An Update of Progress on the Egypt Antiquities Project

Annual General Membership Meeting - 27 August 1997

DR. TERRY WALZ, Executive Director of the American Research Center in Egypt. Dr. Walz presented "An Update of Progress on the Egypt Antiquities Project", which ARCE was designated to manage, using a $15M grand from the United States Agency for International Development. Working with the Supreme Council for Antiquities, ARCE established the projects priorities, which include:

To date 30 programs have been funded with the initial $15M grant. Some of the projects funded by the USAID grand, and either already complete of in progress now are:
a. Field School: A collaboration between ARCE and the SCA, the field school gives inspectors an opportunity to learn modern archaeological field methods, in the field. Dr. Diane Craig Patch directs the field school. During the school, the inspectors are introduced to actual, hands-on work in the field - something none have experience during any of their prior training.

b. Luxor: With Chicago House, from the Oriental Institute, the USAID grant is funding a project to conserve stones damaged by the high water table. Since the beginning of this century, when the first Aswan Dam was constructed, the Nile valley has not had a chance to flush the salts out of the soil and it never dries out. Thus, high water and infusion of salts into stone is a severe problem.

c. Medinet Habu: The USAID grant has funded a project to conserve the small temple built by Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III.

d. King's Valley: A California Academy of Sciences team, headed by geologist John Rutherford, is helping develop a plan for controlling the water from flash floods in the valley, and channeling is away from the tombs.

e. KV55: Lyla Brock has just completed a complete evaluation of this tomb, considered to be the only Amarna Period tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

f. Dakhla Oasis: With the help of the Royal Ontario Museum, the remaining decoration in the Greco-Roman period tombs in the El Musawaka necropolis are being stabilized and conserved. There were originally about 300 tombs in this necropolis, in a very unstable layer of shale. The team is in the process of determining whether to removed the decoration and reinstall it in model tombs or try to stabilize the shale layer.

g. Coptic Cairo: The area of Old Cairo, originally called Babylon by it's builders, dates to an era before the emergence of Cairo itself. Included within this area, and recently completely restored is the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which was restored by the Canadians, using a grant from Seagrams. Many important papers associated with the development of the city and the history of the Synagogue, originally archived at the synagogue, were disbursed throughout the world before this synagogue was restored. They have been gathered together for publication, and will soon be published by the University of California Press.

h. South of Old Cairo: Toward Ma'adi, ground water has become a serious problem as a result of the construction of skyscraper apartment buildings which create vastly more sewage water than the current systems can handle. The USAID grant project is working to find a way to deal with the water problem.

i. Islamic Cairo: In the area near the bazaars, a test case is being funded. A prayer hall in a mosque built during the Medieval Period - about 1450AD - has become the Zawiya Conservation Project. Testing for water percolating into the stone walls from the ground is being conducted and hundreds of years of grime are being cleaned away with distilled water to reveal brilliant stone work. Every aspect of the monument is being documented and the wooden ceiling over the fountain is being restored.

j. Bab Zuwaila: A cluster of monuments located near this ancient gate in the Medieval City walls are being incorporated into projects. The gate is one of the oldest surviving gates of the walled city, and now has two minarets atop the gate.

1. Behind the gate is a sebeil and school for orphans which is classic in it's design. It was established in the 18th century by the wife of one of Egypt's rulers. After restoration it will probably become a tourist information center.

2. Across from Bab Zuwaila is one of Cairo's oldest monuments, the Mosque of El-Mu'ayyad built in the 11th century. It was heavily restored in the early 20th century by a consortium of wealth Egyptians and foreigners who were interested in preserving Islamic monuments. The minbar is all that is of great significance that still remaining. The project team will try to seal the mosque to keep water out and appeal to USAID to put in another sewer line which will help lower the water table in the area.

j. Mamluke Palace: The palace of Bada Razaz, which contains 180 rooms is one of the last of the great palaces from the Mamluke era. It was a fabulous house, and the project would like to try to restore it to it's former opulence which will take a lot of time and energy. Dr. Bram Morton from Mary Washington college has been asked to develop the long range plan for the restoration.

k. Northern Sinai: The new Peace Canal from the eastern branch of the Nile to El-Arish on the Sinai coast- about 100 miles - is cutting a big swath, destroying the archaeological record along much of the path that connected Egypt to Palestine. An international salvage effort has been mounted. ARCE has provided a team to teach people how to conserve artifacts in the field. The work is very difficult because it must be done in the summer due to the rainy and cold weather during the winter. Fred Windorf from SMU has identified prehistoric sites in the areas set aside for development of farms, which will completely destroy the remains.

l. Alexandria: In several buildings on the grounds of a palace formerly owned by an uncle of King Farouk, a new marine conservation laboratory has been developed to deal with artifacts found submerged in the ocean. Doug and Cheryl Haldane have been instrumental in it's development and are making good use of the facility to conserve the many artifacts they have brought up from the 18th century ship wreck along the Red Sea coast they have been excavating for several years.

m. EAP Sub-project: Michael Jones is heading up a sub-project to restore 3 monuments that may be enjoyed by tourists. One Christian, one Islamic and one Pharaonic monument have been designated.

1. Work at the Christian Monastery of St. Anthony has begun. Monasteries in Egypt are undergoing a revival and St. Anthony's is thus ideal for this project. All the walls which have become blackened by soot from oil lanterns over hundreds of years are being cleaned. An Italian team headed by Dr. Paolo Mora, who directed the conservation efforts in the tomb of Nefertari, for the Getty Institute, has completed the cleaning this year, and are beginning the necessary restoration work.

2. An Ottoman fort dating from the 17th century which received many pilgrims enroute to Mecca as well as ships coming from the Indian Ocean has been slated for restoration, and will become a focal point for tourism along the Red Sea, which is booming.

3. The spectacular tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings has many problems which must be resolved. The removal of a column, during one of the early excavations in this tomb (by Lepsieus) has left the ceiling unstable. The tomb must be shored up if it is to be made accessible to tourists. Permission to continue working in this tomb has just been received. Responsibility for the implementation of this grant has involved ARCE in interesting negotiations with the Egyptians who are very interested in their monuments. An additional grant of $20M over 5 years has recently been approved by USAID.

  • Nancy Corbin
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