Thursday, June 22, 2017

New 3D models, Shrine 4 Gebel el-Silsila West

The Project is happy to announce that yet another two 3D-models have been uploaded to our Sketchfab page, this time focusing on Cenotaph/Shrine 4 on the West Bank. The first model shows the shrine as it is preserved today, while the second shows a digital reconstruction and interpretation of how it may have looked prior to the earthquake. 


Fractured statue group in shrine 4, photograph John Ward


3D image current preservation (here)
3D image digital reconstruction (here)
3D photography and model by Stefan Lindgren, HumLab, Lund University http://www.humlab.lu.se/en/person/StefanLindgren/

still image of the digital reconstruction by Stefan Lindgren

The monument in focus is a niche located on the southern side of ‘shrine 4’ (James and Caminos 1963, 16-18) that has been broken in three parts due to a fracture in the bedrock plausibly caused by a natural catastrophe/earthquake. The room initially measured 1.27 m deep x 1.50 m high. Three statues are seated on a bench, facing forward towards the north-facing opening/door. The three statues depict two men and a woman. While there are no preserved inscriptions or decoration, it can be presumed that the main male figure depicts a man called Djehutmose, who was a scribe of the treasury during the 18th or early 19th Dynasty (based on an adjacent, plausibly associated hieroglyphic text) (James and Caminos 1963, 16). 

Shrine 4, Gebel el-Silsila West, photograph by John Ward
This shrine, together with 31 more, are currently re-documented and prepared for a new and updated publication, which will include not only the original epigraphy, but also later graffiti, architectural components, and state of preservation by the current archaeological project on site. By means of newer, digital equipment and software, painted details faded to the naked eye, become visible and bring more information in terms of each shrine’s original decoration (see some examples attached herein).

original photo from the ceiling in shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

D-Streched image emphasizing certain colours

Original photo of one of the statues in shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

Image in DStrech revealing original colour

Original photo of painted and etched graffiti in Shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

Details in DStrech



Link to DStrech software here 





Monday, June 19, 2017

Silsila 3D images on Sketchfab!

Dear all,
the Gebel el Silsila Team is delighted to share with you some exciting new 3D-images viewable on Sketchfab.com.

The two published models mark the beginning of a new step in the project, aiming to share with the greater audience and our wonderful, supportive followers some of the unique reproductions of various (published) monuments on site.

We hope you will enjoy as much as we do!

Model 1: Scene of Goddess Taweret suckles the king, Gebel el Silsila West Bank

The relief is situated in the rock-cut temple dating to the 18th Dynasty, and more precisely to the time of Tutankhamun/Horemheb (around 1330 BC). It shows the king as a young boy, suckling the local goddess Taweret (often shown as a hippopotamus, but here as an elegant woman), witnessed by his godly protectors Amun, King of the Gods,  Khnum, god of birth, and Sobek, the local crocodile god and companion of Taweret. Through the divine milk, the king becomes superhuman and thus has the power necessary to interact with the gods and the sacred. This ritual seems to have been part of the crowning ceremonies.

overview of the southern scene, photo: Maria Nilsson


Model 2: Horemheb presenting offerings to Amun-Ra and Mut

This relief is located in the short passage between the main hall and the sanctuary, on the northern wall of the passage, in the rock-cut temple of the West Bank. It shows King Horemheb making an offering to the Theban gods, Amun-Ra and Mut. The figures and texts are sculptured in sunken relief, usually applied for outside decoration, but then everywhere after the Amarna period.

king offering to Amun-Ra and Mut, photo: Maria Nilsson


3D Photography, Modeling and anotations: Philippe Martinez, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, philippe.martinez@upmc.fr

Digital models created with plexus, software by Kevin Cain (plexus-3d.com), kevin@insightdigital.org

Friday, January 20, 2017

12 new tombs discovered!



The Swedish led archaeological mission at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt continues to change the perception of history in the ancient quarried landscape of Silsila.

