the site management of the space in the sound-and-light area. I appointed a young archaeologist from Giza, Essam Shehab, to supervise the important project of removing sand from around the Sphinx.

Previous excavation had found a large ancient wall made of mud brick north of the Sphinx. Nevertheless, we were surprised to discover, about 50 meters from on the east side of the Sphinx and King Khafre's Valley Temple, a huge mud-brick wall 68 meters long and almost one meter tall running north to south. South of the the Sphinx, between it and the Valley Temple, we located another section of wall. This appears to be connected with the eastern one. Who built these walls, and why?

The answers can be found by reading the story recorded on the Dream Stela, which stands between the front paws of the Sphinx. The text explains that a prince named Tuthmosis, who had come to hunt in the nearby Valley of Gazelles, fell asleep beside the monument, which was partly buried in sand. The Sphinx visited him in dream and asked him to remove the sand. In return, the Sphinx would see to it that Tuthmosis became king. When the prince became King Tuthmosis IV, he did as the Sphinx had asked, and he also replaced a block on the Sphinx's body. He took a granite door from the funerary temple of King Khafre and erected it between the statue's paws. On it he had carved the story of his encounter with the Sphinx. However, the most important thing that Tuthmosis IV did was to build the wall that we found, which in ancient times protected the monument from sand.

In this same area we also found an Old Kingdom wall that was a part of the pyramid city of Khafre. The priests who lived there maintained the cult of the dead kings at Giza.

I had yet another pleasant discovery during a trip to Luxor on November 5th. During my visit, Mansour Boriek, director of Luxor, and Moustafa Waziri, overseer of the west bank, informed me that the team working in the area west of the mortuary temple of King Amenhotep III had found a beautiful statue. When I went to the site, I could see other statues that the team had found in the past, including a huge granite statue of the baboon Thoth, god of wisdom and writing. This statue is unique because the baboon is standing and, between his legs, we can see the figure of Amenhotep III. But I was there especially to see the most recent find: a beautiful double statue showing Amenhotep III and Re-Horakhty. The sun-god appears in the form of a man with the head of a hawk.

This area of Luxor has been very rich in statues. I was very intrigued when the team uncovered pieces that complete the colossal double statue of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, exhibited on the first floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

As usual, there is more than just fieldwork going on at the SCA. We are now preparing for the 11th International Congress of Egyptologists that will be held at the Mena House Oberoi in September 2012. The ICE held in Cairo in 2002 went so perfectly that people still talk about it today. No one can forget the party, complete with the music of the symphony orchestra, held in front of the Sphinx. Our aim is to make the next congress even more successful and impressive than the last.

Lastly, I have to say that, having served eight years as the Secretary General of the SCA, I am proud to see young archaeologists who are well trained in excavation techniques and museum and site management hard at work in Egypt. I am happy to know that all these capable young people will be able to run the SCA after me.

 

 

The Great Sphinx, with the Dream Stela in between the paws. Funerary complex of Khafre, Giza. (Photo: Kenneth Garrett)

First section of the mudbrick wall found in front of Khafre's valley temple at Giza. (Photo: SCA)
 
Dream Stela erected by Thutmosis IV between the paws of the Great Sphinx.  Funerary complex of Khafre, Giza. (Photo: Kenneth Garrett)
Double statue of Amenhotep III and the sun god, Re-Horakhty. The statue was uncovered at the site of Amenhotep III's mortuary temple complex on the west bank of Luxor (Photo: SCA)