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Friday, January 11, 2008


Getting on the bus
Egyptian countrysude

We leave Alexandria today heading first to the once great temple of the cat goddess Bastet in Bubastis (modern Zagazig), then on to Tanis and finally back to Cairo overnight. Our long bus ride takes us past well tended fields, animal pens, and the generally bucolic look of Egypt’s agricultural world. Fornati and Eden combine their reading about ancient site with views of the countryside.

Egyptian countryside
Fornati and Eden reading

At Bubastis

Queen's statue

At Bubastis construction is also underway to make the site more understandable to the visitor. An enormous standing figure of a queen dominates the area being worked on at present. We head there first and discover  that this lovely queen’s statue, first carved almost certainly for Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III, now bears an inscription of the wife of Osorkon II, Karomama. Osorkon, a king of the Libyan Twenty-second Dynasty, built a large hall commemorating his jubilee (Sed) festival at Bubastis, and he left granite wall reliefs with depictions of the rites of the feast, many of which have been distributed to museums throughout the world. The remains of large pillars with Hathor headed capitals (shown as a human-faced goddess with cow’s ears) are still to be seen on the large stone block field at Bubastis. After viewing the great queen statue, Hili and Jackie pose for Will in front of the colossus.
Statue of the Queen

Jen examining block
Interpreting hieroglyphs

Over in the field of temple blocks, Jen obediently bends over a block that we asked her to look at studiously – sorry it’s really posed. However, Shaina took the opportunity to point out hieroglyphs to several students, and here Fornati and Megan practice what they have learned with her. Margaret and Cassandra look around themselves, while Betsy and Yasser bend over to read a brief inscription.

At Bubastis

Jackie and Hili
Sarah and Megan

We leave Bubastis and travel another couple of hours to Tanis, where large Temples to Amun and Mut – the northern Karnak – were built in the Third Intermediate Period. Tanis became the residence for kings of the Twenty-first Dynasty, and the rulers of that period and the Twenty-second Dynasty as well were buried in the enclosure of Amun in subterranean chamber tombs. Our first task was the have the site introduced to us all, and for this purpose teams of students had been assigned to prepare and orient us before we entered the main site. Jackie and Hili began with a discussion of the general background to the site and its importance. They gave a very helpful introduction which Sarah and Megan followed with a specific description of the buildings in the enclosure. We learned that most of the material at Tanis had come from the Ramesside city of Pi-Ramesses, built by Ramesses II. Alex and Harvey described the royal tombs on the site and informed us of the funerary literature carved on the walls, and finally Ashlyn and Shaina helped us to link the history of Tanis to that of the end of the New Kingdom in Thebes.

Alex and Harvey
Ashlyn and Shaina

Entrance to the site
Shaina and Ramesses II
Shaina, Nina and Megan

As we enter the recreated passage to the first gate of the Tanis Amun temple, we stop to consider the scene from a large gate entrance that shows Ramesses II running a ritual race in front of the gods and demonstrating his fitness to rule as a son of the sun god; Shaina continues on and again shows Megan and Nina some choice hieroglyphs that describe the king.


Betsy pointing out inscription
Detail of inscription

Betsy stands next to a colossus of Ramesses where a figure of a queen has been carved far smaller than he. She points to the inscription next to that queen, Maathernefrure, where it identifies her as the daughter of the king of the Hittites. Such an unusual text carries with it a unique hieroglyph of a Hittite king wearing that foreign ruler’s crown.


Looking into the stone chamber
Scenes in the chamber

At the royal tomb area of the precinct we look down into the stone chamber that had been carved elsewhere and placed within a pit dug in the site. The scenes on the wall contain those also seen in the New Kingdom in the Valley of the Kings – particularly the Amduat, which links the daily rebirth of the sun god with the resurrection of the king.

Scenes in the chamber

Group shot

A final group shot taken in the Mut Temple in front of Ramesses II and Sakhmet, the powerful lion goddess, completes our day in the Egyptian delta, and we climb wearily back onto the bus for a ride back to Cairo.
At the end of this day we say good-by and a big big “Thank you” to Will Kirk, the photographer who has narrated visually our visit so far. We will miss him so much, but later I’ll post a few shots that represent the remainder of our travels over another two and a half weeks. Thanks Will!!


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