In 2015 the Swedish led Gebel el Silsila project reported on the discovery of a series of tombs located in the north of Gebel el Silsila east bank, in the area immediately to the north of the famous stele of Amenhotep IV and stretching westwards to the Nile. While the tombs had been described by a few previous visitors to the site, no comprehensive survey, neither any proper archaeological work had been conducted until 2015. 

overview of ST31 at sunrise


The tombs are under an immediate threat caused by the rising water table combined with the natural salt in the ground steadily eroding the natural cliffs in the northern part of Gebel el Silsila (similar/identical to those at Kom Ombo Temple area), and the site is in risk of losing important information about what has proven to be an extensive cemetery.

collapsed ceiling of ST32

courtyard to ST32

scull(s) and cross bones ST13


During the initial survey, 43 tombs were identified, and five tombs were chosen to be cleared of sand and the damaging layer of salt in order to study their subsequent conservation. Returning to site eight months later, the previous work proved successful as both external and interior walls and to some extent also the ceiling, have become stabilized and secured by exposing them to the sun, drying previous wetness.

ST25 and ST45 with niche

ST55

ST2


In the initial clearing process the team was successful in identifying various architectural markers, including 1-2 rock-cut chambers, external courtyards, and dressed portcullis – slot-cuts into the door jambs by the entry to the tombs, into which a (stone-) slab would have been placed to seal the door after burial. During the ongoing winter season, the team has discovered another 12 rock cut tombs, three crypts cut into the rock, two niches possibly used for offering, one tomb containing multiple animal burials, and three individual infant/child burials, along with other associated material. 

baby burial


inside ST30


The majority of the tombs excavated so far – with the main exception of two infant burials – have been plundered already during antiquity, and then been left neglected and without further disturbance, and since covered by up to 3m of Nile silt, blown in sand, and fallen quarry spoil and debris. These readily identifiable stratifications have given a wealth of information with regards not only the manner in which the spoil and silt have been deposited, but also provided a rudimentary chronological overview for the area.  

crypt ST48

sandstone lid

The individual tombs excavated so far this season reveal multiple burials within the same chamber or crypt, possibly complete families, and individuals of varying ages and sex. In addition, the newly discovered infant/child burials present another aspect to the cemetery, clearly indicating family life at Silsila. Three different styles of infant burials have been documented so far, including a crypt (64 x 32 x 32 cm) cut into the rock, a shallow grave covered with stone, and one infant wrapped in textile and placed within a wooden coffin. Two of the three children were placed secreted within the overhangs of the natural sandstone bluffs. They were placed on their side oriented in either a north-south direction, face towards the east, alternatively east-west direction, and facing north. Burial gifts include amulets (including the figure of Bes), necklaces, ceramic vessels, worked flint and coloured pebbles.

one of many scarabs

crocodile no 2

Moamen and Rebecca with the croc


Among the animal burials, ST29 presented a single chamber room with a crypt containing a dozen of ovicaprids (sheep/goats) and a couple of Nile perch (Lates niloticus). Two ovicaprids were placed in a north-south orientation (facing east) at the entrance of the tomb, and skeletal remains of several more were found scattered among outside debris as a result of looting. Also, an almost complete adult crocodile was discovered resting on the floor in the courtyard immediately outside ST27. The crocodile was oriented in a north-south direction, with the head pointing to the north. Further studies are required. 

3D image of crocodile no 1 (headless)

Maria and John clearing a cat burial (ST54)

The archaeological material produced from the newly discovered tombs and burials chronologically correlate with those excavated previously, so far limited to the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II. In addition to the tombs themselves, the excavation has revealed finely dressed sandstone sarcophagi, sculptured and occasionally painted pottery coffins, painted 'plaster' and wood, textile and organic wrapping, ceramic vessels and plates, as well as an array of jewellery, amulets and scarabs. 

inhumation at ST56
 
some help to get out of this tomb?

