By Martha Demas and Neville Agnew
Archaeological excavation and survey on the Theban West Bank has been an international enterprise for over a century. Today some forty foreign missions hold archaeological permits. The multi-national character of this activity is evident in a partial listing: Waseda University, Tokyo, in the tomb of Amenhotep III; a team from Pisa, Italy, in the Amenhotep II mortuary temple; the Swiss Archaeological Institute at the mortuary temple of Merenptah; an Italian team at the tomb of Harwa in the Assasif; the French Archaeological Institute at Deir el-Medina; a Spanish-Egyptian mission in the tomb of Djehuty at Dra Abu el-Naga; the German Archaeological Institute at Dra Abu el-Naga; and many other groups from Egypt, Australia, Mexico, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Belgium, Russia, and Hungary.
Many individuals and institutions have worked for decades in the area and have a deep commitment to understanding and preserving the ancient sites. Increasingly, their work has integrated conservation and management efforts with their archaeological activities. Among those most active in conservation and management, a common purpose is developing with the growing recognition that integrated planning is essential to a future for the West Bank sites. To facilitate coordination among those most engaged in these efforts, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) have organized annual meetings, the first in 2006.
The aim of these meetings is to exchange information, discuss shared objectives and goals for conservation and management initiatives, and create possibilities for collaboration in pursuit of an integrated master plan for the West Bank. A brief review of the current work of those participating in the meetings—many of whom are featured in this issue—highlights efforts under way in conservation, management, and training, as well as the synergy developing among them.
American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE)
ARCE—a private nonprofit organization founded in 1948 and currently headed by Gerry Scott III—has been involved in conservation projects since 1993. Among its many initiatives in Luxor are a seven-month training program for conservators and the creation of a conservation laboratory and a training course for site managers at Medinet Habu.
Egypt Antiquities Information System (EAIS)
The EAIS was established in 2000 as a joint venture between the SCA and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to create an Arabic and English GIS for Egyptian historic sites as a cultural resource management tool. To enhance the capacity of SCA staff, EAIS director Naguib Amin is involved with ARCE in site management planning and training at Medinet Habu and development of a site management center for the West Bank. The EAIS has also mapped and recorded historic houses and ancient tombs associated with the demolition of houses in Qurna.
Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (Chicago House, Luxor)
Chicago House began working on the West Bank in 1924 and has a superb library and photo archive unique to Upper Egypt. Many of its activities have focused on documentation and, more recently—under the direction of W. Raymond Johnson—on conservation at Karnak and Luxor temples on the East Bank. On the West Bank, efforts are centered on Medinet Habu to address severe and accelerated decay of the monuments due to rising groundwater from agricultural expansion. Chicago House has also documented the Qurna houses, before and after demolition.
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) /
Mission Archéologique Française de Thèbes-Ouest (MAFTO) /
Association pour la Sauvegarde du Ramesseum
The activities of the CNRS/MAFTO, headed by Christian Leblanc, are focused on the mortuary temple of Ramses II. These include archaeological investigation, survey, analysis, conservation and presentation, and, in collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley, a 3-D model and GIS of the temple. The mission continues work at the tomb of Ramses II in the Valley of the Kings, addressing structural stabilization. In collaboration with Naguib Amin of the EAIS, Leblanc has undertaken a risk assessment of West Bank sites.
Theban Mapping Project (TMP)
The TMP, directed by Kent R. Weeks, has devoted many years to mapping West Bank sites, producing a documentation and image database of the Valley of the Kings. Most recently, the TMP has been developing with the SCA a management plan for the valley (completed in 2006), undertaking hydrological studies and visitor surveys and developing interpretive signs for the site and panels for the new visitor center. The TMP continues its long-standing project to investigate and conserve the tomb of the sons of Ramses II (KV 5).
Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple and Conservation Project
The Amenhotep III Temple Project, under the direction of Hourig Sourouzian and the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute, aims to comprehensively investigate and conserve the temple's remains and prepare the site for visitors. The Colossi of Memnon were cleaned, stabilized, and photogrammetrically surveyed, and the pigments were studied. Groundwater lowering has also been undertaken at the site. A visitor center is being proposed to display excavated statues in their original locations, and efforts are being made to expand training for professionals and workers.
World Monuments Fund (WMF)
The WMF has supported a number of initiatives on the West Bank, which are being led by Gaetano Palumbo. In the Valley of the Kings, this includes sponsoring the TMP's development of a site management plan, as well as interpretive signs for the tombs. At the Temple of Amenhotep III, the WMF sponsored a pilot project for lowering the groundwater level. Through a nomination prepared by the SCA and Kent R. Weeks, the WMF listed the Valley of the Kings as one of its one hundred Most Endangered Sites in 2005 as a way to raise awareness about the area's problems. In 2008 WMF placed the entire West Bank on its list of endangered sites.
Polish-Egyptian Archaeological and Conservation Mission
The Polish-Egyptian Mission, under the direction of Zbigniew Szafranski, continues its long involvement in the reconstruction and restoration of the Temple of Hatshepsut. The mission provides conservation teaching and training and hopes in the future to have a small museum on the north slope of the Assassif to present materials from Deir el-Bahri and the Assassif. The mission also resides in and maintains Metropolitan House—itself a heritage building nearly one hundred years old.
Martha Demas is a senior project specialist and Neville Agnew is principal project specialist with GCI Field Projects.