Our conference meetings were held in the Horus Room at the Old Winter Palace and proceedings opened on the 2nd February. After tea, coffee and a delicious selection of cakes and cookies, Janet Shepherd welcomed everyone to the AWT conference, including honoured guests from the Ministry of Antiquities.
We were also treated to the latest news on the speculation surrounding the tomb of Tutankhamun. After a vibrant question and answer time and much enthusiastic applause, there was a break to enjoy refreshments in the sunshine.
Dr Hourig Sourouzian took the next lecture spot and treated everyone to an in-depth description of her work at Kom el Hetan. Notes were taken as preparation for the site visit, shown below, later in the week.
The Valley of the Kings’ Project directed by Susanne Bickel, is proud to support a local enterprise in new Qurna. We decided to show our passengers this delightful house, (below) known now as the Balady Handicraft Centre. Here the local ladies can embroider and use looms to make traditional cloth to sell to visitors.
There is also a pottery and a small shop. We were offered tea and fruit and many took the chance to buy some of the lovely items on display. Everyone agreed it was a very worthwhile visit, for both themselves and as much needed support for the local economy.
On a West Bank visit we made a brief stop for the latest update from Dr Kent Weeks (below) on his new Theban Mapping Project Library. Many passengers had brought out coloured pens, pencils, paints and toys for the children.
On Friday afternoon we were delighted to be joined by Dr Renee Friedman, Director of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, who took a day out from her work at Hierakonpolis to join us in Luxor.
She gave an introductory talk on recent finds at the site and her plans for the forthcoming season.
Dr Laurent Bavay, Director of the French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo, (above) was our next speaker. He told us about his work on the Theban Tombs and especially excavating the tomb of Amenemope, a high dignitary in the reign of Amenhotep II.
The following day, the Director of the University of Basel, Dr Susanne Bickel, (above) gave us details of her work on the Kings’ Valley project. Susanne showed us plans of the concession area in a side valley leading to the tomb of Thutmosis III. We had a glimpse of the huge undertaking that clearing and conserving a tomb such as KV40 involves, and the excitement of rediscovering KV64.
This was followed by a talk from another member of the team, Dr Faried Adrom, (below) who began by telling us that no amount of study can prepare you for dealing with a tomb like KV40. Faried explained how digital archaeology is now helping to map and record the fragmentary remains often found in lost tombs.
Another AWT special and surprise for everyone, was being shown in some detail, the excavations at the front of Karnak Temple by Salah el Masekh, Chief Inspector of Karnak. Excavations to the west of the first pylon at Karnak began in 2006 and have since revealed a protective Embankment Wall and Ptolemaic and Roman baths, known to be in use up until the 4th or 5th Century AD. Salah is shown above amusing everyone with photos of his workmen ‘in situe’.
Salah then gave the group a private tour of the newly opened Khonsu Temple seen below.
We had two very full days on the West Bank. Our favourite restaurant is the Moon Valley with its spectacular views over the Theban Hills. Chef Ali (pictured on left with Medhat) always gives us first-class service in the calm sanctuary of his restaurant. After a wonderfully tasty and relaxing lunch, Medhat pointed out the sites clearly visable from the roof terrace.
During the week we were very privileged to meet up with all our speakers at their concessions where we were treated to detailed descriptions of the most recent work on site. We travelled south to Hierakonpolis, where we spent the day with Renee Friedman and her team, (above) learning more about conditions working at this impressive and highly valuable site. All our AWT conference passengers are now Friends of Nekhen.
AWT is very grateful to all our friends at the Ministry of Antiquities for joining us at the conference, sharing their news and allowing us to show our passengers exciting new work actually in progress right now! We look forward to many more visits.