The vast amount of human remains so far recovered from the necropolis indicates the individuals were generally healthy.  At this time, very little evidence of malnutrition and infection has been discovered.  Fractures of the long bones and increased muscle attachments amongst the skeletal remains indicate behaviors related to occupational hazards and an extremely labor intensive environment. Furthermore, many of the injuries appear to be in an advanced stage of healing, suggesting effective medical care.  

 
part of the Silsila team outside ST32

Maria outside ST25

Tricia and Nils figuring out ST45


The new finds add exciting new components to the necropolis, changing yet again the perceived function and apparent appearance to the site of Gebel el Silsila, and with further fieldwork the team look forward to increasing their understanding of the overall function and role of the area during the New Kingdom. 
 
John and Khaled

Reis Shihad

Ahmed

 
Huib and Rebecca

The team members would like to express their gratitude to the MoA and the local inspectorates of Kom Ombo and Aswan, led by Mr Abdel Menum and Mr Nasr Salama respectively, as well as to our sponsors without whom the Silsila Project would not be made possible!

Liz

Susana

Abdala - the one and only, whom we could not survive without!

Sayed

Tony
the gorgeous sunrise at Silsila!



Donations to the Gebel el Silsila Project goes directly towards employing more workers, which allows the team to discover more monuments and tombs in the Necropolis, and study more ground breaking information about the ancient past at Gebel el Silsila!



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Searching for knowledge by uncovering the past

The following post was written by one of the project's wonderful supporters; his and his family's encouragement and genuine support inspired us to share his words here.

The original 'opinion piece' was published by Samuel Strait on November 19, 2016 at http://www.crescentcitytimes.com 


Searching for knowledge by uncovering the past

– So often as we enter the holiday season we are inundated with requests for some form of charity from groups near and far.  Very often we are hesitant, not knowing exactly how that donation is to be spent and whether or not “good works” will come of our donation.  It is a luxury then to be able to donate to those nearer to home and witness first hand those good works.

For those that have broader horizons in their wish to donate to good works, there is a long list of groups of people doing things in the far corners of this world that further our knowledge of the progress of mankind throughout history.  To those that are interested, money can be donated to support such good works all over the world.  Many are reputable and connected to University’s and College’s which send researchers far and wide to scour the planet in search of knowledge which can make the world a better place.  Often these groups are underfunded and in constant need for donations which will aid them in the quest for knowledge.

For the past eight seasons, this group has gathered on this site to preserve and learn from the discoveries made.  During this particular season, I have the privilege of being related to one of the members of this group who has given her time to further the rewards gained from learning about the past at this particular archaeologic site.  Because Egyptology in this area has not the claim to fame that site’s in and around Cairo, the three Great pyramids, the Sphinx, or even the temple complex at Abu Simbel, money to fund the season’s digs must come from the charity of people who wish to contribute to a very worthwhile cause that so often goes unrecognized and overlooked.

What is unique about this particular group is that they will continue to do good work with whatever comes to them and are grateful for any small amount people wish to contribute.  They, the Directors, Maria Nilsson and John Ward, keep donors up to date on progress made at the site as well as acknowledging each donation with a personal message.  For those that wish to donate, they have a web page, friendsofsilsila.com, or if you just want to live vicariously through their blogspot, it can be found at gebelelsilsilaepigraphicsurveyproject.blogspot.com.  This is a unique opportunity for those that wish to make a donation in a non traditional way, and know that you are contributing to the knowledge of the world and a very good cause.  And, yes, my wife and I have made a small contribution, feel better for it and feel more like citizens of the world, many of which visit our small corner of the world.

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Thank you dear Samuel and to your entire family, and all amazing people who continues to show their support and encouragement! The Gebel el Silsila Project is deeply thankful and forever grateful!

some of this year's team members, including some of our amazing workers!
Donations to the Gebel el Silsila Project goes directly towards employing more workers, which allows the team to discover more monuments and tombs in the Necropolis, and study more ground breaking information about the ancient past at Gebel el Silsila!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The New Kingdom Necropolis of Gebel el Silsila

As you may have noticed there has been no news from the field since the beginning of our spring season back in January. Indeed there were enormous amounts of historical and archaeological details to share with you all, but time slipped away from us combined with the demanding work related to our latest announced discovery - the Necropolis.

