El Kab

#Religion #Antiquities & Archaeology
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Excerpt INTRODUCTION. 1. It was on Mr. Somers Clarke’s proposition that El Kab was selected for last winter’s work of the Research Account. Mr. Clarke has for some years been interested in this site, and has published some of the XVIIIth dynasty tombs there. He wished to see the smaller tombs excavated, and the great area inside the town examined, so, with his colleague, Mr. J. J. Tylor, he offered a considerable subscription to the funds, on condition that El Kab should be the selected site. To Mr. Jesse Howarth, equally with these gentlemen, we are indebted for that support without which the excavations could not have been carried out. We arrived at El Kab on the 1st of December, and within four days had cleared out several of the uninscribed tombs in the famous hill, and had made them into a most comfortable house. Nothing in Egypt makes so pleasant a dwelling as a rock-tomb. In a house in which window and door are one, and three sides and the roof are of solid rock, there can be no draughts, and the range of temperature night and day is very small. We had a room each, another for a dining-room, and in two more I packed away my forty workmen. These were nearly all men known in previous years at Kuft and Naqada, for the natives of El Kab are few in number and of inferior physical strength, so that their labour at two piastres a day was dearer than that of the picked Kuftis at four. All the conditions of work were very pleasant, much better than I have known in Egypt before. No crowd of loiterers and dealers’ spies haunted the work as at Kuft, no robbery by workmen threatened us as at Thebes. Surveying poles were left out for weeks together; at most villages they would have been stolen the first night for firewood. There was some delay in getting the necessary permission for digging; after a fortnight’s waiting we received it, and began to work upon the XIIth dynasty cemetery. Halfway through March the digging was gradually brought to an end, and map-making and packing occupied the time till we left in the beginning of April. Fifty-four boxes of pottery and other objects were brought to England, were exhibited during the month of July at University College, and were then dispersed to various museums, Oxford, Philadelphia, Chicago and Manchester, receiving the largest shares. I have to acknowledge much help received both in Egypt and England. To Mr. Clarke, besides the financial support mentioned already, we owe thanks for help in the work of excavation, in plan-making, drawing, etc., and for his untiring hospitality. To Miss A. A. Pirie, who was with us for the later two-thirds of the season, we are indebted for several coloured drawings of tombs, etc., now at University College, and to her, as also to my sister, for constant aid in the varied daily occupations of the digger, tasks in which their experience makes them most valuable helpers, and which they cheerfully added to the labours of desert housekeeping. In England, several friends have helped in the work of unpacking, exhibiting, drawing plates, etc., notably Miss Griffith, Miss Murray, Mr. Herbert Thompson and Dr. Walker. Few outside the little ring of diggers and their friends know how much drudgery in Egypt and in England is taken off our hands by friendly helpers, working without a thought of reward. 2. The site of El Kab is a large one. The area inside the town walls alone would have required to clear it five times the money we had at our disposal; and besides that, there was the hill of XVIIIth dynasty tombs, the cemeteries outside the walls, and the temples far up on the desert. It was necessary to make careful choice of such spots as would repay the labour expended on them. The most obvious place to search would be the sandstone hill in which we lived, where the fine inscribed tombs of Paheri and Aahmes are well known. But is there much chance of finding inscribed tombs anywhere in Egypt except at Thebes? We know that the tomb was left open for the visits of relatives, and open it must always have remained, unless it got drifted up with sand, or unless the quarrying of another tomb on a higher level sent down a mass of chips which hid it. At the capital, tombs were often lost for long periods in this way; in less crowded cemeteries the accident would seem to be less likely to happen. Many traces in the existing tombs at El Kab show that earlier tombs were quarried away in order to make room for them. This would seem to minimise the chances of finding anything valuable of early date; and if by chance some inscribed tomb still remains hidden in the talus of chips in the lower part of the hill, the business of making a thorough search there would be so long and expensive that it will probably remain undiscovered. 3. The greatest monument at El Kab is the town wall, the huge mass of which must arrest the attention of every passer-by on the river. It encloses a great square of about 580 yards in the side; the walls are 40 feet thick, and in most places still reach a height of 20 feet. The diagonal of the square runs, roughly, N. and S., and the S.W. wall is parallel to the river. The S.W. corner has disappeared; indeed the river now runs over the point where it must have stood. There is evidence that the Nile has moved eastward at this point, but not to any great extent, within the last 2000 years, for some remains of a landing-stage, believed to be Roman, can still be seen a little south of the town. About a quarter of the area inside the walls was cut off from the rest by a curved double wall, and only inside this smaller area are there many traces of buildings. Here, in the early part of the century, was a large mound, but now the sebakhin have carried it all away, and we look over a most desolate space, at one part red with the broken pottery of all periods, thrown out from the sebakh-digger’s sieve, at another white with the salt that everywhere permeates the soil. A few great brick walls remain, and the foundations of the temple, but no part of the superstructure. Outside this town, but inside the great square of the walls, the character of the ground is quite different. There are no great masses of pottery, hardly any brick walls; in the lower parts little parallel ridges in the soil show that cultivation has been carried on there within the last few years; for the rest, the ground is covered with pebbles, much like the untouched desert, and here and there are fragments of pottery, evidently of early date. These were most numerous on two or three slight rises which, as we afterwards found, had contained groups of tombs. Thus, on the day we arrived, was presented the first puzzle of El Kab. The greater part of the enclosure had never been inhabited, at least by people living in houses and using pottery....
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