Obviously, we have been aware of the Necropolis' existence before, and it is certainly not a discovery that anyone will simply "stumble on". Instead it was a well structured plan, which was based on the increasing environmental threat to some of the tombs (rising ground water with highly destructive salt contents), combined with a larger team on site that enabled us to get started. Please see below for our (very) preliminary report on the tombs.



3400 year old necropolis discovered at Gebel el Silsila
Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward

During the spring season 2016 the Swedish archaeological mission at Gebel el Silsila, led by Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward, in co-operation with the MSA, as well as Kom Ombo and Aswan Inspectorates under General Directors Abd el Menum and Nasr Salama respectively, discovered a remarkable New Kingdom necropolis with archaeological material dating from the early 18th dynasty and indications of re-use throughout the 19th dynasty. 

So far, over 40 tombs have been documented, including a small shrine, many of which have suffered from heavy erosion and extreme decay due to the rising water table and its high salt contents. As part of exploring the best method to save the monuments, the team undertook the careful cleaning of a small selection of tombs, work that will continue during forthcoming seasons.

The tombs consist of one to two undecorated rock-cut chambers, with one or more crypts cut into the bed rock floors, some preserved with remains of their original lid. The entrance of the tombs consist of a squared semi-dressed aperture that incorporate a vertical slot to either door jamb that would have facilitated a portcullis type of closure. The tombs are generally accessed via a series of steps that descend into a rough-cut squared chamber. Due to the lack of exterior or interior decoration, the identity of the persons buried remains unknown at this time.

The general archaeology and the stratigraphy of the tombs suggest that they were plundered already during antiquity, and again during the 19th century, as well as affected by the annual floods and driven sand, resulting in disturbed layers containing foremost pottery, bones, some beads and Nile silt, mixed with animal remains including crocodile scutes. Similar composition of archaeology was documented outside the tombs.

The ceramic material has been identified by the team's ceramic expert, Dr. Sarah Doherty, as traditional New Kingdom funerary ware, including storage vessels, beer jugs, and a selection of votive vessels. Preliminary analysis of the bones, made by Prof. Salima Ikram, suggests burials of men, women and children of all ages. Importantly, this indicates a more permanent habitation at Gebel el Silsila than previously thought.

Among the more important findings was a reversible seal ring, which depicts the cartouche of Pharaoh Thuthmosis III “Men-kheper-re” (comparable with seal UC61144: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/seals/archive/uc61144.jpg), and a scarab also bearing the pharaoh’s name. Associated text on the seal's reverse is currently studied by the team's Egyptologists. 

Fragments of detailed, painted mud-plaster indicate decorated coffins, which together with fragments of mummy wrapping and various beads and amulets suggest individuals of considerable status.

The shrine that was included among the discoveries is a small rock-cut sanctuary located on the banks of the Nile. It consists of two open chambers facing the river (west), which partially retain architectural features, including dressed walls and an inner doorway crowned with the winged solar disc. Further analysis is required of its archaeology due to annual flooding and extensive tumble since antiquity.

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The latest discovery as well as the season's work (with more news to come...!) was made possible by financial support from various foundations, including:

Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse
National Geographic Grant
Enboms Stiftelse 
Helge Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse
Gerda Henkel Stiftung

and none of the work could have been completed without the most fabulous team ever! Thank you all for sharing the moments (hard work, blood, sweat and tears lol) and being part of this incredible journey that we are on!

Also, and with uppermost respect, thank you to the general inspectorates of Kom Ombo and Aswan, to General Directors Nasr Salama and Abd el Menum, and all the great inspectors of Kom Ombo and general inspectors of Gebel el Silsila, as each and everyone of you actively participate in changing history!

Maria and John 

Tomb 15 exterior

crypt with partially preserved lid inside Tomb 15

Tomb 14 interior, including entrance to second chamber

Doorway to Tomb 14, interior

Tomb 2, exterior

Seal: cartouche of Thutmosis III (Men-Kheper-Re)

Scarab with the cartouche of Thutmosis III

Portculis of Tomb 2, exterior

One of the crypts of  Tomb 14

Crocodile scutes

Bone fragment in mixed layer in Tomb 2

Steps inside Tomb 14

Shrine with winged solar disc and pillars on respective side